3. From Contract to Shelf: The Headshot

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Over the past couple of months I’ve written a few posts about various aspects of preparing for the publication of my next novel. It dawns on me that some might be interested in having me put this all together in some coherent fashion, so I decided to create this on-going segment of my blog which I’m calling From Contract to Shelf.

It’s hard to believe that this next book will be my fifth (sixth if you consider the 1st and 2nd editions of Dreams of May as two separate publications — but who’s counting?) And this publishing industry is changing so quickly that I find each publication to be a different sort of experience each time. So here we go, in an organised fashion. So far we have:
     1. Preparing to Publish
     2. What is a Book Rep?

And now…The Headshot.

Some publishers like to have a photo of the author on the book jacket. Others don’t, and mine doesn’t. But regardless, it’s still important to have a couple of photos of yourself which you can easily and quickly use for various publicity efforts, and that includes the social media stuff like Facebook and Twitter that most of us do anyway. Your face is your calling card in many ways, and many readers will remember that face before they remember your name, so it needs to work for you.  I had a set of head shots professionally taken back in 2008 for the publication of my first novel, Tangled Roots. I must have used those photos a million times. But recently, I was meeting someone for the first time and they said they looked at my website so they could recognise me. “But, gee, you don’t really look like that, do you?” Gulp. Well, we all change over time, don’t we? And although I’d like to think I don’t look that much different from the me of five years ago, well…let’s face it…So I recently had a new batch of photos taken (by the way, I should say it is far from necessary to have these done professionally. If you have someone able to do it for you for free, even better. ) But booking the time and showing up with your hair combed is only part of it, I realised. I had to ask the questions, what do I want to portray? Do I want to look serious and deep? Fun and accessible? Ethereal and poetic? Do I want to look like I’m not really doing this and I don’t really care? And what do I want to wear? Something new? Something that will fade into the background? Something I’ve been photographed in before so as to provide some sort of branding continuum? I found these very hard to answer, and one reason why paying a professional to do it was helpful. I used a photographer who does a lot of head shots — mostly for actors — and I knew that he would tell me truthfully what was working and what wasn’t. And he did. He helped me answer those questions, and by so doing, helped me to think about who I am as a writer and what I am trying to accomplish. By the way, if you’re in the market, he is Nicholas Andrews and he’s great fun. (Fun is important, I think, because most of us hate having our photos taken and that’s probably why our photos so often come out looking miserable — at least mine often do.)

So now I have a group of ten photos, two of which I’ll use most of the time, the others I’ll have waiting in the wings as needed. But really, two is probably all  you need. Two images, that is, because in this day and age you need them each to be in different formats. I now have each image in  High Resolution, Low Resolution, and Web appropriate (I don’t know what that’s called). And I have each in both colour and black and white. Different formats go for different media. And when the time comes, I’ll be putting them up as my profile picture on my Facebook Author page (which, I should say, is separate from my regular friends’ page), my Twitter profile, Linked In profile and any other internet site that demands a profile page. I will also be using them on my website — an issue which will get a post of its own in a few weeks. And then, when newspapers, bloggers etc ask me for photos (as I pray they will), I’ll have some easily to hand. And here they are. Not all ten, but three which I’ll be using most regularly, I think.

Responses

mike horwood said:

Gosh Sue, you´re so organized.

You didn´t say what image you went for in the end, so I´ll give you my reading, shall I? In the first portrait I´d say you come across as serious and determined; in the second, thoughtful and poetic.

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