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Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to take an author photo

STEP 1. Consult other authors. You have seen beautiful professional photographs of your friends.

Niki Burnham

Christy Reece

Victoria Dahl

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.”

You: Duh!

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.


Victoria Dahl said...

Omg. I laughed. I laughed so hard at this post that I can't breathe.

Love the photo. But then I loved all of them. Low resolution is hip! How could they not know that at mtv books?

But... how dare you divulge my magical secret. Traitor. Btw, I'm trying to decide when I'll have time to lose twenty pounds and go in for a new photo session. Any suggestions? 2011 maybe?

Jennifer Echols said...

Here's an interesting tidbit. Initially I couldn't find this photo of you because I thought you'd taken it off your web site. All I had to do was Google "magical glowing left arm."

Christy Reece said...

You are too cute, Jenn!

Thanks for posting my photo. If you'd like to photoshop it, feel free! This was the first picture I've had taken in over ten years and I still look at it and wonder just who that, um, mature looking woman is.

Jennifer Echols said...

You look like a sophisticated and worldly author of blockbuster romantic suspense novels. People would not believe me if I told them I ate double-chocolate cheesecake with you last Saturday.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Um... honey?

What do you think pro photographers do?

Not that the pic isn't FABULOUS as is (although I love preying mantis T-- am sad now that it won't be your pic)

But I definitely would've sent the Photoshopped version. Seriously-- mine? The bags that existed under my eyes in the BEFORE version should have had little "Louis Vuitton" stamps on them.

Silly woman.

And I LOVE Vicky's glowing arm.

Jennifer Echols said...

Ha--I tried to find your photo to use it here but it has disappeared from your web site and I gave up looking for it after perusing your blog archives for a while. That was one terrific photo session and the pic you usually use, though terrific, wasn't even my favorite.

Brooke Taylor said...


Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

So which one was your favorite?

Victoria Dahl said...

You've inspired me. I need a new photo. I think I'll try to have my hubby take some after the holidays. I am SO sick of that old pic.

Jennifer Echols said...

Barb: My favorite photo of all is the one in traffic--that's just gorgeous--but as a traditional author photo, my fav was the last one.

That said, I have expressed my opinion on a lot of choices of friends' author photos, and they have never chosen the one I chose. We see ourselves so differently from how other people view us.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Ah, but at least I did use that pic for my RITA picture. *G* That's the one that got flashed on the big, horkin' screen.

My husband also really liked the traffic one-- I had that framed for him for Christmas that year.

Danielle Joseph said...

OMG, Jen, we have very similar stories! I too was asked for my photo asap. And was happy that five months ago I had my photographer friend take a pic of me with her digital camera. I bought a new shirt and got my hair blown out. I sent my picture in right away and was told the resolution was too low. Called another friend whose husband is a photographer, he said he'd be home after nine and to come over. I quickly got a much needed hair cut and headed over to their house. Friend's husband took tons of great pics with real photo equipment. I figured out of 36 photos there has to be a few good ones. There were two. In the other 34 my lazy eye acted up big time (I had had a really long day and when I'm tired, my eye is really tired). I cross my fingers (not my eyes) that the pic looks ok on my book. So needless to say, I feel your pain and then some!

Jennifer Echols said...

Danielle, I truly hope you & Jan are getting some mileage out of seeing me go through things a month or two before you, LOL!

And as I say, the picture on the cover is very very small.

Jan Blazanin said...

Jenn, I do appreciate your taking the lead position in MTV land. But on the photo front I was ahead of the game because my agent asked for a photo for her web site. I waited smugly for Jen Heddle to request one so i could impress her with my readiness. My photo is totally posed because that's the only possible way to get a picture of me that doesn't scare small children.