Using an appropriate author photo consistently is a great way to help build your brand for your self-published books. But it can be hard to get a good one, especially when you’re starting out as an indie author and may not have a massive budget to play with. Here’s a simple four-step route way to get one that’s right for you at a surprisingly affordable price, wherever you live and whatever you write.
1 Collaborate with Other Indie Authors
- Join forces with other indie authors to achieve economy of scale.
- Agree for one of you to take the lead and manage your photo shoot, to make best use of time and resources.
2 Choose a Suitable Venue
- If you all write in the same genre, you may want to choose a venue specific to your kind of book.
- If you write in a mix of genres, use a generic bookish venue such as a a public library or bookshop.
- A good bookshop may allow you to use their space for free in return for a few photos of the shop, and for the promise of publicity via your gang of authors’ social media and websites. This will also help you build a better relationship with your local bookseller.
3 Find the Right Photographer
- Find a photographer who is just starting up their business and who is looking to build up his or her portfolio.
- If you can’t find one, seek out a photography student at your local college.
- Ask for a session to cover a few shots of each of a number of people and agree an overall cost and time-frame e.g. two hours with ten minutes per author.
- Ask for instructions in advance to give to the authors so they will come dressed n the right clothes and ready to move quickly to make the best use of the available time.
- Agree how the photos will be distributed afterwards e.g. the photographer could supply a single disk to you to keep his or her costs down.
- Ensure that you will be entitled to reproduce the photos wherever you like, provided the photographer is given a name-check – because you’ll be wanting to use them a lot.
4 Split the Costs
- To save admin and make sure everyone pays up, get each author to pay the photographer in cash their share of the cost on the day.
- Be the photographer’s assistant, lining up the authors ready to go, so that every moment of your session is spent taking photos rather than making small talk or briefing people.
- Thus although you’re all getting the benefit of a professional photography session, you’re paying a fraction of the overall price.
For Bonus Points, Share the Love
- Just as you name-check the artists or photographers who provide illustrations for your self-published books, do the same for your author photos, citing the photographer’s names and websites whenever you use their photos of you. It costs you nothing to thank them in this way, and it’ll build your relationship with them for next time.
- If you’re happy with their work, recommend them to your friends, and tell your friends to tell the photographer you sent them. (I did this a lot for a photographer I used for my previous day job, and I got an unexpected reward when he refused to accept payment for doing my wedding photos a few years later.)
- Remember that photographers lead sociable lives, going out and about meeting new people every day in the course of their work, so tell them a bit about your work, maybe even give them a free book as a thank you. You never know, they may end up as an informal ambassador for your writing, just as you are for their photography. Win-win.
A Case Study
I’ve benefited from this practice a few times, most recently with the Cheltenham Authors’ Alliance, the meetup group of authors that I run in Cheltenham, England. I had met photographer Angela Fitch at the nearby Evesham Festival of Words when she was photographing me as one of the Festival’s featured authors. She was doing a great job, setting up creative shots of a crowd of disparate authors in challenging circumstances on a tight timescale. When we got chatting after the shoot, I discovered she was just starting up her own photography business and asked for her business card. Later we invited her to join us at our group’s usual meeting place, the Suffolk Anthology Bookshop. We paid £20 each for a super set of individual photos, which she provided in various resolutions, on disk, in colour and mono, for each author, as well as some super publicity shots for the proprietor of the bookstore to thank her for having us.
And finally, credit where it’s due – here’s the photographer’s website: www.angela-fitch-photography.smugmug.com
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