Lulu just got back from Book Expo America in New York last week. While we were there, we had the opportunity to meet thousands of people ranging from industry professionals, to up-and-coming authors, to people that were “just checking things out.” It was fascinating to see the different stages authors were at in their careers and it was great to see so many people at the convention learning how market themselves more effectively.

Many authors came with a sample of their book or had a handout with a little blurb and a photo of themselves. It was interesting to see how different each author’s photo was and how much some stood out in my mind – even after talking with so many people. I realized that many people new to the writing profession might not know how important a good photo of themselves is or how much it can help further their career.

An author should have a good photo on hand because it makes you look more professional. The people at BEA with great photos seemed better composed and more prepared. Isilhouette-question-mark-muck-small understand that many authors have spent so much time working on their book and making it pristine, that when they’re done, the photo can be an after thought. You want to be measured by your skill of the written word and not what you look like. But think about the last time you went to the bookstore. Can you recall picking up a title with a blurry, washed-out photo of the author on the back cover or inside flap? Do you think you’d be as likely to spend your hard-earned cash on a book that had a photo like that on it? In the same way a bad cover can make you second guess the quality of a book, a bad photo can make you rethink the reliability of the author. It helps to think of your book as a business card, and a bad photo is like handing someone a card written in crayon.

A good author photo really helps with marketability. Almost always, when the media wants to highlight an author in a piece, they will ask for a hi-resolution image of the author and book cover. I have heard of instances where some reporters found a book that is perfect for a piece, but have to go with someone else because the photo they receive from the author is not very good and they can’t use it. It pays to have a quality headshot or even just a clear, straight-on picture of yourself in front of a nice background. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just shouldn’t be a picture from a bachelor party of the author hanging out on the couch.

For many readers, your photo is their first impression of you and it needs to be a good, memorable one. Your readers are investing time and money into your work and a great photo will give them a glimpse of who you are. Props can tell them a little bit about yourself – I remember reading a Stephen King book when I was 13 that had a picture of him and his dog on it. That was over a decade ago and it still stands out in my mind and gives King an aspect I could relate to. As an author, you are putting yourself and your work out there. Don’t be afraid to let people know who you are. You’ve done the hard part and have your thoughts on the page. Now all you have to do is smile and say “cheese.”