Does your author photo scare the reader away? Here are 5 tips you need to get it right.

This is a guest post by Angela Scott

I love the part in Diary of a Wimpy Kid where Greg talks about Shel Silverstein’s author photo on the back of his book The Giving Tree (click here to see what I mean). It scared him as a kid. I’m certain that wasn’t Silverstein’s intention (but it does make me laugh.) Poor Shel. Did you know he was often asked NOT to include his author photo? That’s gotta make you feel awesome. I mean, you can’t help what your face looks like.

But, I will tell you, I have seen some pretty awful author pics over the years of talking and interacting with other authors on various social networking sites. Some of the worst have to be authors who hold their arms out away from themselves and snap a picture–I can see your arm. I can. You’re not fooling anyone.

Another big no-no would have to be an author photo cropped from a family group photo such as a wedding or crazy party where you can see parts of other people in the photo. I don’t care how great you think you look in that photo; if I can see parts of other people, it makes the whole picture look amateurish. Sorry, but it does.

Oh, and for the love all things good in the world, please, please don’t do a glam shot. They were cool once (or were they?) but they are SO outdated now.

You definitely should want to look your very best in your picture because this is the picture that will be with you for years to come, but don’t stray too far from your everyday look. You want to be recognizable. You don’t want your readers to do a double take.

So, here are some tips to help you have an awesome photo:

I can see the problem. Can you?


Kinda cool back in the 80’s. Not so much now. Don’t do it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE feet–hate them. So what the heck, Shel?


Are you trying to scare me into buying your book, Terry Goodkind?

1. Don’t glare at the camera. And try to do your very best not to look like a serial killer. If you do happen to look like a serial killer, consider not including your photo–anywhere. You don’t want people turned off from reading your book because of your face–cruel statement, I know.

2. Please watch your lighting.Some photos have a harsh tone to them as if you’re in a dark room and the flash blasts you in brightness. It’ll make you appear vampirish. Not good–unless you write vampire books. Then it could possible work in your favor. The reverse is also true: Watch your shadows and make sure you’re not hiding in darkness. This could make it difficult to see who you are.

3. Do not wear bright, bold, patterned clothing.You’re an author. This isn’t a vacation trip to Hawaii. Also, make sure the items you chose to wear can withstand the test of time–anything that is trendy will be outdated in a few years.

4. Be careful not to be a floating head (like Terry GoodKind).
Dark background + dark turtleneck = not good. And no glaring at the camera. It’s scary.

5. NO, NO, NO cleavage. This applies to guys as well 🙂

I guess my biggest bit of advice would be to have a professional picture done. If you can afford it, do it. This is how people will be relating to you, the author, so you want your picture to be as good as it can be, don’t ya? I would think so.

My husband just so happens to be a photographer, and though my author picture might not be the best out there, I love it. I think he did a very good job, especially with the subject he had to work with 🙂 Actually, this photo means a lot to me.

The day we went to find an ideal spot to take some pictures ended up turning into one I will always remember. We laughed together, we joked together, we had a blast together as I shyly stood and tried not to feel stupid as I posed for my husband. Why should I feel embarrassed posing for my husband–I have no idea. I guess it made me feel like the young girl who first fell for the guy behind the camera, all giddy and girlie-like.

I think he did a great job. Whenever I look at my author photo, I remember that day and smile a little on the outside and a whole lot on the inside.

So what do you think makes a scary, horrible author picture? Does an author picture affect how you view an author’s work? Does it pull you toward it or turn you off? What say you? I’d love to know.

angelascottTiny fictional people sit on Angela Scott’s shoulders and whisper their stories in her ear. Instead of medicating herself, Angela decided to pick up a pen, write down everything those voices tell her, and turn it into a book. She’s not crazy. She’s an author. For the most part, she writes contemporary Young Adult novels. However, through a writing exercise that spiraled out of control, she found herself writing about zombies terrorizing the Wild Wild West—and loving it. Her zombies don’t sparkle, and they definitely don’t cuddle. At least, she wouldn’t suggest it. Connect with Angela on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and her blog.

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