Here's the funny thing though, I can clean up quite nicely. And I have the pictures to prove it. There are some people who know me, however, who are... not fond of these pictures. I know of at least one who when asked by a Facebook friend how she knew me included a link to a different photo and a "this is what she really looks like" in her response. Uh... thanks? (Actually, I didn't think the word thanks at all. I did think some other words, but we won't go into what they are.)
But it's true. My average day does not involve corsets or great lighting or a professional photographer who has been paid a lot of money to bring out my best. Hell, my average outing with family or friends involves at best a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am job on the hair and make-up. And clothes? I'm a big fan of comfort when dealing with my family--it makes getting out of Dodge quickly a lot easier. (I have also grown very adept at running in heels for the same reason.)
I can't think of anyone who normally looks as good on an average day as they do in professional photos. (This is why they always do those "stars without make-up" things in tabloids. They're human too.) However, at this point, I don't want to show my readers and fans the every day me. If they run into me at the grocery store, they'll get that, but not online. Online I try to give them my best me. (And yes, the best me wears a corset most of the time. Deal with it.)
As an author, everything you do online is scrutinized, from your photos to your typos to how often you pimp your books. All of it. The only way to get ahead of that game is to scrutinize yourself and decide up front how you want to present your brand. For me, a big part of my brand is openness. I write with the door open, and I tweet/facebook with the door to my mind open. I don't hide my views on issues any more than I hide what I'm working on (unless I have to contractually).
There's a mantra at one of my publishers that says "Your boobs are not your brand." As much as it might raise some eyebrows, I don't disagree with that. If that's all an author has to offer, that's a problem. However, I don't look at my photos and think that. For me, that has a lot more to do with another part of my brand: women are sexual creatures. We're allowed to be, damn it. We shouldn't have to hide behind drapey fabrics and muumuus. It's a sort of freedom that I allow my characters (even the book with no actual sex has a bit of sexual discovery in it for this very reason).
Another reason I love the corset pictures? Confidence--which is also part of my brand. I stand/sit straighter when I'm wearing a corset. I feel better about myself and it shows. More often than not, my characters also deal with confidence issues and finding themselves. It's an important thing because so many women--young and old (and men too)--struggle with their confidence. I try to show through my writing those little steps (and some big ones) that help to build a person up.
So, today, I'm sitting here blogging in a t-shirt that says "Neighborhood Witch," a pair of jeans, and some slippers that really need replacing. My hair is twisted up in a clip and isn't even dry yet (which will be a problem I have to deal with later). And I have no make-up on. This is me as I sit at my computer and avoid normal human interaction.
But that chick in the pictures? She's me too. She's me when I need to go out in the world and talk to people. She's proud and strong and open and sexy and confident. She's my brand, but she's still me.