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.
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).
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.
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):
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: