What I want to discuss in this week’s article is, not only book signing and “In person” appearances, but also the way you present yourself on social media. Cover art for your book is one thing, but your author photo is something, altogether different.
The Author’s Photo
When you go into a bookstore, your eye is immediately drawn to the cover of a book. I’ve already discussed Cover Art a few months ago, and we’ve learned that the old adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t stand up today’s busy reader. The cover does draw the reader to your book and, most likely if they’ve never heard of you, they’ll turn over the book and, not only read the blurb but also, view the author’s photo to see what the you look like. Not that this will sway the reader to buy your book one way or another, but people are curious to see who wrote the book.
Your appearance should be clean and your photo as professional as you can get it. Not everyone can afford head shots from a professional portrait studio, and I’m not encouraging you to do so, but a basic camera (preferably digital) can take just as good of a photo.
Background selection doesn’t have to be a serious choice either. Sitting in your backyard, under a tree or in garden, would make your picture look nice. Or in a downtown area with a series of buildings would give it a nice quality as well. No one wants to see you sitting on a couch stuffing chips in your mouth unless that is part of your author brand. Even then, I’d advise against it.
I write (insert genre here) books.
One of the things that authors might look at, when choosing clothes to wear, is to connect it to the genre that they write. If Fantasy stories, then some period costume you might see at a Renaissance Faire; if Mysteries or Detective Novels, a suit or trench coat with the stereotype magnifying glass.
The problem with this idea is that it makes you a stereotype and it might limit your writing skills should you decide to try a different genre. For example, if you are doing the trench coat photo for your mystery novels, then decide to write a kids book about ‘Stranger Danger’, you’ve just labeled yourself as suspect #1. If I need to explain that too you, then just stop reading here and go back to bed! 🙂 Stephen King writes Horror Novels but you don’t see him brandishing a butcher’s knife covered in blood. I would advise against dressing the part of your genre, but it’s entirely up to you. Whatever you decide to wear for your cover photo make it look nice, decent, and as professional as possible.
I am not a natural smiler. Most times, I can’t smile without looking like I’m up to something devious. There are a few pictures of me on Facebook with a natural smile, but it is rare! When I took my picture in the backyard, I didn’t smile and I think it adds to the picture overall. The reason for it being in black and white is because the shirt I’m wearing is purple and it would look “too loud” in color.
I took a few selfies in black and white just to get a pose idea down. But, as you notice in these examples here:
Whatever you decide to a for facial expression, make it look as natural as possible. Don’t force a smile and don’t frown either. If you can’t take your photo seriously, people won’t take your book seriously. It’s as simple as that.
Your Photo on Social Media
The photo that you use for your books can and, most likely, should be the same that you use for your pages on Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets online. If you use a different photo, make sure the age difference isn’t that far apart. If possible, take the photo for both your books and your online sites around the same time. The photo I use for my books was taken in 2009. The one I currently have for my online presence was taken in 2014. The only difference you might notice is the glasses and, perhaps more gray in the beard. But overall, you can tell that I am the same person. Some people, and I’m referring to women here, will change their hairstyle and it plays tricks on the people viewing your photo. You look like one person online, and a completely different person on the back of your books. Try to stay consistent.
Meet and Greet
Whether you are signing books or just in arriving just to meet your fans, your appearance is just as important. Again, unless you are King of the Couch Potatoes, sweats and a t-shirt are out. Men, please shave and ladies, not to much perfume or body spray. You want to attract readers and future fans, not repel them.
You want to “sell yourself” in addition to selling your books. The reason for this is, if you change genres after writing a multi-book series in another, not everyone will follow you over to the other genre. If they know more about your fantasy book series (for example) and very little about you as an author, chances are they will wait until your next fantasy book to come out rather than see what else you’ve been writing. This is one of the reasons I encourage authors to start a Writer’s Platform long before your first book comes out.
When you make public appearances, talk as much about yourself as you do your books. People will then become fans of you and will read any genre that you publish because they know who you are and what you’re about.
