This past week I did something that is somewhat out of my comfort zone: I had my picture taken. Okay, not just any picture, not even a super awesome selfie. This past week I participated in a photo shoot in hopes of selecting a new author photo for my March 15th, 2016 release, WHEN I’M GONE.
The importance of an author photo
Now it is pretty accepted that author photos are important. When you think of an author photo you might think of them from a reader’s perspective, the curiosity fueled flip to the end of a book in an effort to put a face to the mind you’ve been living in. But there are so many uses for an author photo that you don’t readily think of. In a way, your author photo becomes your logo.
You use an author photo on your website, on your author page on Amazon, on your FB page, on your Twitter page, in any interviews you do. You send it out in your press kit and it’s used in any print or online articles. You also use it on business cards, in promo materials and, of course, in your book. No pressure…no…none at all.
Your author photo is an investment
So I look at a potential photo as an investment and as such it’s important to go into it with an end in mind. As such I feel like, for me, it was important to save up and invest in a professional. Both of my photos (for WRECKAGE and now for WHEN I’M GONE) were taken by talented professionals. If you want to read about my experience with Angel Clark of Angel Clark Photography from my WRECKAGE photo shoot you can see a wonderful blog post she wrote last summer.
This past week I went on a new adventure with the talented photographer/stylist, Amber Linderman of Amber Linderman Photography. I’m a nervous subject. I’ve been told most of my life that I’m not photogenic and I guess if you are told something often enough you start to believe it.
This is me:
Even when I tried to dress up back in the day I always picked something a little off the wall like:
Even now, nearly twenty years later, when I close my eyes I see that girl in my mind’s eye. I don’t mind the quirkiness, in fact, I’ve come to own it! But I also have never really felt like I take good pictures. Now my clothing choices might be a part of the issue, I won’t deny that, but in general I feel very self-conscious when I have my picture taken and then again when I review the photos. So when it was time to get a new author photo for WHEN I’M GONE I was nervous.
I found there are two qualities that were most important for me when selecting a photographer. First, was my comfort level with the photographer and second was that her aesthetic matched my expectations of a photo. Remember-you have to know you audience when you publicize your book as much as when you write your book. If you are looking for a photographer for your author photo, make sure to take a look through his/her portfolio and see if you feel like you are a match.
As for me, I selected a photographer who I was very familiar with and whose work I’d admired for years. Amber Linderman (Amber Linderman Photography) does such lovely work, check out her website if you don’t believe me. Beyond her extreme talent, I know Amber fairly well. Our kids are similar ages and she is also developing her profession as an artist while doing her job as a stay-at-home mom, just like me. I was excited to work with someone I already knew, hoping my comfort level would increase and I wouldn’t look like a constipated robot during the shoot. Click here to visit Amber’s photography Facebook page.
Choose clothes that are appealing to your genre and target audience. Now, that doesn’t mean if you write fantasy that you need to dress up in cosplay but feel free to show your accessibility to your audience.
As you can see above, I needed help with picking out the right clothes for my shoot. Amber is also a stylist so she went shopping with me and picked out my outfit and accessories. It was a fun process, but it was interesting to watch her pick things with a purpose. I was impressed when she asked me what my target demographic is for my books and then used that information to help her select each piece of clothing and jewelry.
You don’t need a stylist/photographer to get a great look for your author photo, just take a look through Pinterest or google at the different author photos in your genre to get an idea of what would work for your book and genre.
Will you be inside or outside? Will you be in front of a backdrop, foliage or maybe a Christmas tree (don’t do that…please)? It is best to avoid extremes in background or theme (don’t want to distract from your lovely self) but feel free to make it personal.
For my shoot, we went down to the main street of a local town. We’d planned to go to the downtown area of my small town, but there was a homecoming parade (how quaint!) that night so it was far too crowded. The shots turned out lovely even with the change in plans. One thing that amazed me about Amber was how she found potential in some seemingly average places for some wonderful photographs.
Below are Amber’s pictures next to some simple iPhone photographs of what the backgrounds look like in “real life”. (Note: All the photographs of me are credited to Amber Linderman Photography. All the other ones are credited to Emily Bleeker’s iPhone)
If your author photo is an investment, so are you! Take the time to get gussied up and look your best. After all, thousands of people are going to see this picture! Maybe more. (Am I freaking you out yet?)
Besides getting a new outfit for the shoot, I also went and got my hair and makeup done. I don’t know that it was necessary, but I know that it gave me extra confidence that I needed. If you don’t want to pay for another item while preparing for the photo then just invest in a new tube of lipgloss or time the photos around your routine haircut. Make the day special and it will be easier to FEEL special in the pictures.
Most importantly, don’t sweat it. You are going to do great. Try not to get up inside your head. I know it’s hard. We are writers, we live a large percentage of our lives up in our heads, but unless you are imagining something that will make you smile or pout or inspire the right look for your photos, get out of there! The more you listen to the voices saying “Am I doing this right?” inside your head, the harder it is to get the results you desire.
The final product
When it comes down to picking THE picture for your book and promotional materials I suggest you explore all your photo options (hopefully you and your photographer got lots of different backgrounds, shots, angles and maybe even more than one “look”). I always like getting some feedback from trusted friends and family but ultimately it comes down to which photo you are ready to live with for the foreseeable future.
My favorite picture, the one I’m going to adopt as my author photo for WHEN I’M GONE and all my promotions, was taken as I was laughing with my photographer about a particularly hilarious way to get a nice, soft smile. I like thinking that whenever someone picks up my book or visits one of my pages that they will be laughing along with me.