Many thanks for the blurb suggestions below; I made a list of the names and sent them along to my editor. I’ll let you know whether we actually GET any raves for the back cover.

I don’t mean to overdo the reader polls, but my brother the photographer has just sent along files of the publicity photos he took when I was out in Seattle, and I need to decide which one to send on to Norton. Here’s the photo I’ve been using for the last few years:

I like it, but it’s time for an update (since I now have a number of additional age lines, thanks to the History of the Ancient World). Have you ever noticed how many writers use the same publicity photo for DECADES? It’s as though they’re trapped in a Star-Trekish time bubble that keeps them from aging (but only on the back cover of their books).

Anyway, here’s option one:

option two:

and option three:

What do you think?

I’m plugging away on my dissertation, in the meantime, hoping to have a draft done by the end of July. Then I can send it off to my committee chair, celebrate by going to Modesto, and finally start on the History of the Medieval World in earnest.

Yesterday a Norton document arrived in the mail, via my agent: the History of the Ancient World took me longer than I’d estimated, so we’ve had to renegotiate the due dates for the next three books. Here’s the relevant paragraph: “The delivery date as specificed in Article III is hereby extended to May 1st, 2008, for the 2nd volume of this 4-volume work; July 1, 2010 for the 3rd volume of this 4-volume work; and September 1, 2012 for the 4th volume of this 4-volume work.” I need to sign this and send it back.


2012. 2012. 2012.

It sounds so…distant. How peculiar to be laying out your professional schedule so far in advance.

Showing 80 comments
  • LMA

    I like option 3 the best! Best of luck on your next volumes! It’s all very exciting.

  • elizabeth

    Holy cow…. I’m still working on tomorrow. I like #3.

  • Craig

    Susan, this may free you up in your planning, but supposedly the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, so conspiracy theorists figure that’s when the gig we know as life is up. You might want to call your agent, as you could possibly make a case for being off the hook, at least if you go by the Mayans.

    I vote for number 2 on the photo question.

  • Jill

    I vote for the bottom pic. Absolutely. You look so carefree! Nothing phases you! Writing a four volume history of the world? A snap. Parenting four children? Plucking chickens? Pieces of cake. You laugh at dissertation deadlines…ha ha ha…

  • Gina

    I like option #2. I just prefer color photos over B&W.

    In six years my first child will graduate from our little homeschool. Oh. My.

  • Heather

    Great photos Susan!!

    I vote for photo option no.1. Although the third is my favourite, no. 1 seems more suited for an academic book. I’d use no.3 for your “homeschooling conference photo” and hsing books (that you no longer have time to write now that you are committed until 2012!!)


  • Egana

    I like all of them…

    I think #1 would fit best as a standard photo, because you don’t have to worry about colors clashing, etc. I agree that is looks more scholarly, more dignified somehow. I wonder why I have that association with B&W? But I miss alot of information from your face in this shot. The other B&W’s use of shadow gave your face a lot of dimension, making up for the loss of color in a dramatic, unexpected way.

    I think the shadows are a little too harsh on #3, which makes it look less than “professional” *wink* unlike the awesome use of shadow in the one you have used for years already.

    As far as my favorite goes, I like #2 the best, becasue the green is so simple, and your coloring so beautiful against it. It makes me want to have a long talk with you in a shady grape arbour or something, and I don’t even know you…

  • Sharon

    I like #3, because you look friendly and approachable. I prefer the color version of the first 2 as well, but I think the last would be my preference.

  • Michele

    Love, love, love the third photo!

  • JFS in IL

    I vote for #2…I like 3 but not for “this” book )I second Heather’s comments regarding photo #3).

  • Anne in Saskatchewan

    I vote #2. It’s lovely. While #3 makes me want to get to know you, I don’t think it’s right for a history book. Ancient history is just not that funny. 🙂

  • Miz Booshay

    I would use number two.

    Just lovely, Susan.

  • Paige

    I like option #3 the best – BY FAR!!!!!! It shows your joy and your passion and your sense of humor. You look kind of tired and worn out in the first two options (but still beautiful).

  • Nicole

    Hmmm….This is tough. I like numbers 1 and 3 really well. If I had to choose between 1 and 2, I’d say stick with the B & W: on my screen, your features are more distinct without the color (almost a distraction), and your readers are used to the B & W.

