Use Your Dazzling Author Photo to Sell Your Book

Use Your Dazzling Author Photo to Sell Your Book

Ann O’Brien

April 13, 2023

Some writers treat their author photograph as an afterthought—and that’s a mistake. A good photo is an instant form of communication that conveys key information about you and your book to prospective readers. If you spend some time creating an appealing author photo, you’ll reap the rewards of reader engagement and more sales.

Why You Need an Author Photo

Some authors can get away with no photos on their book jackets. These are mostly writers with established names and reputations. For new writers and those who want to get their marketing off to a strong start, a photo is a necessity. Here are some reasons why.

A photo tells readers about your book

The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words may be a cliché, but it happens to be the truth. When you’re marketing your words, you must use eye-catching images. That’s why a beautiful, arresting cover is crucial. It’s also why you need a great-looking photo.

A photograph can communicate the mood and tone of your book. Ask yourself what the tone of your book is. Is it casual, elegant, serious, humorous, romantic, or mysterious? Your author photo should convey the same emotions.

It creates personal engagement

People are more attracted to things—and more likely to buy them–when they feel they have a personal connection with the creators of those items. If you hear a favorite song, you visualize what the singer looks like.

For another example, look at sellers of handmade items on Etsy. Many include photos of themselves or their workshops to make potential buyers feel they’ve entered the creators’ inner lives. We all like to see who’s behind the things we enjoy, and that’s true for book buyers as much as anyone else.

Your headshot shows that you’re not just a faceless creator of books. You’re a human being. You share the dreams, struggles, and challenges that your readers face. You’re one of them.

Everyone wants a sense of personal connection. With your author photograph, you can let your readers see the face behind the name.

It establishes your authority

If you’re a professional, you need a professional image. Writing may be a creative act, but the most successful writers have professional images.

If you’re writing a nonfiction book, your author photo is especially important in establishing your brand as an expert. Do you look like someone the reader can trust to teach them something? If you’re a fiction writer, do you look like someone the readers can trust to take them on an enjoyable fictional journey? An author photo answers that question and makes it easy for readers to decide to give your book a chance.

Readers judge books by their covers

Just like your book cover, an author photograph is an opportunity to reach your reader without words. Like it or not, readers often use the author photo to make a final decision about reading a book.

If your book is a guide to style or beauty, you must present an attractive, polished appearance. Otherwise, why would a reader think you have knowledge worth sharing?

That doesn’t mean you have to be a raving beauty—in fact, some readers will be put off by someone who’s too good-looking. They are more likely to be drawn to someone who looks relatable and sincere.

Again, it all depends on your potential audience. If you’ve written a fantasy novel, you may want to post an image that includes a brooding, dark atmosphere. A biographer might want to appear in a library surrounded by books and research papers. A horror writer may choose props like a skull or a Halloween candle. If you’re going after romance readers, your image should be warm and engaging. Use your creativity to come up with ideas. To get inspired, look at the author photos of other writers in your genre.

How to Get an Outstanding Author Photo

If you want a great-looking headshot, consider working with a professional photographer who specializes in publicity photos and headshots. Here are some things to consider as you work with your photographer.

Choose the right pose

The right pose can make or break an author photograph. Here are some typical poses you’ll see on headshots.

The standard: This pose gives the reader a full-on look at your face. It conveys confidence and authority. To get it, keep your back straight while turning your chest from 20 to 45 degrees. Lean slightly towards the camera. This is the most common headshot style.

Arms crossed:  This is the standard, but with your arms crossed in front of your chest. Crossing your arms adds a tough, slightly challenging air to your photograph. If you want to tone down the toughness, add a smile.

Wall lean:  In this style, you stand in front of a wall and lean back slightly. You turn your face and possibly upper body toward the camera. This pose conveys a more casual look than the standard shot. It’s a good choice if you want to create an impression of friendliness and openness. Make sure the wall is attractive and well-lit.

Over-the-shoulder shot:  An over-the-shoulder pose creates a casual, friendly impression. It looks like the photographer caught you in the middle of doing something else. You should have a big, friendly smile in this type of shot. The over-the-shoulder shot is common in fashion and celebrity photography. It’s a good choice for someone who wants to add a touch of fun to their headshot.

Holding a support:  In this pose, you include something that supports your hands while you sit. It might be your laptop, a chair back, a desk, a pile of books, or a prop. It conveys a sense of purpose and efficiency. This pose works best when you’re looking directly at the camera. Otherwise, you’ll look like you were distracted by the object.

 Seated:  A seated pose can work well for many writers. You can show yourself sitting at a table or desk. You may also choose an outdoor shot that has you sitting on the ground or a park bench. It’s a casual look that invites the reader into your home life.

Pick the setting

You have two choices for the setting of your author photograph: indoors or outdoors. Within those categories, you should consider what background you want for your picture.

What’s the best backdrop for your author photo? You might choose an urban setting that shows a cityscape outside the window. If you’re a cookbook author, you should probably be photographed in a kitchen. Are you a romance writer? You may want to be photographed in a rose-bedecked trellis in the middle of a garden. Maybe you want a beachfront, a rustic cottage, a haunted house, or a neighborhood bar. Choose the backdrop that will appeal to your audience.

Decide what you’re going to wear for your author photo

Your clothing should reflect the tone of your book and the impression you want to create. Authors of serious works should wear equally serious clothing to convey authority. If you’ve written a novel, you can be more creative in your fashion choices.

In general, dark, rich colors photograph better than pastels or busy prints. A photographer can help you choose the right colors for a flattering photograph. You should also consider whether you want to add glasses, a hat, or another accessory.

Guidelines for every author photo

  • The photograph should be of you—and only you.
  • It should be taken by a professional or look like it was.
  • Don’t include family members in your photograph—but pets are fine.
  • Don’t use a distracting backdrop—the eye should focus on you.
  • Try different poses to see which one you feel most comfortable using.

Have Fun with Your Author Photo

Taking your author headshot can be an enjoyable experience. Work with a photographer who puts you at ease and understands the goal of your photo. A great-looking photograph will help sell your book, so don’t pass up the opportunity to get it right.

Get Expert Printing of Your Book and Photo

Your photograph will stand out when it’s professionally printed. At Publishing Xpress, we provide fast, expert book printing at affordable rates. To learn more, contact us.


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