Do you have a “Duchenne smile” in your official author’s portrait? We learned what characterizes a good profile photo in Guy Kawasaki’s APE: How to Publish a Book. “Find or take a photo,” the self-publishing guru advises, “where you have a ‘Duchenne smile’ (the kind of smile that uses both the jaw and eye muscles, named after French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne.”
As usual, Kawasaki is right on the money. We were shocked to see how many authors have, in his unvarnished expression, “crappy profile photos,” and immediately redid all those on pages under our control. In running a Google Images search on myself, co-authors and associates, I instantly got an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach. Those pictures will never go away. But you can turn a new leaf and follow Kawasaki’s prescription for a digital makeover right away, if you know what’s good for you.
- Go with a tight shot, as he says. Crop until it hurts.
- Use a professional photographer. They have better cameras than you and your kids. Believe me, lenses and expert settings and lighting and staging count. Give them a byline on the face of the result. Professional courtesy, right?
- Don’t think you can make do with a photo from your recent trip to Rome. And don’t be tempted to show too much background. Your readers want to study your character, not look at Piazza Navona.
- Once you’ve achieved perfection with your official photo, expunge all others from your files and emphasize only this one, never very large but “just right.” The same could be said for the two-sentence bio you display on book covers. Don’t Photoshop the hell out of it. Oliver Cromwell was the public figure who originated the saying “Warts and all” when he sat for Samuel Cooper. It’s good advice in the digital age.
As important as a thumbnail of your book cover, your profile photo is one of the first things people see. They make a snap judgment about whether to buy what you are saying and writing.