    At first I thought #1 was the best, as you seemed to be having to look “up” too much at the camera in #3, but now that I’ve studied them, I don’t think so. I like the background in #3 very much, and you have a great smile, so that is what I will be sticking with! Most authors don’t seem to be so happy, but I think it’s a plus. In number 1, you seem slightly hesitant. You could look at each photo and find some criticism or potential criticism of any of them (or any other photo, for that matter), so don’t stress too much over this. Just think: in two years you’ll get another shot at a photo (no pun intended!), and you (with Bob) can experiment in the meantime.

    What great news that the dissertation is so close to completion! Have fun in Modesto!

  • Amy in MD

    Hands down #3. Who says you can’t be brilliant, happy and beautiful at the same time? GREAT PHOTO!!! You have a very pretty smile and it’s nice to see your teeth. I think the academic world would judge your book by your words versus your photo anyway… so go for the one you like the best.

  • pduggie


  • Heather in WI

    #2! It makes you look pretty and smart. 🙂 I second the other Heather’s comments regarding #3.

  • mel moore

    yay! i vote for #1 – it’s got that professional/pensive look. or something like that.

  • Colleen in NS

    Number 3 is my favourite!!! A picture like that with laughter on your face would make me want to pick up the book and find out what someone who looked so fun has to say!! It’s a great picture!

  • The Tutor

    Another vote for #2.

    At least now I know I have 6 years over which to save my money and buy all the books! 🙂

  • michelle

    #3, depending on what look your going for. #1 seams more scholarly and #3 seems more carefree/aproachable….I like #3 the best.

  • Jenny T.

    #2 is better because in B&W your fair skin just looks fair, but the color photo shows a nice glow in your cheeks.

    #3 is actually way “cuter” but you don’t look as serious. #2 shows a your “professorial” side, whereas #3 shows your “fun & friendly” side. I’m betting that history buffs will want to see your more serious self!

  • Heather in NB

    Number 3, no doubt about it. Writers, even of scholarly works, are allowed to laugh aloud, show their teeth, and be joyous. Life is short. Smile more.

  • Sherri-Ann

    Well, I think #1 is a good one BUT the b&w makes you look older. (sorry)
    #2 LOVE the colour in this one and it makes you look as smart as you are. Very good image as the author of a history book.
    #3 but I TOTALLY love this one b/c this is how I remember you and you just look like you are fun to be around. Which by the way you are.
    Hope that helps you some.

  • Cheri

    I think #3 fits you. I met you at the HEAV convention and that is how I saw you, always laughing and smiling.

  • Heather Q.

    I’d go with #1. I like black and white. You could use it for other stuff as well and not worry about whether it was going to print well in B&W…or something like that. I know my husband keeps telling me things about print quality. I like the one shot for all things because then… people recognize you!

  • Patty in WA

    Use whichever one you like, including the “old” one as you have not aged one darn second that I can tell. Which hairstyle do you like best?

    Yours truly, the one who just turned the last age one can turn before there is a 5 or larger number *always* involved…sigh…and who is grateful that it was not the alternative to turning that age…


  • shanmar

    #3 as the “person” in that photo could talk me into anything! Have them edit out the shadows on your shoulder bone, to give it a more professional look. I like the other pictures as well, but there is a certain feel of hesitation.

  • Amy in NH

    Another vote for #3. I agree with shanmar about doctoring it just a little.

    You look a little unhappy in the first two, but if I had to choose one of them, I like the second better than the first.

  • Krissi Wyss

    I like #3, you have very nice teeth and it adds a friendliness to your look. It is likely that you are friendly whether I think you look so or not, but that is my vote!

  • Sara

    I like #3 the best!

  • Jessica

    Option 1 is best for the type of work you do. Option 3 is the best photo but not for “serious” people. LOL

  • Robin

    I would go with #1. My question would be – is the cover going to be in color or b/w. If the cover is color, then go with 2, if the cover is b/w, then go with 1. My 2 cents.

  • Andrea R.

    I like #2 the best.

  • dirk

    I like number 3 best, but I like the longer hair in the oringinal photo as well.

  • Stacie

    #2 and #3 are both very lovely. Do you want to portray the calm mannered writer of history works, or a bit more lively and jovial writer of history works? Good luck with the decision.

  • Pat H

    You haven’t aged at all! If you like the original photo…..Keep it!

    But, then again, change is good. In that case I think Black and White is best. The color might clash with the cover.

    Pat H

  • Kate

    Number three. A cheerful history writer means an interesting book!


  • Callie

    What Grade level or reading level will this series be aimed at?

  • Pat

    All are fabulous, but since you can only use one (?) I like the “old” one best because it 1) has the beauty of black-n-white coloring plus 2) the great smile (showing teeth) and 3) the neckline of your blouse is more proportionate to the size of the photo which gives a more balanced look. Don’t give up your easy-to-recognize photo just yet – can’t tell you’re a day older in the new ones anyway!

