Thoughts on Publishing – Author Photos

As I get closer to releasing Magic’s Stealing, I’ve been thinking about the little details that still need to be decided before publishing. What do I want to put on the copyright page? Where should I put the acknowledgements? Do I want the blurb after the title page inside the ebook edition? Should I have an author photo?

Let’s focus on the author photo, because that’s the one that’s been puzzling me.

SBibb - OldAuthorPhoto

Really Old Artsy Author Photo

My first author photo (artist photo, really, since I started by using it on DeviantArt) is quirky. I’m in costume and I’m holding a shiny, reflective ball that I bought at a renaissance faire. This particular photo is really small, I’m not sure where the original picture is, and it was probably taken during my early college years or during my late high school years.

Then there is my current author photo, which I use on Twitter and in various places. This was taken by my husband during college (edited by me), and still went for artsy . Black and white, a little mysterious. I’m fond of this photo. Problem is that I’ve heard from several people that it doesn’t look like me. (Striped lighting and no glasses… I guess I’m not too surprised).

SBibb - Current Author Photo

Current Black and White Author Photo

But I’ve been using this fairly consistently, so I wasn’t sure if I should change it. On the other hand, if the photo doesn’t look like me, and I ever do a local book signing… I can see a benefit to having a picture that looks more familiar.

For example, when I went to ConQuest this year, I could very easily recognize Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin because their photos look like them, or at least how they present themselves publicly. I pulled out a few books on my bookshelf, and about half of them have author photos. It was interesting to find one of Brandon Sanderson’s earlier books that I bought, which has an early photo of him, and to compare it to later books, which have a more recent photo. So obviously, authors change which photo they use over a period of time.

Another thing to consider, author pictures often represent the author’s primary genre. For non-fiction, a more business-oriented photo lends credibility. For hard science fiction (I’m thinking of a few older authors here), the author might be sitting in a library setting, usually black and white. (Though the lack of color may have been due to printing limitations). For fantasy, authors might get dressed up in relevant costume. Middle grade authors often use more colorful photos, or illustrated pictures of themselves.

SBibb - Steampunk Author Photo

Steampunk Cosplay Snapshot

The question is, how do we want to be perceived? Should our author photos be a straightforward, contemporary photo? Or should we go for the fun costume pictures (as long as they still look like us)?

Do we really want to be recognizable? Should we even have a photo? A person with a pen name might not. Perhaps they have a hat that hides their face, yet makes them distinguishable (like Authoress, from a blog I follow).

We might not necessarily need an author photo, but there are cases where having one could prove useful. For one, an author can unite their Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook accounts with a single photo as their avatar. (Though they might use a relevant symbol, instead). Or an author might include a photo when guest blogging, or at conventions.

There are benefits to having a photo on hand, which brings me back to deciding on an author photo.

I did a little bit of reading on the subject, and one thing that stood out in the reading was a distinction between a professional head-shot versus a snapshot. Both of which can be a good photo, but a professional photograph will give the feeling that your book is professionally written. And having a picture that represents the genre (a more somber image for mystery and crime, versus a friendlier image for romance) can affect how a reader perceives a book.

Anyway, Isaac and I went out on Thursday evening, found a nature-y spot that still had some sunlight, and took a few pictures. I dressed up for them (semi-modern, semi steampunk), and Isaac had the camera. I have a degree in photography and he’s had a few classes, so I felt comfortable that we could get a reasonably professional photo on our own. Then we sorted through the pictures in Adobe Bridge and selected the best five. I did a few retouches to improve lighting, and we posted them to Facebook to see which ones our friends liked best.

These are the resulting favorites (in no particular order):

SBibb - New Author Photo Options

Author Photo Option 1

SBibb - New Author Photo Options

Author Photo Option 2

SBibb - New Author Photo Options

Author Photo Option 3

SBibb - New Author Photo Options

Author Photo Option 4

One of these has a few more friend votes than the others, but I’m curious to see which one you guys like best before I make my final decision. Once I decide on one of these photos, I’ll need to decide on how much editing to do to them, and whether or not to keep them in color, desaturate them, or go with black and white. Granted, the print edition will be in black and white, but I could use color on the web or in ebooks.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Which photo do you feel is the strongest, and have you chosen an author photo?


Further Reading About Choosing An Author Photo:


Filed under Business Ventures, Writing

22 responses to “Thoughts on Publishing – Author Photos

  1. Just my .02 but the first photo is the best. The others are good too but you have a more ‘mature’ aura in that first one, which appeals to the reader in me. It makes me feel like I’d be in good hands with the author in that photo. Not an easy decision though, good luck. 🙂

  2. I think 3 is a worse version of 2, the desaturated unfocused foliage in 2 make a much better background than the sharply in focus and shiny greenery in 3, plus the pose in 3 looks awkward to me. 2 cleans up most of those problems but still looks forced somehow. 4 I think has the best facial expression, but the horizontal presentation is (by definition) less portrait-esque. If you cropped 4 really well – at the sleeves maybe removing the arms completely? – I think it could win, and the hat’s nice and somehow you look even younger with it. The person in 1-3 is clearly the same, but 4 looks just a little bit different and I think that’s a nifty trick resulting from the hair being thrown in front of the shoulder and the hairline hiding. But, as is, I think 1 just looks like the pensive writer pose you see in so many author photos and has no really negative qualities. The overhead angle makes it slightly dynamic, your eyes even get framed in your glasses nicely.

    • I’ve considered cropping 4, if I went with that one, and admittedly, any of them would have to be cropped for the avatar versions. I’m starting to think I might use both 1 and 4, depending on what I’m using the photo for. But I’m not sure about that yet.

      Thanks for the detailed input. 🙂

  3. #1 and #4 are definitely my favorites. I agree, you should have a photo that looks like you.

    • Thanks for chiming in. 🙂

      Having a photo that looks more like me is the main reason I started really thinking about changing my author photo (or even including one in the “about the author” section of the book).

  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    An interesting thought for you to consider 😀

  5. I would vote for 4, it makes you look a little quirky with out being insane. If you look closely it gives the impression of something going on behind the eyes. Just to be clear the other photo don’t make you look insane either, just sometimes when people go for quirky you end up thinking that person needs help!

    • Hehe. Indeed, I don’t want to look like I’m crazy–just that my stories might not always fit the usual conventions. And a steampunk hat… kind of adds to that implication. Thanks for the input. 🙂

  6. Hey Stephanie! I like the last one the best. 🙂

  7. Annette Rochelle Aben

    I am fond of the one of you in the hat! It gives me the feeling that you might have something adventurous to offer me, tales that could be of interest. Celebrating your EVERY success.

  8. Angie

    Reblogged this on Love, Laughter, and Life and commented:
    I really need to focus on getting a more professional looking headshot! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love photos 4 and 1.

  9. Angie

    Loving 4 and 1. 🙂

  10. I think 1 or 4, but 1 is the best. It looked like you are thinking what to write next

  11. Pingback: Author Photo Results and Magic’s Stealing Cover Reveal | Stephanie Flint - Author and Artist

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