In the marketing, entertainment, and press world, image is EVERYTHING!
That being said, I discourage all of my authors from doing this practice altogether. First reason, it makes them a target for whatever, more negative than positive in my view.
However, there are valid exceptions,, flukes, as I have shared here in another thread.
And to answer honestly, yes we all shy away from the unappealing in our culture, we are trained to ad nausea.
Again, a human nature factor which cannot be overlooked or denied.
On the other hand, sexy, handsome, appealing, unusual, sells, and sells big. Again, the human nature factor from the marketing perspective.
I don't even include an author photo or biography in my books.
Maybe I'm making a mistake, but I figure that later I can add that stuff in when who I am actually MATTERS to readers. Right now, it doesn't. I'm just a (potentially) good author.
I don't shy away from "ugly" authors but I make the same assumptions as everyone else and I'm well past the point of feeling as though I have to deny it. A photo in which someone is just downright trying too hard, like the pipe and jacket you described or those odgawful "glamour" shots so many women use, screams "amateur" and, yeah, I'll pass. Not because the photo's ugly but because the writer just doesn't get it yet and if they put so little thought into their headshot, what does that say about the care they put into their book?
That's not fair but none of us is just an author anymore. If we accept that we can't expect readers to look past a bad front cover why in the world would we expect them to look past an ugly back cover?
Kristopher, not that you ask for my opinion but I personally think you're making a big mistake by not using some kind of photo of yourself. People want to connect with a real person and a photo will make that so much easier. I review books for a local paper and I always pass on books with no author photo.
I can only tell you that when I discover a new author I want to know everything I can about him/her. Putting a face to the name helps me feel more connected. I felt that way as a reader and I try to offer a certain level of . . . attainability . . . to my own readers.
Joe Nobody is a good example of a writer who keeps total privacy, yet he sells a lot of books. It would be kind of silly to use a pen name and then post your face on all of your books. Yeah, I know the conventional advise is to post a photo and tell your readers all about your life and family, but I'm not going that route.
You replied, "I discourage all of my authors from doing this practice altogether." My authors? I'm sitting here picturing one of those Roman slave galleys with each writer chained in irons, a keyboard in front of them while you crack the whip and holler, "NO ADVERBS!"