Making Your Photo a Marketing Tool

October 27, 2014 by Kylee Unrau


We all know that cover design and exciting back cover text are extremely important in marketing your book and grabbing the reader’s attention, but you may not realize what a professionally-taken author photo can mean for your book.

When people pick up your book, you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. Chances are you’ve already chosen a marketable cover image, so when people flip over your book, that same marketability and professionalism should continue on the back cover. Choosing the right author photo to promote you and your book is important as it will affect the way your readers think if you—it presents to your readers the image and style that you want to portray.

As an author, especially if you’re an author of multiple books, you’re not only promoting your book, you’re promoting a brand, and that brand is you! In many creative industries, you are also required to be at the front and centre of your product, promoting, coordinating events, doing signings, etc. When you have a professional photo taken, the photographer will be able to help you to both look yourself, and also take a photo that captures your style and personality. This allows readers to see that the author is a reliable source of information (if you write non-fiction), or a person that they would want to tell them a story (if you write fiction).

Here are some tips for creating a great author photo:

1. Hire a professional. This is probably the most important point we’d recommend. The selfie you took from your iPhone may look great on Facebook, but there are a few problems with photos from phones. They’re often blurry, and in a low resolution. There are tons of creative and affordable photographers who would be happy to help you present your best image for your cover. We know you worked hard on your book; don’t compromise on your author photo! It would be a shame for you to look back and regret the photo you used.

2. Think about your outfit and surroundings. If you have an idea of the colours used for your cover, think about dressing to coordinate with them. Take, for example, the author photos of Bonnie Brooks, our 2013 non-fiction contest winner. She sent us two gorgeous, professionally taken photos —one themed in charcoal and yellow, and one in cream and taupe:

She looks great in both photos, but since her cover is a greenish-yellow, we found the yellow jacket was a bit overwhelming, while the cream balanced the cover, without clashing, and allowed us to better coordinate Bonnie’s marketing materials.

(As an aside—depending on your arrangements, you might not have the option of having multiple colour themes or outfits for your photo shoot, but if you happen to have multiple options, feel free to send in more than one. Bonnie’s beautiful yellow and charcoal photo ended up looking fantastic on her marketing materials).

We’ve also had authors who took photos near the sea, where the blue coordinated well with the colours of the cover or the story’s theme, or wore a scarf that captures the colours used in the cover, without being too “matchy.” Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions about your book’s cover colours.

3. Think about the theme of your book. If you are a fiction author, you might want to portray a more creative side (outdoors, wearing your favourite pair of reading glasses, posing with your favourite latte, etc.) while a non-fiction author may want to present an author photo where they’re displaying something that shows their expertise in their subject area (a doctor might wear a lab coat or stethoscope, an author on a book about marriage may want to ensure that their wedding band is visible, a counselor may want to take a photo in their office, etc.).

4. Think outside the box. While the Sears portrait studio can be a great place to get photos done, feel free to work with a photographer to find a spot that fits both of your style and personality. Feel free to visit your local park, take pictures by your writing desk (as long as it’s uncluttered and the colours work well; see our previous blog Decluttering Your Writing Space), or in a space where you were inspired for the book. As long as the colours work well and there isn’t too much clashing, we can often make this work. Some authors also choose to feature a black and white photo, as it can look more professional and help hide any inconsistent colour, though this may not be the right choice for all books.

These are just a few suggestions for keeping your author photo professional while showing off your personality and making your book marketable. Please feel free to ask us any questions along the way, or let us know if you or your photographer have questions about sending the image files, or the correct specs to take these in. We look forward to seeing your author photos!

About this Contributor

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Kylee Unrau is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg with majors in both English and Theatre. She enjoys fantasy and science fiction, horseback riding and video games, tea and coffee (most people prefer one or the other. I say, “Bring on the caffeine!”). Kylee hates Winnipeg winters and loves bonfires and camping.