I really wish I didn’t feel the need to write this post. I’ve been designing book covers for over ten years, mostly for self-published authors, and this is an issue that I come across more consistently than anything else. It’s something that you would think would be obvious to most people but more often than not is overlooked by the average self-published author. That too often neglected item is the author photo on the back cover or inside dust jacket.
I’m a book cover designer. It’s what I love doing and I’m always trying to impress upon people the importance of a professionally designed book cover. But that great looking book cover you paid for becomes a non factor for customers when they pick up your book, turn it over and see an unprofessional, poor quality picture of the author.
As much as we’re told not to, people do judge a book by its cover. But they don’t stop there. If the front cover passes their judgment process then they turn it over and judge the back cover. Your book is a reflection of who you are and if you took the time to write a book chances are you want your audience to see you as an expert in whatever field you’re writing about. One of the best ways you can present yourself as an authority on a subject is through a professional head shot.
I understand that writing a book and getting it published is not an easy process. So it’s understandable, when you’re towards the end of getting your book published and your publisher asks for a photo to put on the back cover, to send them a recent picture taken at a family gathering. I encourage you though to take the time and set up a photo shoot with a professional photographer. When I went through the process of redesigning my website one of the first things I did was set up a photo shoot with a local photographer.* It didn’t cost too much and it is something that I can use in multiple avenues (website, social media, printed marketing materials, etc.) to establish myself as a brand and a professional in my field.
If your resources are simply tapped out and you can’t afford a professional photographer, then set up a time with a friend or family member you know who has a decent camera and take some good quality shots. I would recommend going outside during either the first or last hour of sunlight, during what photographers call “The Golden Hour” to get the best results. You can even go to golden-hour.com to find out what time that would be for your specific area. I’ve seen travel books and lifestyle blogs that have candid pictures of the author taken during their travels. I think in that situation and for their specific audience it works great. Candid shots can be used as an author photo as long as there’s a reason you’re using it and it represents you in a way that’s consistent with your message.
If you’ve taken the time to write a book and get it published then please don’t give your audience any excuse to overlook your message or story. I know this post may have come across as a little preachy or a long-winded rant but I want the authors I work with to succeed. You put a lot of work into your book. Don’t let something as simple as an author photo be the reason someone doesn’t pick it up.
*If you’re in the Charlotte area check out Snow Dog Studios. We worked with them for our own photos and they did a great job at a very reasonable price.