How To Get A Great Author Photo

Writer Debbie Young, writer, blogger and book promoter

My own cover shot

Do you have a good author photo in your book promotion toolkit?

Even if you didn’t need one for your book jacket, a decent photographic portrait will definitely help you sell more books.  It will:

– add warmth and personality to your author website

– increase your professional credibility

– build your relationship with your readers

– make you easy to spot at a public event such as a book launch or festival

Most of us hate having our photo taken and are critical of the result, but this doesn’t mean you should settle for a less than fabulous picture.  A blurred holiday snap or sombre passport photo will do more harm than good. An old favourite that shows you looking young and lovely twenty years ago will make you seem like a has-been (and readers might assume your book is out of date, too). Although a webcam shot taken on your laptop may spare you the ordeal of being snapped by someone else,  it won’t provide the high quality image that you really need.

So brace yourself – and have a good portrait taken  specifically for promoting your book!

First, seek out the services of someone who you know will bring out the best in you. It doesn’t need to be a professional photographer – but if you can afford one, it’s a good investment. Google “press photographer” in your area and you’ll get a friendly newshound able to produce high quality usable pictures in a relatively short space of time.

If you have no available budget, approach a local high school or college to see if a photography student might help, or ask a friend or relation with a really good camera to help you.

A head and shoulders shot will be fine – you want a close-up so that people can really see your face – but this doesn’t mean the background doesn’t matter. Make sure it’s neat, uncluttered, with a colour that flatters you and nothing distracting behind you. Pay attention to the lighting to ensure you don’t look pallid or shadowy or just plain weird! Oh, and don’t forget to dress in something appropriate to the genre of your book.

Look at the camera so that in the final photo you will seem to be making eye-contact with your reader – a winning gesture.

Relax, drop your shoulders, and look happy. A huge grin is not essential but nor should you look sad, scared or cross. You want the reader to like the look of you and to want to spend time in your company via the pages of your book.

Take LOTS of pictures – it’s not an extravagance in these days of digital media. It’s not as if you  have to worry about the cost of film. Watch any professional photographer and you’ll see he clicks away like nobody’s business to get a selection of usable shots.

Store the best shot on your computer as a jpeg format file. Use it not only on your book jacket, but on your website, on your Gravatar and as part of any news submission to the press.

Try to build up a bank of photographs for different purposes. For example, if you have written an autobiography, you may want to scan in, neatly and clearly, old black and white archive pictures.  A memoir of your army career might be helped by a current photo of you wearing your old service beret or medals with a military tie. If your book is about a particular place, make sure you have shots of yourself on location. These stock shots are all good raw material for the newshound keen to review your book. Oh – and don’t forget a good, clear picture of your book!

Finally, if using a professional photographer, check out who owns the copyright – and be sure to credit the photographer if need be.  In any case, it’s courteous – your photo will help him promote his business too! Hotlink the credit to his website, and why not give him a copy of your book while you’re at it?  Photographers tend to be sociable types who meet a lot of people in their line of work, and if he enjoys your book, he could help you spread the word!

With many thanks to the wonderful former press photographer Clint Randall for sharing his decades of knowledge and experience with me – and for taking my own author portrait, pictured above! Having put it hem on my Facebook page, I was inundated with positive feedback – a good professional photo really does pay dividends!  Clint Randall works in and around Gloucestershire and can be contacted via his Pixel PR Photography website.

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