- If you are writing your first novel or a book of poems, it's highly likely that very few people have ever heard of you and that neither your portrait nor your name will provide a good reason for anyone to invest money and time in reading your precious words. It's much more important to have a great title and cover design.
- If you're writing nonfiction, whether about the Korean War, cooking pizza or climbing mountains, unless you are famous for achievements in the subject you are writing about, neither your name nor face are likely to convince anyone to invest money and time in reading your precious words. It's much more important to have a great title and cover design.
If you're not famous and your face does not closely relate to your book's topic or genre, keep it off the front cover until your third book, or sixth.
(above) Unfortunately, many authors use amateur photos with bad poses, bad lighting, bad focus and distracting backgrounds—on a bad hair day. The book shown above may be the worst book ever published, so the horrid author photo is sadly appropriate.
(left) My recent 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. Also, I previously wrote dozens of other books that did not have my face on the front, and I've become more famous over the years.
Here's some advice from Hobie Hobart of Bowker (the ISBN and book research company): Many authors think that putting their picture on the front cover will make them famous. This is not necessarily so. Unless you are well known in the media, bookstore buyers will not accept your book which pictures you on the front cover. However, if you are selling exclusively to a tight niche where you are well known, or your intention is to start branding yourself to a specific market, your photo on the front cover or the spine can be an advantage.
I've previously posted about the importance of having a pro-quality author portrait. JCPenney is offering 40% off photos now (if you can find a JCPenney that is still open).