A New Author Photo for a New Year?

Not long ago, I signed one of my books for a friend. As he received it back from me, he turned to the back cover and pointed to my photo.

“Who’s that?” he asked.

He used to be a friend.

So the book had been out for a few years, but truth be told (not that I’ve been lying up to now), the photo could have been more current. Much more.

You may not age like I do (with the speed of a hare and grace of a tortoise), but let me take this opportunity to suggest that a new year is a great time to take a new author photo for use not only on the back covers of all of the books you’ll be selling and publishing but also for your book proposals’ author section, website, blog, social media, speaking-engagement announcements, article blurbs, and so on.

So let me offer you five tips for your new author photo:

  • Take the very affordable ($6), forty-five-minute video course “10 Photo Secrets for Bestselling Authors,” found on the Christian Writers Institute site. That will set you up for success as well as (or better than) I can.
  • Don’t use a “snapshot.” You don’t have to spend a fortune, but your author photo should be professional in appearance, if not in expense. Don’t just crop out your wife or cat from an existing photo; have a quality headshot taken by someone who knows how. (Some writers conferences offer affordable photo sessions. Do it. They’re more than worth it.)
  • Ditch the pipe. Or book. Or pet. Seriously, most props are a bad idea.
  • Let your headshot reflect your personality and professionalism—and, in some cases, what you write. If you write intense suspense novels, you may not want to be laughing in your author photo. On the other hand, if you write humor, you probably should smile. On the third hand, if you write slasher fiction, don’t use the axe-in-head motif. It’s been done.  
  • Think ahead. Yes, we all do get older as time goes by. That can’t be helped. But don’t think only of the immediate uses for your photo; think of how it might be used months, even years from now. Will it soon look out-of-date? Will you wish it had been a higher resolution? Will you wish you had more than one pose? Will your handlebar mustache still be as cool?

Now, before you go looking at my author photo for guidance, let me beg you not to. Just like you, I really need to get crackin’ on a new author photo for this new year.

13 Responses to A New Author Photo for a New Year?

  1. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 3, 2021 at 8:14 am #

    Oh, my gosh, it’s photo time,
    and what am I to do
    since I prefer to write true Crime
    from a Christian point of view?
    Should my pose be grim and tight,
    just this side of snarly
    an dperhaps I really might
    be sitting on a Harley,
    shotgun cradled in my arms,
    stiletto clenched in teeth
    set to cause a thousand harms,
    or perhaps this is beneath
    my dignity and won’t bode well…
    oh, dear,Bob, please, please do tell!

    • Avatar
      Karen Robbins February 3, 2021 at 11:23 am #

      I think your talent will shine beyond any smiling photo you submit! I enjoyed your poem…….great job Andrew! Keep using your God given gift he gave simply to you!

    • Avatar
      Kristen Joy Wilks February 3, 2021 at 7:51 pm #

      Ha ha! I love it. I can picture you with all of these props and some dogs all piled up together.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 3, 2021 at 8:07 pm #

        Kristen, for sure the dogs…I have a husky who fancies herself a kind of stole, and likes to ride on my shoulders. She photobombs just about every picture.

        She also hates snow, and has to be carried outside and held above the cold stuff to ‘perform’…it would make a great Youtube video, but she’d probably never speak to me again if I posted it.

  2. Avatar
    Mary-Lynn Chambers February 3, 2021 at 9:32 am #

    Hi Bob,
    This is such a practical blog post. Years ago, when my first book was published, I took a picture, cut out my husband, and sent it to the publisher for the back of my book. Unfortunately, the way my hair fell on the one side made it obvious that someone had been cut out of the picture!
    Now, my daughter, who is professional photography, does my pictures. What a difference! This is a good lesson to learn.
    Thanks! Mary-Lynn

  3. Avatar
    Savanna Ammons February 3, 2021 at 9:49 am #

    Such a good point! Also, I wanted to let you know that I love reading your posts. Your subtle way of adding humor to each post gets me every time. Have a great day!

  4. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks February 3, 2021 at 7:49 pm #

    Great ideas! I am sorely tempted to take a picture with my Newfoundland dog … but I guess I could resist. However, I am writing some books that have a Newfoundland dog in them … what about the author photo for something like that???

  5. Avatar
    Constance A. Buckley February 4, 2021 at 2:33 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been thinking about it. This is a good nudge. Now to write it in my planner so it gets done.

  6. Avatar
    Joanie Clay February 5, 2021 at 8:06 am #

    Great post. I’m a photographer when I’m not writing and I regularly see strong writing posts then get to the bottom to see an awful author photo. Something about an unprofessional or blurry image almost takes away the influence of the writing. Likewise when an author presents themselves well I feel more inclined to receive from them. May be wrong but first impressions matter.

  7. Avatar
    Stephan February 9, 2021 at 4:38 am #

    Thanks Bob. I’ll keep this in mind when I post a photo after publishing my first book. Hope I’ll not be too old by then 🙂

  8. Avatar
    Debbie Wilson February 9, 2021 at 8:04 am #

    Bob, you always make me chuckle. I heard Jim Rohn once say he liked to use a less than flattering photo so when he showed up to speak people were pleasantly surprised instead of vice versa! Not sure I’d go that far.

  9. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. February 14, 2021 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks for the suggestion, Bob. I was at an academic conference once and there was a fabulous picture of a gorgeous woman up on the screen. I said to a couple of gals sitting nearby, “That lady could have a career as a model, if she ever gives up running a college.” They scowled and said nothing. A few minutes later, a little old lady hobbled up on the stage. She turned and smiled at the picture. Guess who? That photo was at least 40 years old. Time to take another photo, for sure!

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