  • Diana

    You may write books about the past, however you are not stuck there & color photo’s is the more modern option… I just think there’s something to be said for being able to see the color of someone’s eyes & hair – what color clothes they choose to wear – the scenery around them, etc. Deffinitely my fave is #2 – in color.

  • Diane

    Hmmm…I like teeth and I like black & white. Can Photo Brother push a button and make the teeth smile one black & white?

    All are fine choices, though. Yes, even the “old” one.


  • Lori

    I like them all. I think if it were my book, I’d probably choose #1 because the focus is on the face and not the backgrounds, the way it seems in the other ones. Making #3 b&w is an interesting idea.

    My hubby just got his first verbal go-ahead to write his intro psych text and they’re anticipating publication in 2012 as well. All I could think was, “Our oldest daughter will be in college by then!”

  • Jamie Cain


    On the photo question, I have a hard time liking any of the new ones as well as the old one. Yes, some authors use the same photo for years (I can’t shake the image of Richard Foster’s on a recent edition of Celebration of Discipline. It looks nothing like him.) You, on the other hand, look much the same (apart from different hairstyle), and the photo’s contrasts are so much better. But hey, it’s your book!

  • Greta

    I agree with Heather – #1 seems the most appropriate for this book. And #3 would be a great homeschooling conference photo. Your personality really shines through in #3 (I also met you at HEAV in 2005), and it would make me want to come and hear your presentation. But #1 says, “I know what I am talking about, so you can buy my book with confidence”.

  • Shawne

    Definitely #3!

  • Elizabeth B. in NC


  • Linda in Australia

    Hi Susan!

    I vote for no. 2 – I really like no. 3, but I think for the history book, no. 2 is best.

    Looking forward to reading it!

    Linda in Australia.

  • Debra

    I love #3. Though #1 might be more appropriate for a book. But I’d love to see more people doing pictures that don’t look like serious publicity photos.

  • Paula H

    I have no input re: blurbs, but I have an important tip about Modesto. Peaches. Modesto is peach country, and late July is the season. Best peaches outside Atlanta! See if someone can sneak away to the farmer’s market Saturday morning; it’s about six blocks from the convention and it opens at 8. I gotta’ warn you, though. Eat one and you’ll be spoiled – you’ll never again be satisfied with a supermarket peach.

  • FlockOfSillies

    My photography teacher in college always told us to choose photos by tossing the ones we liked the least. So here we go…

    Usually, I love B&W, but #1 doesn’t do it for me. There’s a patchy spot under your right eye (my left) that needs Photoshopping.

    #2 is better, but feels… boring. If the target market is a more scholarly-oriented crowd, then this more serious pose will do fine.

    #3 is my favorite, especially if you’re aiming at the “great unwashed” to buy the book. This photo shows off the highlights in your hair — something the other pose doesn’t do. Hmmm, bright smile –> bright hair –> bright mind –> bright (not dull) topic? World history is an intimidating topic for many people, especially when it comes packaged in a series of big ol’ honkin’ hardbacks. I think that if the consumer sees a hip, happy, confident author, he’ll be more likely to feel hip, happy, and confident as he buys the book.

    I agree with the others that the shadows need softening — they’re a little harsh. The other thing that makes this pose “less serious” is the daisies in the background. I bet if you had a big smile in the darker location, it would be the unanimous choice. It would look more like the old publicity pic. What’s that radio commercial for tires? “I want… ones like the ones on my car.” I think we all want the short-haired version of your original photo.

  • Laura

    I don’t dislike these photos, but I prefer the picture of you that Bob has posted on his blog. I like the serene setting and the lighting. To choose from these, I like #1 best. I’m partial to black & white.

  • Charlotte

    I have never met you, but photo #3 highlights your zest and the sense of joy that people mention you have when they talk about having met you. In photo #1 and #2 you appear to be a little tired or worn out (I’m sure writing that history book could make you feel that way) and the proportions seem a bit off too.

    I really like photo #3 a lot better.


  • Emmaline

    I like the 3 option best you look happiest and fun in it.

  • Andrea

    I vote for picture #3. That one is the happiest. The other two are very bookish though.

  • Virginia

    I like number 3.

  • Adrienne

    Susan, my husband and I stumbled across your book after struggling over curriculum choices for a LONG time. Thank you for your work. We are of the same mind in so many things and you have made our work easier. Perhaps I will say differently once I get all of the curriculum suggestions and start teaching…

    Anyway, photo #3 is definitely the best one.

