Note from Bryan:
Here's his take on how to create a noteworthy author picture that captures fans.
When you’re self-publishing a book, there are two images people judge you by:
- Your book cover
- Your author picture
Most authors know to spend the time and money to make an eye-catching and professional book cover, but so many make huge mistakes with their author picture.
You may not realize this, but your author picture has a lot of power. Your cover and book title may get someone’s attention, but your author picture can make the difference between someone trusting you enough to buy your book – or moving on to find another one.
This is especially true if you’re like most of us, and are not a well-known author.
Since Amazon is the world’s biggest bookstore, I went to Amazon to find some great examples. When cruising through book and author pages, I was shocked how many people have taken the time to write entire books, but haven’t even uploaded an author photo! Or worse, uploaded a picture that my snap judgements reacted with “Woah!” or “Amateur…”
This is a huge missed opportunity when you’re trying to reach more fans and sell more books.
So today I’ll share with you some author picture guidelines to follow and mistakes to avoid.
Becoming a Successful Professional Author
But first, I’ll explain a little about the why.
They building an email list, a tribe, and a professional author platform because they’re all essential to focus on to reach their writer goals. Your book cover, your book description, your author biography, and your author photo should all mesh with your genre, your tone, your personality, and your target audience. It’s all part of creating your author brand.
It would be such a waste to put in a tonne of work outlining and writing a book, getting it edited, launching and marketing it, and then drop the ball on your author photo.
Your Author Photo Sends A Message
The reason your author photo has power is because people make snap judgements based off that picture – whether it’s no picture at all, a snapshot that looks unprofessional, or a professional headshot that shows your best features. No matter what picture you choose, your author photo sends a message.
Let’s pretend you are a thriller writer. You’d probably understand the importance of having a book cover that conveys something dark and suspenseful like weapons, a dark alley, or a crime scene because that’s what thriller readers look for.
But, have you put equal thought into ensuring your author bio and author photo match your target readers as well?
Your Amazon Author Photo and Bio
If you sell books on Amazon, your author picture shows up in two places – so you have two places to capture fans – or deter them.
The first place is on each book page. If you scroll down on the page, you will see “More About the Author.” This includes the author’s chosen picture, their biography, and a link to their Amazon author page.
If you write thrillers, you probably don’t want an author bio that highlights your love for baking cupcakes and knitting baby blankets. Likewise, you probably don’t want an author photo that exemplifies how bright and cheery you are with a huge, toothy grin.
Instead, you may want to capture your more serious side in a professional picture.
Now that’s serious! Here is Ian Sutherland’s author picture on his Amazon author page. This photo probably wouldn’t work for any other genre, but as the author of violent crime thriller writer, it works.
And once you capture a picture that matches your genre, your writing tone, your personality, and the message you want to promote, make sure your author bio does the same. (Psst: here are some seriously awesome author bio examples that are catchy and persuasive).
Remember, both your author picture and your author bio should specifically target who you are writing to.
Author Photo Guidelines to Follow
- The photo should be of you
- The photo should be of only you
- The photo should be taken by (or look like it was taken by) a professional
- The photo should send the messages you are trying to convey to your target peeps
You and Only You
The first box to check is that your author photo is an actual picture of you.
Mistake #1 – No Photo!
Come on! I’m interested in your book, but I want to learn more about you first, and this is all you give me? No thanks, I’m moving on to one of the other 4 million books available to me.
Mistake #2 – Photo of you and someone unrelated to the book!
Don’t include anyone else unless it’s necessary for you and your brand (for example, the author of a mom book with a mom blog may have an author picture with her child). But for the vast majority, your author photo should be focused on one thing – YOU, the author!
Mistake #3 – Photo of a thing, not you!
I found one author picture on Amazon that was the author’s latest book.
While I understand the desire to promote your latest and greatest, this is a missed opportunity to capture fans. If I want to learn about your latest book, I’ll click on the book page. But I clicked on the Author’s page to learn about the author…but I can’t even see who it is.
Instead, choose a great photo of you, and only you, like J.K. Rowling or Gillian Flynn.
Hire a Professional Photographer
The difference between a professional photo and a snapshot from your latest vacation is usually obvious – to you and your potential fans. If you’re serious about a career as a writer, invest in a professional to get a few great headshots.
Study author pictures before your session so you can clearly communicate with your photographer with what you like and don’t like.
Then leave it to the photographer to tell you what works and doesn’t. They’re usually more honest and knowledgeable than your friends and family, and they know what to look for in headshots. Plus, it will drastically reduce the chance that you come off as an amateur.
But if you really don’t have the budget to hire a professional, or can’t fathom spending the money, educate yourself on lighting and angles and do some research like how to take a headshot with an iPhone.
Send a Clear Message To Your Fans
Don’t worry about trying to please everyone, but your fans – you need to please them. Your author photo should have a blend of your true personality and the persona you want to send to your biggest fans.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, you probably want your picture to send the message that you’re competent and trustworthy, so people get the vibe that they can trust the advice you give in your book.
Here’s Joanna Penn’s author photo, who writes both fiction and nonfiction. Her picture sends the message that she’s a professional, she can be trusted, and she’s optimistic – all of which match her brand at www.TheCreativePenn.com.
Writing to the sci-fi lovers? Have a little fun with your quirky self – but keep it professional and tasteful.
If you’re writing a book targeted to business leaders, a classic suit would be more appropriate than if you write to young adult or fantasy readers.
If you write children’s books, don’t have a scowl or creepy background. Instead, here’s a picture that says he’s cheerful and open through his authentic smile and picture out in nature.
The most important part of creating a noteworthy author picture that captures fans is to know what message you want to express, who your ideal fans are, and capture it in a professional shot.
Your Message And Your Author Photo
What message are you trying to convey? That you’re…Approachable? Trustworthy? Serious? Goofy? Intelligent? Confident? Daring? Wise? Fashionable? Enthusiastic? A leader? Funny? Kind? Edgy? Competent? Professional? Artistic?
Once you have several great headshots, you can use them on your Amazon page, in your author bios, on your website, on your social media accounts, and yes, even on the back of your print books.
This photo has the potential to speak to your audience over and over, so take it seriously and do it right, and one by one it will help capture more fans.
About Dave Chesson
Dave is 31 years old and a 9 year veteran of the US Navy. He was also a military kid who has lived in all corners of the globe. But that’s not what defines him.
After his family, his real passion is books, but more specifically the new world of Kindle e-books.
If Dave had to describe himself, he’d say something like this:
“I’m a husband and a father first and foremost. But when I am not playing dress up or chasing the Bogey Man out of the closet, I am an online entrepreneur specializing in Kindle e-book marketing.”
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