Deb Rachel’s Photo Finish

I think of author photos the same way I think of book blurbs. They make you feel like a glamorous, real-life Author. As soon as I got my book deal, I thought “OMG I get to take an author photo!” It felt so professional, so legitimate. Like the photo was what made me an author, not the 300-plus page memoir I’d spent the last year writing. But I’m not actually sure if they make a difference. I don’t buy a book, or not buy a book, based on the picture. (I compare this to blurbs because while getting blurbs was one of the most exciting parts of the book process, and I know that authors and publishers put great weight into them, I’m not so convinced that they actually move product.)

The day I spent doing my author photo shoot was a perfect Chicago day — sunny, not freezing, which is really all you can ask for. We spent hours doing photos on a chicago rooftop with the city in the background, in my apartment, and then on my apartment building’s communal deck. I brought outfit changes. Many. I did hair down, hair up, hair half down half up.

I smiled awkwardly, and heard my photographer friend say “not such a big smile!” more than once. And then we were done. Or so I thought.

Just as she was leaving, my friend said, “let’s just take a few photos in the green dress, in front of that colorful photograph in your apartment.”

And thank god she did, because those last shots were the best of the day. Of course they were.

In the end, I was deciding between these two photos.













I know what you’re thinking. These pictures look exactly the same! And yet, I emailed these choices to approximately 12 people for their opinions. The votes were split. Maybe because they are basically the same. But these are the details it’s fun to get lost in! We can only  tweak sentences for so long, so it was nice to finally obsess over something else and still qualify it as “work.”

Of course, in retrospect, if I wanted to portray the real me I would have just gone with this:

Wine. Wac-a-mole. Dresses.

I’m Rachel, nice to meet you.

Here’s my question for you: Do you think author photos make a difference in selling books? Have you ever been swayed based on the author photo alone?

6 Replies to “Deb Rachel’s Photo Finish”

  1. LOL! See, I would totally buy a book by an author playing Wac-a-mole in a dress while holding a glass of wine. The only thing that would make that picture better is if you had a cigar hanging out of your mouth. 😉

    But, ultimately, I think you made the wiser choice. 🙂

  2. If this week’s theme has proved anything–and it has, of course!–it’s that when you see an author photo you’re really only getting HALF the picture. I totally understand how you hemmed and hawed over those two–they are just different enough that you could easily go back and forth–but they are both so, so pretty–so you couldn’t really go wrong 😉 And I love that they were the last of the shoot–that’s always how it goes.

    And I’m with Linda–I LOVE the wack-a-mole picture. Love it.

  3. I love that Wack-a-mole picture, and I think it’s rather fitting when you think about the insanity that is publishing. But alas, I think you chose the right picture. You look open and approachable-exactly what everyone wants in a BFF.
    And I think the author photo is a bit more complicated for you, Rachel, because you’re selling yourself as an author AND the narrator of the book. That book IS you (at least a snapshot of you at a certain time of your life), so the photo counts for more in memoir, in my opinion.
    But I think you nailed it – and I love your curls.

  4. I think both pics are really lovely– but the one on the left (my left) looks so serene– Like you’ve got it all figured out.. 🙂

    Still- I’m with you- I love the whack-a-mole pic. Cause hey- if we writers didn’t whack something every now and again, we’d go nuts, right?
    Hmm.. that didn’t sound very good- but you get my gist, I hope. =)

  5. The whack-a-mole is the best, but I still say you should have included the topless photo! I want to hear the story behind that one. 🙂

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