Friday, June 28, 2013

Author Photos

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Author photos aren’t just for the backs of books.  They’re also used to brand our series and connect different bits of our platform.  They can also connect a pseudonym to our real name. My photo is one of the few things connecting my Riley Adams books to my Elizabeth Craig books on both my Goodreads pages and Author Central on Amazon.  They’re useful for guest posting on blog tours.
And it’s much better to use our photo than our book cover for branding.  Our covers and series change…our faces stay the same.  Sort of.  :)
I was amazed how many sites I had to update yesterday with the new photo.  I updated for two Facebooks, two Goodreads, Twitter, Amazon Author Central (twice for the two profiles), my website, Google Plus, LinkedIn, my avatar for Wordpress, and my blog.  And I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m forgetting something.
I try to update my photo every year, although last year got away from me.  I have a particular favorite author and read her once-yearly books when they release. When she finally updated her author photo after ten years, I gasped.  What had happened to her?  Then I realized…oh.  It had been ten books since that picture had changed.  If we can, it’s probably better to update our photos more frequently than that.
I’ve gone to professional studios twice before for headshots and I just haven’t been as happy with the results. The fault lies squarely on my shoulders.  I completely understand that professionals are better for a variety of different reasons…but I tend to stiffen up and produce extremely unnatural-looking expressions.  The last time I went to a studio, the photographer told me in frustration that she’d rather work with the screaming toddler down the hall than me—that I needed to learn to relax.
This is why I’m now using my daughter to take my headshots. :) My publishers haven't seemed to notice a difference in the quality of the photo.  Newly-recovered from her tonsillectomy, and bored because she’s not doing normal activities yet, my daughter took photos of me yesterday to update my images on my sites. I will smile for my daughter.  She’s even signed legal releases for Penguin so that her picture of me can go in the backs of my books.  The point is that I look more relaxed. I definitely looked stressed in some of my studio pictures.
If you do go to a studio, you need to make sure that they will release the rights to the photo to you.  Most of them do…there are only a couple of commercial chains that I’ve heard aren’t good about it.  They’ll usually recommend wearing a solid color (I frequently ignore this advice), and not to wear very light colors if you’re fair.
The studio drove me a little batty because they wanted me to strike a variety of poses—and I knew my publisher didn’t want that.  The publishers I’ve worked with have asked for headshots—not full-length photos—and they don’t want you looking off to the side or cradling your head in your hand or doing anything that looks particularly artsy.  You only have to pay for the poses you want, but I felt as though I were wasting my time with everything but headshots at the studio.
If you do go to a studio, though, be sure to take more than one outfit with you.  They let you change during the shoot.  In fact, they’re delighted to let you change because it means you may buy several different portraits (since you’re in several different outfits, it appears that you’ve had more than one shoot.)
Midnight Ink, as I recall, had a whole page of author photo instructions.  From what I remember of Penguin’s instructions, it was mainly just that they needed a headshot and the specific resolution they needed to have a clear black and white picture on the inside back cover of the mass market paperbacks. But you’ll want to make sure that you know your publisher’s requirements before you get your photo taken.
Have you updated your photo lately?  Any tips that I’ve forgotten?