Thursday, December 1, 2016

I SPY Publicity Photos!


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.


TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ... Publicity Photos


Ah, the publicity photo. One of author-life's most necessary evils. Much as we'd all love to stay behind our computers and work, we do on occasion have to venture out into the wild. Sometimes that means the literal outside and other times it means a blog tour. Either way, it helps your branding to have a face readers can connect with your name.

Branding is the way you want to be seen. It's the vibe you want associated with your books and well...you. You, as an author anyway. Branding incorporates the online personality you share with readers. The colors you choose, the background, wording and general "feel" of your blog and/or social media are all part of your brand. Branding helps readers find and connect with you, and it begins the moment you hang out the virtual sign announcing you want to be an author.

Never think that you aren't being watched. You are. Well before that first contract is signed, agents, editors, publishing houses, fellow writers, librarians, etc will know you've thrown your hat in the ring, so make it a hat worthy of representing you. So decide early what that means to you and go for it.

One way you can get the recognition / branding ball rolling is to have a headshot available online. (Headshot in this post will be interchangeable for publicity photo). You can hire a friend, family member or a professional. Doesn't matter. Heck, you can use a selfie, just make sure it's one you won't mind being associate with because it will end up all over the interwebs. Use the photo as your social media avatar or on your About page. Share it. Put it out there. And keep it handy in your author's toolkit.

If you're like me, you'll put off the inevitable. Headshots should evolve as you do. They need updated. They should change as you find your place in the industry. For me, they changed as my dress size grew from the long hours stuck to my chair. *shrugs* It happens. Embrace it. Whatever the change. It is real, and it is you, and You are beautiful.

EXAMPLES:

Old headshot: This is me in 2012. I was adorable, but thought I was old and fat. I would kill to look like this again.


New headshot: This is me like 5 minutes ago
Change is good. So, if it's time to update your pic, Go for it. The minute your shots aren't working for you anymore  - when readers can't identify you from your headshot - you need an update.

Now, you need to choose a location for the shoot. This can literally be anywhere and still be effective, as long as the location supports your brand. Try to capture your personality with your background the way you make a scene's setting part of the story when you write. What screams YOU? Your quirky or professional office? Take the photos there. Do you write kitchen cozies? Don an apron and pose with a wooden spoon at the stove. Write sexy thrillers? Grab a leather jacket and look dangerously into the camera while leaning against a brick building in a local alleyway. The possibilities are as endless as your story ideas. Personally, I love the fall in Ohio, so I went outside. Hey, whatever else I am, I am Ohio.

Plus, I write Happy. It's my thing. I write cozies about awkward, geeky girls and a woman who makes pet couture in New Orleans. I write fun. I am fun. So, I headed into the woods to take some super smiley shots in the sunshine.



I've also signed on to write romantic suspense for Harlequin's Intrigue line, so I needed something more romantic suspensy - but something that was still me. So, I changed clothes. No big deal, but I was still in the woods, so that was different, and strangely liberating. I'm not sure my photographer agreed, but we all survived and the pics are great. So - Win!



I don't mean to make this seem easy. It wasn't. I was terrified. Before I headed out on my adventure, I nearly barfed ten times. I am a strictly BEHIND the scenes girl, but my current headshots were five years old and I didn't look like that anymore. They weren't working for me, so new shots had to be done. And I did it. That's how we writers are. Don't wanna, but we gotta, so we do. We're kind of cool like that.

Good news: I didn't fall down. Not even once. And I made it home without having to go to the bathroom in the forest. Also, I didn't cry. Based on this, I feel qualified to give you advice on your own headshots. Here it goes:


  1. Prepare for options: Take four or five tops to change into. Take a few necklaces and scarves or headbands. Mix and match. 
  2. Talk to your photographer about what works and what doesn't. Trust their experience on that side of the camera. 
  3. Don't be afraid to be silly or serious or whatever you want to try. It don't cost extra or take any longer to click the button a few extra times. And if you hate the off the cuff shots, delete them. Keep only what you love. Voila! The magic of technology. 
  4. Use the bathroom before entering the woods.
  5. Bring tissues in case you cry.
  6. Don't worry if you fall down. They're called headshots for a reason. No one will know if you're in your PJ bottoms or if there's mud covering your Levis. 
  7. Have fun. Five years from now you'll look back on these photos and recall longingly how young and beautiful you were. :) 


And this will be the new face of my alter ego, Julie Chase





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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

2 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

Such a great post, Julie! I love all of your headshots --old and new! (And I'm coveting that "I make stuff up" T-shirt. Need!)

Your post had me realizing exactly how old my headshots are. I had to get them last minute when I finaled in the Golden Heart in...2009! Ugh. Luckily, my next door neighbor was a professional photographer. That worked out well. She knew just what to do to get the right looks, and I laugh every time I see the picture I use almost everywhere because that one was when she had me laying on the stone steps of a church...and I write about murder and sex. I'm lucky I didn't burn to ashes on the spot! ;)

Thanks for all of your advice. :D

Rita said...

Great tips. My last pub photos are so photo shopped it is illegal to use them in some states. BTW I think all of yours are fantastic.