Thursday, July 24, 2014

Your author portrait is important. Don't have a bad one.

Every author needs a portrait -- for books, websites, blogs, Twitter, press kits, posters, etc. and to go on their books.

Famous authors like Suze Orman have their faces on the front covers of their books. Pretentious but not-famous authors like Eliyzabeth Yanne Strong-Anderson also display themselves on the front. Not-famous and not-pretentious authors usually show their faces on the backs of their booksI'm only slightly famous and slightly pretentious.

My newest book shows my highly modified face on the front cover. It's a very personal book, so it's appropriate for my face to be there. If I was writing about Richard Nixon, chocolate cake or the Peloponnesian Wars, my face would be on the back.

Unfortunately, many authors use amateur photos with bad lighting, bad focus and distracting backgrounds. The price of a portrait shot in a professional photographer’s studio can easily be in the $300-$1,000 range, which is too steep for many writers who don’t have a big publisher to pick up the check.

Fortunately, there are good, low-cost alternatives which few authors think of -- the photo studios inside retail stores such as JCPenney and Target (not Sears or Walmart anymore). While most of their business involves babies and family Christmas cards, those studios will take pictures of solitary adults, often at ridiculously low prices (typically $7.99-$65).

The photographer will be thrilled to have a subject who doesn’t vomit or require funny faces to elicit a smile.

If you’re getting one picture, choose a plain white background which can later be altered using Photoshop. Get a CD-ROM, not a bunch of wallet-sized prints.

(below) An author photo should be of the author -- only.

(below) An author photo should not have any distracting elements.


  1. She is one ugly beast. Yuck.

  2. That's great advice! I think I will drop $20 into an arcade photo booth and plaster photos of myself in screaming black and pink drag all over the front and back cover. The title: Going Sane —or— Zen Through Drag.

  3. This is illegal, it's called copyright infringement. When you get your portrait taken you aren't buying the reproduction rights, those belong to the photographer/studio, you're only paying for their session fee.

    1. It's illegal only if you're stupid. When I had my portrait taken the copyrights were transferred to _me._ I have the documents to prove it.