"Raymond’s eye for telling detail is very fine, as one expects of an accomplished writer, but to this she adds the informing eye of a natural historian of place.”
— John Keeble, author of Nocturnal America
Midge Raymond
Midge's blog about writing . . . reading . . . and everything in between

Book Promo 101: The author photo

I can still remember the days (long ago) when an author’s photo on a book cover was optional. Sometimes there would be one, often in black-and-white; sometimes not. Now, however, in these days of “mediagenic” authors and digital imagery, the author photo is not an option. Which is a little stressful for those of us who have a disproportionate number of bad hair days or who may not love the camera.

But, as Jane Friedman writes in this blog post, every author needs a professional head shot. For one, if you hope to promote yourself and your book, you’ll be asked for one — and, as Friedman points out, a photo can do wonders in terms of giving you credibility or establishing trust … or have the opposite effect.

Jane’s post offers excellent tips for what you’ll want in a photo, and I’ll add a couple more:

- Stay within your budget, or you’re sure to be even more stressed about it. There’s nothing worse than spending money you don’t have … but especially on a photo that will remind you of it at every turn. Many wonderful photographers out there know that we writers don’t make a lot of money; find one that you can afford, then relax and enjoy the process.

- Invest in a good camera, and find someone who knows how to use it. It’ll pay off in the end — for one, you can take photos on your book tour and at other events, which are always nice to have. Two, you can take a few good shots to offer in addition to your Official Author Photo. And, finally, you may even be able to use it for your Official Author Photo, especially if you don’t like or can’t afford the more formal studio shots. The photo I’m currently using was taken by my husband (who put himself through college in part by working as a photographer), and while it’s not a professional studio shot, I like the more casual feel of it.

- Be yourself. Have you ever been to a reading where you couldn’t identify the author because he/she looked so unlike the photo on the book cover? Beware of this. You’ll want to look your best, but don’t go too crazy with hair and makeup; most of all, you’ll want to look like yourself.

- Interview photographers. This is a great idea no matter what, but especially if you’re going to spend a lot of money. Once you’ve narrowed down your list based on the portfolios you like the best, schedule a meeting or a chat as well. Make sure the photographer knows exactly what you want and can achieve this for you. And make sure it’s someone you feel comfortable with, or you won’t be looking very relaxed in your photos.

- Check out my Q&A with Rosanne Olson, whose collection of portraits include many writers, for insider tips on how to take a great author photo.

Now all you have to do is smile.

 



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3 comments

1 Shary { 06.02.11 at 2:07 pm }

I love your photo. I’m glad to learn that casual and relaxed pictures are okay. Studio portraits can be so intimidating.

2 Midge { 06.02.11 at 5:45 pm }

Thanks, Shary! I don’t take very good studio portraits (as my class photos from school make very clear), so the more casual ones take the pressure off. I dream of having Rosanne take my photo one day, though — she does such a beautiful job!

3 Book Promo 101: Creating an author web site | Remembering English { 10.24.11 at 9:08 am }

[...] – your bio, as you like it. Some authors write long bios that include their childhood forays into writing; others are short and to the point. Go with what you prefer — as long as it’s not so short that it doesn’t offer enough relevant information, or so long that no one will read it.  Always include a good, professional photo (see Book Promo 101: The author photo). [...]

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