Since Jane Austen is so much in the news again these days, it might be worth revisiting this post, which I originally published in 2007:
Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:
She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.
I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.
I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”