Friday, January 31, 2014

Thoughts on Author Portraits

Clearly, January 2014 turned into 'Author Portrait' month. All of our efforts and opportunities with regards to this blog tend to grow organically with gentle serendipitous nudges. Because we are paying attention to the industry and our careers it truly has been and continues to be a wonderful adventure!

So, to finish up our month long series on Author Portraits, we thought we should offer some final thoughts (for now) on this topic:

  • Your professional author portrait should represent your persona and books well. If you write: 
Genre fiction, small touches from the worlds you have created are a plus.
Nonfiction, put your best professional foot forward so you are easy to recognize and remember.
Children's books, convey the fact that you are caring and approachable.
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Per Melia Alexander's post, if you are too posed and uncomfortable - those feelings shine through in the final image. If you are comfortable and having fun, those feelings and emotions will shine through, too. :D

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips
 Don’t just sign; personalize. When I’m signing the store’s stock after the event (see previous tip), I just write my name. But when I’m signing a book for someone, I write their name and some appropriate saying. With my Who Pooped in the Park? books, for example, I usually write “Watch where you step.” Do remember, however, that once you develop a characteristic autograph, people will come to expect it. I remember talking to Tippi Hedren (the actress from The Birds) at one of her book signings. She drew three little birds above her name, and told me that people actually complained if their book had no birds, or had only two of them. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Posing Your Persona

Therese Says: In 2005 I was attending my first national RWA conference in Reno. As thousands attend these events, local chapters and the industry magazine offer advice on what to expect and how to prepare. The advice that year was for even aspiring authors to have business cards, and a photo on them would be a good idea.

Original Terri Patrick Photo
Taken in my kitchen,
by a daughter, in 2005.
Being a romance novelist was still my hobby, for 15 years by then, but as it was my passion this means I cared more about advice and doing it right than I did about my day jobs. I knew business cards and photos for aspiring authors was New Advice. Until then, Author Photos were only for The Book. A photographer would be present at a conference to take pictures of the soon-to-be-newly-published in the same manner as school photos, or prom pictures, are taken. Set background, certain poses, a touch of glam or soft filtering, and the author now was a face as well as a name.

Genre novelists only got the publisher sponsored publicity campaign of photo and promotion tours as part of their "break out" from a midlist author to maybe hit a bestseller list, this was usually around book five or six. But that advice, 8 years ago, for even an aspiring author to have a business card and photo was from a trusted source so I contacted my local print shop and they did a short rush order. I even had a website to put on the card as a friend had created one for me in exchange for tech writing I did for him.

Fast forward through big personal life events, adventures in learning the craft of storytelling, the technology tornado in the publishing world, and suddenly I realized the above image was all over the web. Um... It was taken to be a tiny image in the corner of a business card.

So when Morgan and I took this blog interactive in June of 2012, I had my husband take a new picture. This was staged in my living room and I actually did my hair and wore makeup. Alas, it wasn't a great picture either but acceptable for an image of me, and for our message of free marketing and Do-It-Yourself advice, and it was only for this site. Then I got a publishing contract for my novel - and this site had already gone global.
Nancy Steele of Picture This Photography did my daughter's senior photos, and we had a blast for an hour in her at home studio. I had so many shots to choose from, some so awesome I didn't recognize myself, that I had to get opinions. Here's why I chose three different shots.
On the left is Terri Patrick-Romance Novelist.
On the right is Therese Patrick - Memoirist

On the sidebar of this site is Therese Patrick - Marketing Maven.

And after the opportunity to work with a professional photographer, and seeing so many different poses and face framing, and ways of holding my head toward the camera - plus injecting a huge dose of professional and fun energy - even random snapshots of me look pretty good now!

Even if you can only DIY, create the whole photo shoot experience for yourself with wardrobe changes and different poses then take the time to really study them. Practice how to look directly at your Audience and project the best of who you are. Then hand them your book, and offer to sign it!

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips
Allow a little bit of time afterward to sign their stock. Typically, my store will sell as many of your books in the couple of weeks after the signing as we do at the event. You can help to make that happen by staying after the event is done and signing their backstock. It’s also a nice touch to keep a package or two of bookplates with you. Then if the store sold out (yippee!) you can sign a few bookplates and leave them. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Plan, But Be Flexible: Gina Fluharty's Author Portrait Shoot

Therese & Morgan Say: Gina Fluharty is our sister-in-arms and wickedly funny critique partner. We asked her to contribute a post on her author portrait experience. I'm sure you'll agree that the results are FANTASTIC! Many thanks to Gina for sharing her thoughts and words of wisdom. We love you, darling!

