They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How apt a saying that is when it comes to your author photo! Believe it or not, your author headshot speaks to potential readers, playing an essential role in helping to shape and define your brand. In essence, the bio photo is an integral element for marketing your book.

When done right, this important photograph can convey tone, genre, personality, and authority all in one simple author headshot. When the photo exudes a quality that dovetails with the genre, it creates synchronicity that enhances an author’s credibility. On the other hand, if the author’s photo is off the mark, it can create the opposite effect.

If you are putting the finishing touches on your self-published book, don’t overlook the significance of adding a compelling author photo to the author bio page or back cover. Read on to learn more author photo tips.


Why Should You Have an Author Photo?

In the modern social media era in which we live, our society has been groomed to embrace, critique, and value all things visual. When it comes to selling books these days, crafting an intriguing anonymous author persona by skipping the photo altogether is simply not going to cut it.

Nowadays, readers truly want to connect with the author of a book. Other than the few lines of content about the author’s background at the end of the book, the author photo offers the best opportunity for the reader to feel a sense of connection. To deny them that experience is to miss a chance to initiate a bond between author and reader.


Tips for Taking a Memorable Author Photo

So what shall it be — a broad smile, a humorous smirk, a Mona Lisa half-smile, or a brooding pout? The way you portray yourself in your author headshot should align with the product you are presenting, your book’s genre in particular. The genre will influence the general tone of your author photo in several ways, such as how you dress, how you pose, the setting you choose, and your facial expression.

The best author photos are those where the author looks friendly and approachable. For nonfiction writers, the author photo should convey professionalism and inspire confidence. For fiction writers, there is more latitude for creative expression that will work with their genre, and comedic writers get to be as quirky as they want.

So… color or black and white? Headshot or full torso? Studio shot or outdoor setting? Who knew that taking a simple photo for your book’s bio page could be so daunting?


5 Author Photo Tips to Consider

Tip 1: Hire a professional photographer.

Consider the cost of hiring a photographer as an investment in your future career as a serious author. Only a professional photographer has the equipment and skills to create a truly spectacular author photo. Whether you opt for a studio shot or an outdoor setting, the photographer will be in control of lighting and composition, resulting in a professional-looking author photo.

Dean Koontz L.T. Ryan

In this example, here are two blockbuster authors from the thriller/suspense genre. Notice the difference between using a professional photographer (Dean Koontz) versus a smartphone (L.T. Ryan).


Tip #2: Sync your expression with your genre.

Remember that your author photo is an extension of your work. If you write thrillers, you won’t want to project a big toothy grin. If you write cookbooks, you won’t want a solemn expression. If you write nonfiction, you probably won’t want a quirky look. Match your expression to your genre.

Lindsey Kelk Beth Duke

Note the muted expression, something between smirk and mischievous, in chick lit author Lindsey Kelk’s author photo on the left. Compare Kelk’s perfect match between genre and expression with romance novelist Beth Duke, who looks like she is in on a joke.


Tip #3: Wear solid colors, not prints.

Whether you opt for a stylish black and white photo or full color, avoid choosing prints for your wardrobe, other than a quiet print on a necktie or scarf. Prints are distracting, so stick to solid colors. If you are shooting the photo in color, avoid white and black, as these can be a bit harsh on the skin tone.

RaeAnne Thayne Peggy Noonan

Note the busy print worn by author RaeAnne Thayne versus the powerful impact of the solid hue worn by author Peggy Noonan.


Tip #4: Take lots of shots.

When hiring a professional, be sure to book a couple of hours for the photo shoot, which will allow for many, many shots using various lighting options, poses, and backgrounds. It can take a hundred or more shots to get one really great photo. If you opt to have a friend take the photo, ask them to also experiment in backgrounds and lighting and to take at least a hundred pictures of you.

Jo Lovett Toni Morrison

Note the bad lighting in author Jo Lovett’s bio photo versus the stunning, professional lighting in author Toni Morrison’s photo.


Tip #5: Keep a natural pose.

When it comes to author photo poses, avoid the stiff studio poses of bygone eras and strike a more natural pose. Even nonfiction authors who write in fields like finance, politics, or business leadership should aim for a more modern, casual posture in their author photos.

Charles Casillo Gary Westfall

Note the awkward pose author Charles Casillo strikes versus the casual pose author Gary Westfall achieves.


Ways to Use Your Author Photo

The great thing about investing in a professional author photo is the variety of ways you will be able to utilize the photo. To further your author branding efforts, it is advised that the same photo be used across all platforms, including:

  • Your author website
  • All social media platforms
  • The author profile page on Amazon
  • All versions of your book
  • Posters or flyers at book signing events

Remember that your author photo will be associated with your work and your overall branding. Give this important image the attention it deserves, and it will soon become a significant tool in your book-marketing arsenal.


Not Published Yet? Get Some Design Guidance for Your Self-Published Book

Book design encompasses all the visual elements of your self-published book, including the author photo. Will you publish your book in hardcover format with a book jacket? If so, your author photo will appear on the inside flap. If you decide on a paperback format, your author photo will appear on the back cover or inside on the “About the Author” page. For all your cover design, book formatting, or editing needs, consider teaming up with the pros at Gatekeeper Press today.

Contact us for more information!

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