Saturday, 8 April 2017

Are there photographs? By Keren David

These days I wear at least two hats. One is as a writer of YA novels. The other is Features Editor of the Jewish Chronicle.
My author pic, taken by Faye Thomas
As Features Editor I often run interviews with writers and articles written by them. Hopefully this provides interesting reading for our readers, as well as an opportunity for the writer to promote their latest book.
Each time I ask if there are pictures. And often I am surprised at the outcome.
Sometimes the answer is yes and I get a selection of shots – portrait and landscape, headshot and with a background. All of the images are hi res, and they are in colour. Ideally they have been taken by a professional (or at least competent) photographer, and are uncluttered  (which means we can fit a headline on to the picture if we want to) and appealing/interesting/arresting.
These photographs  mean the design department can make the interview or article look good. The result is an eye-catching page in the paper.  (Click here and here for some examples of author pictures which worked very well)
But some authors do not have photographs like this. They provide low resolution shots, just one or two. Their head and shoulder shots are cut off at the hairline, which means we can’t do a cut out, which is limiting (and means they are not likely to get trailed on the front page). The bad picture means their article might get pushed to a less prominent slot, run without a picture, or sometimes not used at all.
When I got my first publishing contract, my agent advised me to get professional pictures taken. It cost about 10% of my first advance (which was not large) but I never regretted it. I have used those pictures many times in the last eight years. They have been on book jackets and blogs, brochures for festivals, newspapers, magazines and posters.
But looking at them now -  and I do love them -  when I have a new batch taken I will make sure that there are some which are not so close up, that have my shoulders in them, and some which are of all or me with a different background. I am saving up for some new shots before my next book comes out in January 2018.
If you cannot afford a professional, then ask around. There are a lot of really good amateur photographers around, and some of them might be your friends. Ask other authors, with good pictures, who took them. Or approach a local college or university with photography students and ask if any of them are interested in taking portraits.
Think about how you want to appear. Can you link your background with a theme of your books? If you write gritty crime, then your picture needs to look suitable noir (but that does not mean solely available in black and white). If you write quirky MG, then steer away from the corporate.

Having good quality author photos which reflect who you are and what you write is not a luxury or an indulgence. It’s an essential. 

(Apologies for the lateness of putting this post up, which was due to something called Pesach cleaning. To get an idea of what it's like, click here  Sara does it more thoroughly than I do -  and enjoys it more -  but it's the same general idea)


Sue Bursztynski said...

When I was first asked for a photo, I had it taken by a new photographer who had been my library bookseller till he threw it all up and got a job taking photos for a local newspaper. They were mostly, at the time, houses for sale, but he was very, very good. He was so excited by his first professional photo. My publisher filed it away and lost it. Those were the days before digital photos were common. (And while publishers have used my portrait on line, they have never used it on a book cover - all my books are paperback)

Fortunately, I had a copy of my own, which I scanned and kept that file. It is a beautiful photo in elegant black and white, which I still use when asked, a head and shoulders shot. I haven't changed so much that it matters.

I have lost track of him and couldn't even find him on line, but I do acknowledge him. I'd rather that lovely photo by a gifted friend than a high-street studio shot.

Susan Price said...

Thank you, Keren. A very interesting and useful insight.

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for this post, Keren, and all good wishes for Pesach.

Having a good portrait - by which I mean one you are happy with, does give you confidence and some control over your public image.

I feel it's important to have a good relationship with the photographer (although it need not be close) and enough time to relax before and during the session. Family/friend photographers often know and love you as you are and may not be able to see the importance or purpose of the "other you" public shot.

Sue, I like your confidence!