A Word to e-book Authors
There are those who only have their books published as e-books, they don’t have books on shelves that they can sign for their fans and do giveaways at gatherings. They have the mentality that they can’t do these types of appearances. My question to you is: Why not? Sure you don’t have a physical book to sign, and to show people, but does that make you any less of an author? NO! So why should it stop you from doing appearances and signings?
Let me share with you an idea I came up with for my own public appearance and show you that you too can do the same thing, or something similar. When I broke contract with my publisher and decided to self-publish my book, I informed my store manager of this change. (You may recall, she was the one who came up with the idea of the book launch party in the first place.) Even though my book was only going to be available for purchase online, she wanted to do the party anyway. So it became my responsibility to figure how to do it without looking the fool. Here are my ideas:
If you don’t have business cards made, a great alternative would be a index size card or slip of paper with your photo, a picture of the cover art, and information on where to buy the book, your blog, your Twitter page, your Facebook page, and any other type of information. This way, your fans have a way to get a copy of your book and stay in touch to see when the next book is due or what you’re talking about online.
Cover art giveaway
Since I had access to artwork for covers of both book 1 and 2, I decided to have 8×10 prints made, 1 of each, to be put in frames and then given away at the party. Have people put their names and, phone numbers or e-mail addresses, on a slip of paper and then do a drawing. If they weren’t there, they would be contacted to come up to the store to pick up their picture.
Something else I came up with is to create 4×6 photos of my book cover and my author photo. These can have information on the back about you and how to purchase your book, if they didn’t pick up a Platform handout. PLUS, they can be something personal to be signed by me should they want an autograph.
Just because you don’t have a book to sign, doesn’t mean you can’t sign something.
A photo of your book is better to sign, than just a slip of paper which someone will most likely lose a couple days later.
Almost every author will read a selection from their own books and reading it off your iPad, tablet, or other electronic device should be just as acceptable as if you were reading a physical book. Even if you don’t have a copy of your own book, you can always take an excerpt and print it out at home and read it (plus, that could be something else to give away and/or sign.).
A Word of Caution
Finally, I offer this piece of advice to you. When you do any appearance, regardless of the venue (store, library, coffee shop, auditorium), be self-sufficient. Never expect any place to provide everything your want or need for your appearance. Bring your own portable folding table, chair, pens to sign with, etc. The reason I advise this is you never want to expect any place to have this already made available, because they may not know what you need and if they don’t have access to it, in advance, you’ll be standing there shuffling your possessions and trying to address your fans.
Always contact the venue a day or two in advance to see what accommodations they are making for you and, even on the day of the appearance, show up early to see what is missing. This way you can go out to your car and grab whatever you need to make this a great experience for your fans and readers. Don’t blame the store because a table wasn’t provided for your display, or pens accessible for signing. This will look bad in the eyes of both your readers and the venue themselves. You may decide later not to return to them with your next book, or you can simply overlook the discrepancy and be better equipped next time even if they aren’t. We’re only human and we all make mistakes, don’t refuse an appearance over one minor thing. If people are coming out to support you, make it worth their while!
The whole point of this article is to that you should care as much about your own appearance as you do your books. As we stated earlier, if you “sell yourself”, people will buy your books no matter what genre you write. And one of the best ways to sell yourself is maintain a good clean physical appearance.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you have any further suggestions for public appearances? Please share your comments and questions below.
Additional Links with further information:
Seven Steps to a Successful Signing by Amie Kaufman
PR Basics for the Debut Novelist by Christine Nolfi
Book Signings- Finding your Hook for the Right Venue by Elyse Salpeter
I do apologize for canceling my appearance last Saturday at Wal-mart, but I got ill early in the week and by Thursday decided that there was no way I’d be able to do it. Plus, I didn’t want to make anyone else sick. I hope to reschedule the event towards the end of April as the release of book 2 will be at that time as well! Watch this blog for further news.
Sibling Rivalry, Book 2 of The Askinar Towers is scheduled to be released on Tuesday, April 29th. If you haven’t bought book 1 yet, now is the time. Here’s where you can buy it: