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August 30, 2017

What’s more innocuous than the author photo? Or, to you, the struggling writer, what’s probably the last thing you’re thinking about? On the other hand, what’s one of the things you probably dream about having when you go to the bookstore? Yup. Your book on the shelf with your name slapped across the cover and at the back, your photo.

How many of you pay attention to those photos, when and if there’s one included? About half the time, for one reason or another, there is no photo. Sometimes, the publisher sees to it that there’s barely a sentence describing the author.

Why is this?


It would seem that out of courtesy, general info, juss cuz, the publisher would, after you’ve forked over the cash to buy a book, want to know something about the originator of said book. There are those that don’t care. Then there are those that either want a focus for their thanks, or their blame.

The author page, which 99% of the time, gives at least a sentence or two about the author, and about 50% of the time, a photo, tells the reader something about who’s responsible for the words and/or pictures they just or are about to read.

For those that like to jump ahead, publishers have marketing geniuses that think hard and heavy about this. They know that the author bio and photo can just as easily prejudice the reader as the cover.

Hey, wait a minute! Prejudice the reader?

That’s right. How many of you have picked up a book, attracted to either the cover or the back blurb. Then you open up the tome, leaf through it and come to the back cover. Something about the author photo or their story turns you off, pisses you off, or whatever. You decide, no way am I going to suffer through this book!

Personally, I’ve never been turned off by a photo, alone. However, there have been times when I’ve seen the photo and recognized the author as a political pundit from a certain TV channel. Or, I read the bio and noticed something in there that said, “this book’s going to be propaganda.”

Marketers for the publisher, even though the initial bio and photo may come from the author, have a say in what ends up in the final draft and photo that makes the cover. They’re supposed to filter out the bad stuff and make it more marketable. If the author is pandering to a specific crowd, well…


The gist of this article is the author photo itself. Everyone, well most, want to put their best foot forward. A lot of authors go for the glamour shot. It’s only natural.

I’ve alluded to this before during a few of my writer’s conference articles.

We’d receive head shots or bio shots of agents, authors and publishers for the conference booklet. Since I always work the front desk, I get to meet these faculty when they first arrive.

About half the time, I have no idea who they are, even with the photo right in front of me!

That’s right.

I have no idea who the person is with the photo right in front of me! I have to squint, cock the photo sideways, peer at it a few times, then maybe I can see a vague resemblance to the person standing in front of me saying it’s them.

Have you ever met a favorite author in person? Were you shocked to see what they really looked like, versus what their glamour shot said they looked like?

I call this truth in advertising.

In my case, in lieu of a head shot, I wanted to have a shot of me next to my telescope. It is of course, me in casual clothes out on an evening waiting for it to get dark, doing something very un-author-like. Yet, it’s a real image. Not done in some studio.

I recall a shot of Dean Koontz once standing next to a telescope. It was a posed shot and I have no idea if he actually uses that telescope. I figured if he could, why not me? I can only vouch for my case in that my photo was far more real and sloppy, taken in a real-world situation out in the field on a night of observing. In the case of Mr. Koontz, it looked like a studio shot. It might not even have been his scope. Maybe a prop?

In the end, because the publisher insisted, I had to submit a head shot. It’s not some posed studio version, but something real I did myself. It looks it, but that was intentional. It’s what I really look like. When you see that photo of me, then see me in person, there’s no doubt!

Truth in advertising.


For marketing, you can do whatever you want. It’s your book, your publisher, whatever.

Just keep in mind that if you ever go to book signings, get out in public, ever appear on TV or video, eventually, you’re going to have to match up with what people are seeing in print.

Happy writing!

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