Branding is – always being yourself.
Remember when I said in Indie Marketing Tip #101 how you could sum up branding by figuring out exactly who you are and then acting like it? Well, it’s a good thing if you look like it too. This was my first professional author head shot and it was taken by Studio at an RWA convention in 2006, not long after my first manuscript, A Desperate Journey, was in the American Title II competition. We all had to have a website before we even had books out and the first photo I had up on my site was a quick photo my husband had taken in the kitchen on our little camera. That first photo didn’t have the clarity a professional shot had and it was a bit fuzzy when picked up by my hometown newspaper for an article they ran, so I, along with many other authors at the convention, signed up and paid for professional photos.
For the photo shoot we were to bring a couple outfits to get some different looks, so I picked three of the outfits I’d packed and did my makeup, basically got all dolled up. The shoot proceeded with lots of shots, three outfits which meant some quick changing, and a lot of posing here and bending there to get the angles the photographer wanted. He was a great photographer and he was creative. He was also used to shooting models. In this shot he moved the lighting to go for “something different.” He liked the way it turned out and called it his “fire shot.”
The photographer called this his “fire shot” and it was used in their marketing.
While it was very cool, the photo pulled attention to my hair and the light behind it which lit up. The photo was also touched up in the same way photographs are touched up for fashion magazines. Notice, not one freckle showing. So while it is me, it’s just like the photos you see in fashion magazines – touched up. I don’t believe my skin ever looked that flawless. This photo was used in some of their marketing materials, people would tell me about it even when I wasn’t at an event and so this photo was around for a while, which was quite flattering, but – did it help me sell books? I suspect it mostly helped sell photography services.
For years, when my husband would hand out my bookmarks, people would say, “Is that your wife?” Yes, that’s probably a compliment. But maybe, the ones who had met me were thinking – she didn’t look like that when I met her. The idea here is to sell books, not sell my face, since I’m not a fashion model. The idea is not to sell my hair in a fire shot, cool as it is. Eventually I caught onto the fact that people weren’t recognizing me at large book signings with many authors and I knew I needed to use a different photo.
Of course we want to look our best, but remember, your reader needs to recognize who you are in the photo and who you are at a signing or anywhere else you’re appearing so that you aren’t lost in the crowd. If your photo doesn’t match your regular appearance, they might have a little more trouble recognizing you. Yes, it is your image, your face, but let’s think for a minute about what you are selling. Try to keep your hair, makeup, clothing, etc. close to your usual style – this is not a glamour shot, it’s a professional author head shot, so no fancy makeup or hair is needed.
Watch out for that author ego. We all have one. Not enough of one and you’d never put a book out there. But don’t let it take the wheel and go veering off in a different direction. Would it be tempting to use a glamour shot? Sure. Would it be tempting to use a picture from 2006 instead of 2018 because I was twelve years younger? (And who doesn’t look better in younger pics – most do.) Sure. But that choice would not be the best one.
When you choose a head shot, try to select one that looks like you do now so your readers can find you. And if you change your look drastically as we sometimes do, it might be time for a new head shot.
– Debra Parmley