Gina Says: Even though I haven’t sold my first book yet, I KNOW it’s going to happen. And since I’m a planner, long-range and short-term, I wanted to have a presence already established for when I DO sell. I figured, if a publisher was going to be interested enough to read the entirety of my tale, then they’d probably go a little deeper once they hit ‘The End.’ With that end in mind, I collaborated with my good friend—who also happens to be a genius photographer—to set up my website.

While I love graphic art, I didn’t want that to be my ‘look.’ I wanted people who were interested in my work to be able to see a little bit of who I am. Mark Montoya—the aforementioned genius—and I got together in our natural habitat (a bar) and talked about what I wanted and what he could make happen. After all, those two things aren’t necessarily mutual. I joke that Mark is my brother from another mother, but it’s true. He gets me. He took all my excited utterances and wild gesticulations and distilled them down into tangible art. The result is something that I am still incredibly proud of:

It’s important to work with someone that speaks your lingo. It’s important to be willing to look at something that you didn’t necessarily have in mind. Case in point—the wolf shadow photo. I told Mark that I wanted a four-footed wolf to be my shadow. And he did it. Showed me the prop he’d drawn and cut out and I liked it. Then he says, “But I got to thinking and came up with this.”

Gina and The Wolf
 Holy…Hell. Ka-BOOM! I love it. It’s my favorite photo out of all the shots we took. Part of my shadow makes up that of the wolf. See if you can find it.

However, before we got to this point, he asked me how I wanted to look. I immediately said, “Slender.” And that’s how Mark posed me for the front page layout. I have a new respect for models after this experience. It was agony to hold that pose for as long as it took Mark to do the light thingymajigger, for his charming and lovely assistant Carla to lean over the base of the pillar with her prop, for him to take a shot and then repeat the entire process until he was satisfied. We did the shoot at twilight, so lighting was a challenge. Have I mentioned that Mark is a type-A perfectionist? No? My hip muscles and exterior obliques are still muttering about it. Still, no matter how painful it was, he pulled the shot off.

Holding poses is tougher than it looks.

Now, the only problem with establishing a presence and networking with authors on social media is that they will look for the avatar they see. Spoiler alert—I’m not a natural blonde. Megan Mulry was the first—but not the last—to point this out via Twitter at the RT convention in 2013. If memory serves, her tweet was, “The first surprise of #RT13? @GinaFluharty is not blonde.” Which poses an interesting question for the future: Do I need to buy a blonde wig for business events? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Women change their hair color all the time. It’s our prerogative since we can’t change the size of our asses as easily.

Whether you’ve sold or are working toward it, take your destiny by the ovaries and rule it. Wrestle it to the ground and beat it into submission or speak sweetly while wafting the fine fumes of bourbon in its direction. Do something to further your aims. If you have a vision but not a sale, do that. If you’d rather 

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips
Carry some spare books. If you’re lucky, the signing will be a smash hit. With the economy down, though, booksellers are being cautious about over-ordering. That means that if your signing is fantastic, they just might run out of books. If you have a box or two in your trunk, you can grab them (be prepared to sell them to the store at the standard distribution discount!) and keep on going. If you don’t, the signing is done.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Melia Alexander: Author Portraits Should be Fun, Right?

Therese & Morgan Say: Our dear friend Melia Alexander told us all about her author portrait adventure and, of course, we asked her to contribute a post to our blog. Thanks Melia for sharing your experiences with our readers. xoxo

Melia Says: I can’t speak for other writers (although I suspect there would be similar stories), but for me, selling my first book was on par with falling in love for the First. Time. Ever.

You know what I’m talking about. The rapid heart rate, the stupid grin, the feeling like you’re waaayyy on top of the world and nothing can bring you back to the earthly plane. *sigh* Yeah. That.

But unlike falling in love, reality sets in much more quickly. After all, there are things that need immediate attention, like learning about the systems in place for getting the book ready for publication. Yeah. THAT. And very quickly, if you weren’t already aware of it, you realize you’ve become that “b” word - *whispers* you’re a business!

Things take on such a serious edge with the “b” word. At least, it did for me. The moment I received the Entangled Publishing author packet, the implications of what I’d done hit me harder than leaving a Nordstrom shoe sale – with a couple of bags in each hand. All of a sudden everything mattered: the author bio, the book cover, the edits, release dates, and on and on and on. No pressure, right?

But the author photo shoot was supposed to be the exception. It was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be exciting. It was supposed to be my chance to live my childhood fantasy of being a model. (Now, now. There’s no need to judge.)

After all, the photographer I’d hired was great! The location was great! The staging was great! Me? Not so much. I looked like I’d rather be scrubbing toilets. (For the record, I don’t particularly like scrubbing toilets. . ..)
My first photo shoot.

