With most books these days, you get to see a photo of the person writing the story you’re either about to read or have already read. Many times it’s on the back cover, but there are others who put in on a specific page about the author. If you look at some of the photos, they have a professional feel, which usually means the author shelled out some money for that one glamorous photo that makes them look like a brilliant, yet imposing, writer.
If your book is being published by an established company, some of them have people on staff to do things like this. However, if you go the self-publishing route like I do, getting an author photo often means you have to do the job yourself.
The first time I really needed to actually concern myself with an author photo was in 2010, when I first started out on the self-publishing route. My first books had actually been published as e-books by Torquere Press earlier than that (with no need for author photos), but as the contracts for each of those books came due to expire, I knew I wanted to keep the stories alive.
Once I determined self-publishing was the way to go, I knew I’d likely have to design my own covers unless I wanted to pay for someone else’s services. Thankfully, I had the background of designing newspapers to help me figure out the covers, and looking at the other books out there, I saw covers where the author’s photo was displayed—sometimes just a small one in a corner, other times taking up most of the cover if a synopsis of the story wasn’t there.
It became abundantly clear that I needed to get a photo. Fortunately, I had a roommate at the time who got a good shot of me after I explained how it needed to be framed. In retrospect, getting a haircut might have been a good thing beforehand, because there were still glints of blond locks in my first author photo that kind of made it look like I’d put a dead animal on it, but it still served as the photo people saw whenever they purchase The Second Season, An Eagle River Christmas or any of the books in the A Cure For Hunger trilogy.
Since then, the cover photos have improved, although if you saw the trial and error process each time I updated my head shots, you might not be convinced of that. Most of them, I had to capture myself by putting the camera on a tripod and setting the timer.
Without another body to stand in before I set the timer, there were many shots where I was too close, too far away or occasionally beheaded. I’ve alternated between photos with neutral backgrounds and outdoor photos where there’s a tree or something else behind me.
The photo for my next novel, Sleigh Bells and Slain Belles, has me in a bright plaid shirt which kind of says, “I’m a country boy, but I’m the country boy who wrote this cool tale.”
The photos will continue to evolve, and maybe I’ll reach the point where I can afford to get them professionally done, but at this point, it’s kind of fun to do it myself. It’s good to be able to make the final decision on things like author photos, but it’s also good to carry out the task yourself and continue to improve. It’s also a good way to get the creativity flowing whenever you get writer’s block.