There’s one piece of this whole publishing a book thing that has caused me an inordinate amount of stress, and that’s getting my author photo taken care of. I wanted it to be lovely and professional and fun and full of personality, but also look like me. And the problem is that I am not terribly photogenic. Animated, yes. But animated, I have learned, usually translates to weird facial expressions in photographs. So here’s how I did the author photo shoot thing:
1) Research! Read the many great articles online to help debut authors, like this one from Mary Robinette Kowal, or this one from Jennifer Miller, or this one from Heather Hummel .
2) Schedule a session with a great photographer. This was the easiest step. I am fortunate to be friends with the incredibly talented Kristin Brown (who did all the photos in my nonfiction book Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together and is responsible for almost every presentable picture of me that exists). I am pretty sure Kristin would never speak to me again if I had someone else take my author photo. (Not that I would want anyone else to!)
3) Find examples of author photos you like. I pulled together some of my favorites and Kristin and I discussed what I liked about them: they all gave a real sense of the author’s personality. We talked about which settings would give my photo the same feeling.
4) Obsess over what you will wear. For me this was a real struggle. As an ASL interpreter, I mostly wear plain, dark colors, so my personal rule is that if I have a non-interpreting day, I wear prints or plaids or stripes. But those patterns don’t photograph well. I brought along several options, with the green flowered top my favorite. And there had to be an engraved necklace to go with it, because both the green and the necklace related to my story.
5) Take care of the hair and makeup. Probably should have done something fancier, but for me this meant a trip to Hair Cuttery and actually wearing eye makeup for once.
5a) Laugh politely when your 9-year-old son notices your makeup and asks why your eyes look so weird.
6) Follow directions. I let the genius behind the camera take the lead. In this case, that meant driving all over Loudoun County, Virginia, and when she said to get out and stand near a rusty old gate or in a certain patch of sunlight in the middle of the road, I did it. It also meant waiting out the two women at the good table in the coffee shop so we could get pictures in the beam of sunlight by the window. Kristin has strict requirements when it comes to photo lighting.
7) Only look at the good pictures. Let the photographer sift out the bad.
8) If you can’t decide which photo to pick, send your favorites to your editor or agent and get their input. Then let it go when the picture that is everyone’s favorite has you wearing a plain black top, dressed like an interpreter.
9) Try not to think too much about the fact that this photo is how readers will envision you, and that they will judge you and your book by the impression that one photo gives them.
10) Share the results of your photo shoot and let those beautiful images become your internal self-portrait. You’re going to need all the confidence boosters you can get in the next year, dear debut author.