Okay, fellow indie writers: I hope you’re ready to laugh at yourselves. For this entry, I wanted to turn my attention back to everyone’s favorite social media platform…(drumroll)…Twitter. But before I get into my observations, I want to take a few moments to be self-deprecating, because I feel like it’s one of my better qualities. Sometimes for the sake of commentary, I like to assume this sarcastic narcissist persona, even though that’s pretty far from the way I am in real life. It’s kind of a role I play, but I apologize for it from time to time because I’m always legitimately afraid that I might rub someone the wrong way, but I don’t want that to happen. You all are nice enough to stop by and read my articles, so the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. If you aren’t laughing, then I’ve done something wrong.
That said, today I want to critique the sorts of profile shots that we authors like to use on Twitter. I’m not saying that all authors on Twitter use terrible mugshots and I’m certainly not saying that mine is any better than anyone else’s. What I will say, though, is that a few “aspiring authors” on Twitter are astoundingly lazy or, sadly, insecure with the pictures they choose. Therefore, I am going to suggest that, if you are on Twitter, perhaps you should use this article to judge for yourself whether you might need to perhaps change your Twitter persona. Even that tiny picture can tell people a lot, and I can’t help but feel that some of my fellow indie writers are not doing themselves any favors with the Twitter pictures they have chosen to represent themselves.
If writing is what you wish to do, you need to exude professionalism at all times. Lord knows this can be next to impossible, but you still need to do your best. You want to look your best and you want to be memorable, without making a mockery of yourself. It’s okay to be funny in your pic, but you don’t want to be viewed as a joke. It’s okay to look serious in your pic, but I would avoid looking to self-serious. It’s hard to pass off the glowering, self-serious author pose if you have 57 followers and you’ve never been published.
Be yourself! Don’t be afraid of what anyone thinks! Have the confidence to own your author persona. No one is expecting you to look like Ryan Gosling and if you do look like Ryan Gosling, why the HELL are you wasting your time writing books?!
Anyway, here are the 13 kinds of authors I routinely see on Twitter.
1. The Black & White Mugshot Author – This is a step in the right direction when it comes to professionalism, except it’s so overdone. I’m not saying that a black & white mugshot is taboo. These are fine shots! All I’m saying is don’t be afraid to show a little color! This isn’t the 50s.
2. The Kitten with a Lime on Its Head Author – I didn’t even become aware of this meme until I got on Twitter, but let me tell you right now: If you have this picture as your author photo on Twitter, REMOVE IT IMMEDIATELY. You’re associating yourself with a flippant gag. I must have 100 followers who are using this as their profile pics and it just screams “amateur”. Please make this meme end!
3. The “I’m an Important Author and I’m on a Phone in My Picture” Author – Admittedly, this is a fairly rare form of author, but it always makes me laugh. Who are you talking to?? Am I supposed to believe you’re on the phone with your agent? I always assume you’re on the phone with Ted Nugent. I don’t know why you’d be on the phone with Ted Nugent and, frankly, I don’t want to know, but there it is. You’re talking to Ted Nugent. Put the phone down and pretend like you have time to take a decent mugshot.
4. The 30-Year-Old Glamour Shot Author – My heart goes out to these people. Most of the time I get the feeling that these sorts of pictures are intended as a substitute for physical appearances that, ahem, may have declined over the years. At 26 years old, it’s pretty easy for me to point the finger at older ladies & gentlemen who perhaps don’t have my luxury of being able to jog for an hour a day because I don’t have, I don’t know…children? But there’s nothing wrong with being older! Unless that 1970s glamshot is simply INCREDIBLE, go ahead and take a more recent picture. You have NOTHING to prove to people on Twitter and I promise that you have nothing to prove to people like me.
5. The No Picture Whatsoever Author – Please, please, please have at least SOMETHING as your profile picture. On the one hand, most people who don’t even have a picture generally don’t stick to Twitter very long in the first place. On the other hand, those who do make me wonder just how ugly they are. I mean, if you don’t have ANY kind of picture, I’m forced to assume you look like Sloth from “The Goonies”. If you DO look like Sloth from the Goonies, you still shouldn’t be ashamed. Buy a nice Armani suit and OWN it. Also, you may adopt the term “Slauthor”, which I came up with just now. You’re welcome.
6. The Hilarious Non-Sequitur Author – Authors tend not to do this as much as those annoying “#Followback” teenagers. Usually, a hilarious non-sequitur photo is just that: A funny .GIF or .JPEG that is completely unrelated to the Tweeter. These pictures might be worth a chuckle, but I almost never follow them because I assume they aren’t real people.
7. The Inanimate Object Author – An author who followed me this morning has a picture of a hot air balloon. Now, perhaps he or she is IN the hot air balloon. I don’t know. I believe I’ve also been followed by a woman who used a picture of a toaster as her profile picture. Maybe she’s a Cylon from “Battlestar Galactica”, but something tells me she isn’t actually a toaster.
8. The Shadowy, Mysterious Sci-Fi Author – These are my favorite pictures on Twitter and the ones that most lend themselves to that “self-seriousness” I was talking about earlier. In my opinion, just because you’ve written a 55,000-word, unpublished sci-fi novel does not instantly give you the right to take a mugshot where half of your face is concealed in shadow and you’ve clearly used Photoshop to make one of your eyes red or teal or fuschia or something. Only two men on Earth are allowed to take photos while standing in that much shadow: Stephen King and Chris Carter, the creator of “The X-Files”.
9. The Just a F***ing Lunatic Author – Sometimes you just know a person is not so much an author as an undiagnosed, soon-to-be-incarcerated mental patient.
10. The Author Made of a Mass of Books – These authors are almost as lazy as the people using the “Lime Cat” memes. You know who I’m talking about—folks whose pictures are nothing but a stack of books? You aren’t given any sort of added legitimacy by being represented by a stack of books you may have read but almost certainly didn’t write. It would be like me walking into a dentist’s office and seeing a gigantic pile of bloody, misshapen teeth on the secretary’s desk and deciding, based on that, “THIS GUY MUST BE A GREAT DENTIST!”
11. The World Traveler Author – I’ve been guilty of this one. “Wow! That guy’s standing in front of The Parthenon! I can’t wait to buy his dystopian sci-fi novel on Amazon!” said absolutely no one ever.
12. The Suspiciously Handsome/Attractive Author – Have you ever been in this situation? “Say, that aspiring YA author looks a lot like Anne Hathaway. (follows) Come to think of it, she looks almost EXACTLY like Anne Hathaway. Wait…Yep, that’s definitely a photo of Anne Hathaway. Here it is on Google when you type ‘Anne Hathaway’. (unfollow)” Yeah, nothing irks me more than trying to pass yourself off as Anne Hathaway.
13. The Genuine Author – On the flip side, nothing makes me smile more than seeing someone’s genuine grin in a well-framed, well-lit profile pic. You’re an aspiring author! You’re doing something you love! For crying out loud, be HAPPY about it! I love seeing young people, middle-aged people, elderly people, skinny people, husky people, poor people, rich people, bald people, fuzzy people, etc. SMILING about putting themselves out there and becoming a part of this bustling indie writer market that is exploding on the Internet. For me, these are the pictures that make me feel invested in the new world we’re creating. Be indie, support indie, and be proud!