STEP 1. Consult other authors. You have seen beautiful professional photographs of your friends.
Victoria in particular has gotten a lot of mileage out of blogging about her Magical Glowing Left Arm.
You know from talking to your published friends that you will not get any warning from the publisher that your photograph is needed. You will not have time to schedule a photography session then. Your editor will e-mail you out of the blue that she needs your photograph YESTERDAY. When that happens, you’d better be prepared.
STEP 2. Schedule a professional photography session. You like several of the photographs. Send the results to your family and friends to let them choose the best. They hate all of them.
Mother: “You look like you’re posing.”
STEP 3. Take your own photo. Isn’t this what people do in the age of MySpace and Facebook? Won’t this look young and hip on the back of your book about teens?
You are so proud.
Send to your family and friends. Everyone hates this one too but they don’t say why. Examining it again, you suppose you DO look a bit unbalanced, but no crazier than a chick who blogs about herself in the second person.
STEP 4. Take your own photo. Set this shot up very carefully by lying down on your stomach on the living room floor, where the morning light is good.
Everyone hates this one too. Get frustrated and say to hell with this for a year and a half.
STEP 5. Take your own photo. Actually you are still jaded from the previous sessions. However, it is a beautiful fall day. It is the first day in a long time that hasn’t been humid, so your hair looks pretty good. You are wearing makeup for once. You are wearing your lucky praying mantis T-shirt. You are going to the park to write anyway. Why not take a few photos with your camera phone while you’re there?
You love this photo. You do not ask for anyone’s opinion this time. However, you do admit to your husband where your new author photo came from.
Husband: “OMG you were taking pictures of yourself in the park?!? Did anyone see you?”
STEP 6. Smile smugly when your editor asks for your author photo for the back of GOING TOO FAR and says she needs it yesterday. Send her this new photo immediately.
Editor: “The resolution is too low.”
Damn camera phone!
STEP 7. Consider not sending a photo. Your editor has said it is not required. But you think it will help. Readers want to know you are a real person, not a Novel-Writing Collective. And the photo doesn’t have to be beautiful. It will be very very tiny on the back of the book. How hard can this be? Resolve to give it one more shot.
STEP 8. Enlist help of husband and son. They do not want to take pictures of you. They want to play football. Tell them when this book makes a million dollars, you are not giving them any. Also you are not making them any Hamburger Helper tonight. You slave away in front of the computer all day, creating literary brilliance, and this is the thanks you get? If THEY needed an author photo, YOU would take one of them, and you would not complain this much. God!
STEP 9. Pose and smile while husband takes a hundred photos and son offers unhelpful commentary.
STEP 10. Examine photos. You are older than you thought.
STEP 11. Change clothes. Pose and smile while husband takes a hundred more photos and son suggests you hold his stuffed dog.
STEP 12. Examine photos. Maybe the first batch was not so bad. Show husband your choice.
Husband: “Maybe you could Photoshop it.”
STEP 13. Photoshop picture. It looks much better. Wonder whether the MTV Books art department will notice that you Photoshopped it and laugh at you. Is it better to look vain or wrinkly? Undo the Photoshopping and send. Voila!
The face that sold a hundred thousand books.
Editor: “What’s the photo credit?”
You: “Photo by exasperated husband.”
Editor does not laugh.