Picture this: Your book is finally published. (Whoop! Congratulations!)
You’ve worked months – maybe years – for the moment when you can proudly point to the byline on your cover and say: “Yep! That’s me! I really wrote a book!”
Your cover says volumes about your story. That’s why you went to excruciating lengths to pick the right graphic artist, the right cover models, the right title, and the right blurb.
So why would you spoil the effect with an amateur author photo taken by Uncle Bob, while you’re flipping burgers in the backyard?
The simplest tool for establishing your credibility as a professional and branding your public image is your author photo.
In another life, while waiting for my books to sell, I worked professionally as a publicist. Publicists (and marketers) use fancy terms like “image branding” to describe the topic I’m addressing today.
What is image branding?
It’s the concept of “creating” a public persona for yourself. It suggests things about your professional self that might have nothing to do with your personal life. And that’s okay. Because readers really don’t need to know that you hate little children. Or that you go on eating binges at the computer. Or that you tidy your office only one time per decade.
What tools can you use to create a “brand image?”
Your book cover, blog, blog’s logo, social media accounts, media kit, etc.
But the simplest tool is the item that you must include in EVERY online venue, in every book, and in every media kit.
That's right: it’s your author photo.
So let’s try a little test: take a look at your photo right now. Go on. I’ll wait while you fetch it.
(Are you back yet?)
Great! Now try to imagine yourself as a total stranger – like Rebecca Reader. What does your photo tell Rebecca about you?
I hope your photo isn’t raising questions in Rebecca’s mind, like:
“Golly. Poor author. Can’t she afford electricity? Her face is so shadowy!”
“Wowzer. Is that author Human? Look at all the (cobwebs, branches, light bulbs) growing out of her head!"
Or (My personal favorite)
“Gee. I wonder why this author is hiding her face behind (sunglasses, a pet, a flower bush.) Is she wanted by Interpol?”
I hate to break it to you, folks. But whether you feel like it or not, you become a “celebrity” when you publish a novel.
So do yourself a favor: invest in a professional photographer for your author photo.
No, you don’t need to direct your photographer to set you against some bland blue, cookie-cutter backdrop. Nor do you have to wear a suit and tie, or spend hundreds of dollars on a make-over for the photography session.
Your image is hard to change. Start branding yourself from day one.
But you do need to talk to your photographer in clear language, letting him know that you are starting a new career. That you want an attractive photo that conveys the essence of you “as a professional writer.” And that you want to establish a brand image, not just for your upcoming book, but for all the books to come.
Why go to all this trouble now, while budgets are tight?
Because the unpleasant truth is this:
Your public image is hard to change -- especially in this Internet age, where that horrible, amateur photo could lurk undiscovered for years . . .
Until you really are a celebrity. And some sleazy magazine dredges it up to humiliate you.