See. What did I tell you?

Thankfully, Ben (Ben Carlson Photography) was willing to come out and re-shoot. Different location, different clothing, different atmosphere altogether. But most importantly, a different “me.”

I remembered what it was like to fall in love with the story I’d just sold, when I’d first written it, and before the “b” word entered the equation and made everything seem so serious. I made it a point to play fun music, and I had a trusted friend on hand who kept things light – and also made sure there were no wardrobe malfunctions. (Thanks, Lin!)
My second sitting - MUCH better!
The results were so much better, I think. A few changes, including a brain switch, turned me from one mean-looking, serious-writing, completely unapproachable author to who I really am: an author of sassy, sexy, fun contemporary romances who loves to laugh at life’s incredible ironies.

Letting my PERSONA
shine through!

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips for Authors:
When there are customers nearby, stay by the table. I’ve had customers get interested in a book, and then I couldn’t find the author to sign a copy. Don’t wander away unless you tell the bookstore staff where you’re going.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Invest in Professional Author Portraits

Selfie taken at my day job
for some reason I can't
 remember. Not sure of how I
got the dreamy, soft edge affect
and it definitely isn't my best
best look or pose.
OK, you're working on your website and you realize, "I need a picture for my 'About Me' page!" So, you ask your spouse, offspring, partner, friend, or neighbor to take a quick picture of you with your smart phone. It doesn't matter that it's the end of the day, your makeup and coffee buzz have long faded, and you're wearing your favorite sports team shirt. Nah, your readers want to see you just as you are in all your writer angst glory. No, No, No, No....

As the old saying goes, 'you only get one chance to make a first impression.' Why not make that first impression stellar?

In my day job, I was recently promoted from Product Manager to Director of Business Development. In my new post, I often have public speaking engagements that include keynote addresses and industry expert panel discussions. All of these events have organizing committees responsible for doing marketing and promotions. Without fail, they ask for a picture and bio. Without fail, my picture and bio stand out in the event program and other promotional collateral simply because I am one of the few who submitted a professional picture.

Here's a wake up call, people: Selfies, family portraits, wedding pictures, and poorly taken candid shots are NOT good for your image, career, or PERSONA.

My C. Morgan Kennedy
author portrait.
In truth, it was my need for an author portrait that was the initial prompt for me to schedule a photo shoot. Being the ultimate multi-tasker, I decided to plan a quick wardrobe change during the shoot to get some day job portraits done, too. With a little planning, taking pictures for two different personas was easy.

Director, Business Development
Notice that the only differences between my two professional portraits are the necklace and jacket I'm wearing. My earrings, make up, and hair are all the same.

In my day job photo, I want to express professionalism and knowledge - while letting my upbeat personality peek through. No stoic, stoney-faced expressions for me.

In my author portrait, I want to be hip and urban. The crisp photo expresses professionalism and showcases the fact that I am clearly willing to make investments in my writing career and public persona. My personality still peeks through, too. In the alternate author portrait below, the photographer prompted me to give the camera some 'attitude.' Notice how the energy shift and expression change influences the entire look and feel of the final image.

I was prompted by the
photographer to give
the camera some
Questions and Comments to Ponder:
1.) How do you want to perceived? What aspects of your PERSONA do you want to have captured in your author portrait?
2.) My photos were taken outdoors in a park. Therese's portrait was taken in a photo studio. Both work for us and reflect who we are and what we write.
3.) You don't have to pay loads of money to get a great picture. Call your local high school or art college to find a photography student - work with their teacher, you may become their class project! Students often work in exchange for your permission to use your shots in their portfolios.
4.)  Always clearly understand who owns the images, rights, and uses. (Most portrait photographers give you a disc or download of the images and destroy the original electronic images after a period of time. Some commercial photographers, artists, and photo journalist will seek to retain the rights.)
5.)  Avoid overly stylized 'glamour shots' that feature feather boas and excessively soft lens filters. This look was popular in the eighties....please, let it stay in the eighties!

Gary D. Robson Book Signing Tips for Authors:
 Develop a “look.” Therese and Morgan call this a PERSONA. You want to be memorable. This doesn’t mean you should wear something silly, but you need to look unique. If you wrote a cookbook, wear an apron. If you wrote a children’s book, make a T-shirt with the book’s logo. Make your own nametag. If you write mysteries set in Hawaii, wear an Aloha shirt. Don’t look like every other author out there. I’m pretty easy to spot, since I’m 6'5" tall, but I exaggerate it with a cowboy hat, boots, and a goatee.