  • Mario

    Number 3. Number 1 is better than number 2, but I really don’t like either. Number 3 has a certain quality that communicates an engaging personality, much like your original publicity photo succeeds in doing. I think neither 2 nor 1 have that quality. So, for me, it’s 3 — or take some more photos.

  • Patti Walker

    I vote for pic #3.

  • Brenda

    I vote for #2 – a very smart picture.
    Save #3 for 2012 when the books are completed! It will be a joyous occasion!

  • Lizzy

    I like #2. That’s my first and second impression after looking at them again… it will be interesting to see what you choose. I like your original alot, but the new B&W seems too harsh. The color is softer. #3 is spunky but do you really want to show that side outside your blog? How do you have time for a blog? Do you even read these comments? Oh well, I just couldn’t resist… giving an opinion. (ha!)

  • Susan

    Of course I do, Lizzy! (And Bono was a good blurb suggestion.)


  • meldorf

    I just went on your brother’s site and saw a fabulous picture of you

    I am a portrait painter and home educator and I feel qualified to say that that photo is the much more alive!

  • Sherrill

    Oh, I’m weighing in waaaay late on this one, ’cause I’ve been out of town and SUPER busy buying a house on the other coast, but anyhoo, I MUST say:

    NUMBER 3!!!

    I truly don’t care if it looks professional or not. When I saw it, I said, “That’s the Susan I know!” I think it conveys your personality the best. And what better assurance for a reader that this book will not be a boring history tome than to have that picture of you included! Your smile just leaps off the page.

  • Megan Disselkoen

    I like number 2.

  • Brooke


  • Lizzy

    SWB, You rock! Thank you for reading my comment!

  • Katrina

    I vote for photo option one. It is fitting for the content. I love photo option three as it shows your joyful character.
    I am so thankful for your work. You give guidance and reassurance to those of us seeking to not just educate but nurture our children. God hit me with the desire to homeschool by saying to my heart, “Katrina I did not give you these little ones so you could send them away at five years old!” It was amazing. I only have a GED and I am very intimidated and frankly just scared. I am willing to obey God and follow where he leads me. I am on the other hand extremely excited to start this adventure with my boys and now a new baby girl.
    Thanks, Katrina

  • Karla

    I think the last color photo is wonderful. It caught my attention first thing.

    By the way, I am new to homeschooling and would be lost without The Well-Trained Mind to guide me.

  • Jana

    No. 3 is absolutely the best one by far.

    I’m a new homeschool mom, have read your books, love them ALL and the last photo shows character, personality and yet you still have a look in your eyes that reveal what a fountain of knowledge you are!

  • Amanda in TX

    No. 2! BTW, thanks for all of your hard work.


  • Dianne

    I attended all the classes in Modesto (and ordered the tapes too!). Your perspective of being one of the early homeschoolers when home school school was not available, homeschooling your children with what is available and also teaching students of all backgrounds … at a freshman college level… gives you the some insight on the results of public/private schools and homeschoolers alike… but all packaged in one person… this perspective is indispensable. In addition to this you have the ability to be able to communicate this to a large audience in a very clear and organized fashion but you are not boring at all. Your energy and humor was infectious at the Modesto conference. Considering all this and meeting you one on one… I am going to vote for picture number three… as this picture exemplifies who I listened to and met. Because of His Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness… Dianne Brown

  • Norma

    Can you take another photo? Firstly, I like the carefree look of option #3, but don’t like the colour, shadows, or downward angle. Option #1 looks like your head is tilted too far back and angled the wrong way. Perhaps a combination of carefree, tiliting forward and a more straight-on photo? Hope this helps, after all, you may use the photo for a few years.

  • Karen in Cali

    I vote for #3. It looks like you are loving life! Keep up the great work. My question is, how many hours do you have in your day??? You have an amazing schedule!!

  • Darcy

    I love number 3. Have you decided yet? Didn’t notice from the newer entries if you mentioned having made a decision. Thanks for your great work and the inspiration.


  • emma

    I’m sorry I didn’t like the pictures prefer the old one!

  • Lindsay Turner

    DEFINITELY OPTION 3!!! So what if it’s for a history book? History is WONDERFUL! Show your passion for it, sister! Joyous and just beautiful!

  • Beth

    #3. You look happy, approachable and carefree. I like your current picture as well.

  • Terri in WA

    #1 🙂

  • Rebecca

    I choose number 2. I can’t wait for your newest book, it’s already on my wish list at Amazon.

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