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?