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Getting Ahead with Author Headshots

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Professional, Up-to-Date Headshots Are Key to Promoting One’s Author Brand

By Michael Heath / selfpublishingUS.com

headshots for authors

When my first novel was complete, the graphic designer creating my cover reminded me that he needed an author photo for the back of the book. I replied with a blank look. There was no headshot to offer him. I improvised by standing in front of a dull office wall before working up a serious smile. One click of the iPhone digital button and the job was done.


Did it work? Yes, in the sense that the photo may have been better than nothing. It looked amateurish because it was. Omitting the author picture would have been better. It’s a matter of debate, as sometimes a bad photo can do more harm than good. An image, whether good or bad, reflects us as a professional. Older headshots or do-it-yourself photos give the impression of carelessness, even laziness. An expert-looking, current headshot shows the world that you are on top of what you do. If an author uses a bad headshot for his back cover, a potential buyer may believe the writing is poor as well.


It is recommended that headshots be less than two years old. We all age and should do it gracefully. Hair colors and styles change, eyeglasses are sometimes added, and Father Time slowly changes our features. There is no point in using a youthful image from years ago. Doing so only leaves those who see you in person feeling deceived.


A professional headshot that is up to date does several things:

  • Shows that you care

  • Insinuates honesty

  • Exudes professionalism

  • Promotes authenticity

  • Makes you look more approachable

  • Exhibits that you are invested in what you do

  • Provides a boost of self-confidence


The advent of cell phones has allowed us to take countless pictures, but that alone does not make any of us a photographer. This past year I updated my headshots. The photographer took dozens of pictures for both casual and more formal (jacket wearing) images. He used a good backdrop, the correct lighting, and many poses. When he completed the session, he took several days going over the work to come up with the best image of each. I was quite pleased with the results. Was it free? Of course not; photographers must eat too. The cost was a few hundred dollars and, in my estimation, it was money well spent. When the images near their two-year anniversary I will get new ones.


Not everyone needs two professional headshots, it just happens to work for me. I used the casual image next to the author bio for my most recent book and on Facebook accounts. The more formal image was added to LinkedIn and is available to professional organizations. I had more than one person say, “Nice author photo.” No one ever said that about the iPhone image used so many years ago.


If you are self-publishing a book, you can do several things to keep your book from singing out as being self-published. One important move is to get a professional author photo. Studies show that people are curious about the person who wrote the book. An expert image gives a potential buyer one more reason to reach for his wallet.


For information on cover design go to: www.selfpublishingus.com/interior-design.

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