There are three things a publisher is going to need from you when you're having a book published: an author bio, a blurb and an author headshot. As much as readers love to read your words, they're also going to be curious about what you look like, and your author photo can say something about you.
Luckily, the good people at HarperCollins have been able to help write my blurb for The Replacement Wife. As I've said before, I'd rather write a 50,000 word novel than a 1-page synopsis - so writing a promotional blurb is incredibly difficult for me. So too is the author bio - do you go chatty and funny or serious and professional? What about you is going to be interesting to a stranger? Is anything interesting?!
And then comes the author headshot. How do you want to present yourself?
I looked into having a professional take my author photo, but I've had a couple of photographs taken by local newspapers lately and I find that I can't relax in front of strangers. I found the experience to be on the extreme side of awkward.
Luckily, I came across a fabulous blog Delightfully Tacky by Liz Morrow ... she's a fashion, food, design, lifestyle blogger and she takes lots of photos of herself in different outfits and she's shared how she does it with a tripod and self-timer. Liz has released an ebook called Photobomb ... best $30 I could have spent!
Finally, with Liz's advice, I've taken my DSLR off auto and onto manual (I've had the camera for 8 years!). I went into our dark, spider-infested shed to look for that tripod we somehow inherited when Uncle Roy passed away years and years ago. I dusted the cobwebs off and set it up. Sure the legs don't extend properly, and it's wonky and rusty, but it seems to do the trick.
Here's my best tips for taking your own author headshot:
1. Use a DSLR and beg, borrow or steal a tripod.
2. Learn how to use the self-timer on the DSLR camera. Mine has a consecutive shots option, so I can take 3-10 shots at a time, slightly changing my pose, to save time running back and forth between the tripod and my spot.
3. Stand or sit in front of a plain background or somewhere neat that says something about you. Make sure you're in a good soft light ... photography is all about finding the right light!
4. Try a few different outfits and hairstyles and think about how you want to present yourself. Do you want to be serious and literary? Quirky and fun? Try out different expressions. Do you want to smile with teeth or no teeth? I often think about artist Hazel Dooney's Ten Dicta for Young Women Who Are Artists - 'don't smile for photographs just because it's expected'.
5. Do some silly shots to loosen up!
6. Learn which angle works best for you. They say to turn your face away from the camera and then to look back at it with your eyes. Try not to look face on at the camera.
7. Take lots and lots of photos. It's probably right at the point when you're about to give up and feel like smashing the camera that you'll start to get some good shots!
8. Be discerning about which photographs you choose. Just like when you're writing, sometimes you have to kill your darlings - if something is not quite right in the photo, delete it! Shortlist your favourite ones. Then edit down again. Leave it for a few hours and come back and look with fresh eyes. You can use other favourite shots for guest blog posts, media requests, Instagram, Twitter etc
9. Experiment with retouching in your image software. I realised that the top I was wearing in my favourite shot had visible white lint on it! With a few quick clicks in the editing mode I was able to make my top look clean again.
10. Enjoy it! You get to be the photographer and the subject. And there's probably no one you'd be more comfortable with to get the kind of author headshot you're looking for!
Rowena Wiseman is the author of The Replacement Wife.
Luisa is suffering in a half-dead marriage and tries to find a wife for her husband.
HarperCollins, ebook from $2.99.