Head Shots

Head Shots
Terry Odell

Never mind that we’re a group focused on writing mysteries, which many people assume will be murder mysteries. This isn’t a post about snipers or ways to take out a bad guy.

A few years back, a writing buddy and I attended a conference headlined by a best-selling mystery author. When she took her place behind the lectern to deliver her speech, my friend and I exchanged dumbfounded glances. No way was this the person whose picture adorned the program.

But yes, it was. At least ten years and twice as many pounds ago.

If you’re going to be making public appearances, be they at conferences, book signings, zoom meetings, webinars, etc.—you should be recognizable. You’re your brand. Nothing like sitting at a table and having people walk on by because they’re looking for the person they’ve seen on your book covers or your Facebook page, website, or wherever.

Now, if your publisher puts your picture on your book jacket, you’re going to be stuck with that image for years to come. No getting around it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your website and your social media presence current. If you’re an indie author, you can change the author photos in books without much trouble, especially for ebooks.

What goes into getting a decent head shot?

When I had my first contract (for “Words”, a short story then with The Wild Rose Press,) they told me I needed a blog and a website. Which meant I needed a picture of myself. I had the Hubster take one.This was back in 2006, I think. We sent it to my photographer son, and he pointed out (vocally) the mistakes. And, because he knows his way around post-processing software, he fixed them. Those software programs have come a long way since 2006, and are easier for the lay person to use. If you’re going the DIY route, you should consider learning to use one, at least to do things like resizing for site specifications.

My son’s a nature/travel photographer by choice, but because I’m The Mom, he makes an exception now and does my portraits. Another perk is that he gives me a selection of poses which I can use in different places, or change them out from time to time, which is something you should try to get, too. These are examples of shots he’s done over the years.

Facebook has separate sites for profiles (my personal stuff) and pages (my Author stuff), it’s nice—for me at least—to glance at my picture and know which site I’m on. Also, I can use candid shots on my profile, which I change out more often.


Where does/should your image show up? Your website, of course. Your social media pages. And yes, it can be different depending on your audience. There’s your Gravatar, which will show up when you comment on WordPress sites. There’s probably a way to add an image to other blog sites, but I haven’t run into enough of them to dig into where to set it. What about your book pages at sales channels? Amazon/Author Central includes your photo. So does Books2Read. When was the last time you checked your pages?

Things to consider when setting up a shooting session.

Keep clothing simple. No wild patterns, no flashy jewelry.

Likewise, no distracting backgrounds. For my most recent session, my son had moved to a new home and no longer had studio space. No more different colored backdrops. No more studio lighting. So, he came up to my place in the mountains. We had nice weather, and the lighting was good on the deck, so we shot some out there and some in my office with my bookshelves in the background.

Be aware that the background should be In The Background, and not call attention away from you. Your photographer should know how to deal with this. Had the leaves been in focus, they’d have created a busy image. Same with the books.

Your head shot should say “I’m an author.” If possible, it should reflect your genre, your books, or something about you. If you write in multiple genres, consider different looks for each.

Bottom line. Your author photos should look like YOU. And they should look like you NOW. Is your hair totally different? Length, color, style? Do you still have hair? What about facial hair? Did you add/subtract a trademark mustache? I avoided redoing head shots when I was going through a royal blue hair phase because I knew it was for fun, and wouldn’t last.

I got into this writing gig about 20 years ago. Much as it pains me to see that older person looking out from the screen, that’s who I am. Might as well embrace it.

How do you handle your online image?
Any authors who do it well? How?

Cover image of Deadly Relations by Terry OdellAvailable Now
Deadly Relations.
Nothing Ever Happens in Mapleton … Until it Does
Gordon Hepler, Mapleton, Colorado’s Police Chief, is called away from a quiet Sunday with his wife to an emergency situation at the home he’s planning to sell. A man has chained himself to the front porch, threatening to set off an explosive.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Amazon Marketing Services Coming May 1 – Thoughts?

Jordan Dane


Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) will launch May 1, 2016. What does this mean to you, authors? As an Advantage or CreateSpace publisher, you can sign up for AMS for an annual fee of $99.00. Word of caution, from what I’ve seen of the sign-up instructions, this is for Kindle Select books only. The annual fee is charged against your account as a deduction from your sales. No Paypal or credit card charge up front. Once you become a “member” of AMS, you gain access to marketing programs reserved for Amazon’s biggest vendors. Feel empowered yet?

Below are the programs available to members:

Advertising on Keywords/Tags – Pay Per Click

The right keywords and tags can help you with discoverability on your titles at Amazon while setting your own budget allowance for promotion. Popular keywords, phrases, and tags on a book can generate momentum on search pages to get a title noticed. You’d only pay when a reader clicks on your book ad. According to Amazon, a click budget can be as low at $100.00, capping off your cost at your option.

Enhanced “A+” Detail Pages

Sometimes bling is the thing to showcase a book. Amazon offers enticing content for an author’s book page for $600, such as videos, sample page shots, photos and other creative promotion ideas. The deluxe page content also features advanced formatting and rich media content to tease the readers to buy.

Price Discounts

This is a really great idea. Amazon now offers vendor-provided coupon links (offered on the product detail page) to give readers/customers immediate discounts off the Amazon sales price. This will allow you to offer true sales campaigns and promotions during a peak period, in a more nimble way than ever before. You can drive sales during a virtual tour event or for a given weekend or launch period with ease.

Dashboard Sales Analytics

Want to evaluate your promotion effectiveness with REAL sales data? Now you can with AMS. If you’d like to evaluate one campaign service provider or a blog tour or advertising on Facebook for example, now you can if you isolate the event and analyze the effectiveness through analytics offered on the AMS dashboard. You’ll be able to analyze your return on investment down to the title and event to fine tune your marketing strategies with real sales data.

Vine Reviews

Chasing reviews can be a challenge if you want exposure and honest reviews. The cost for promotion service providers to solicit readers for an honest review can take time to scrutinize the potential reader and the cost for such a service can vary. Amazon had its established Vine Reviewers program of pre-approved reviewers. This is a costly service, priced at $1500.00, but it allows you to access the entire Vine Reviewer list without taking the time to approach them one at a time. If you invest in this service, AMS handles the details.

How to sign up for AMS?
If you’re curious about this new Amazon program, here is the link for AMS – https://ams.amazon.com/  I have to admit that I thought this would be for ANY KDP author. That’s how it is presented under the instructions as you set up, but when you drill down into the instructions on page 2, it appears these services are only for Kindle Select books.

Or you can do what I tried to do, which is set up my corporation (or my publishing company name) under the Amazon Advantage program at this LINK. (I thought I could set up as a vendor.) But alas, I could not set up under the Advantage program as a vendor under my company name OR my brand name (author name). On the surface it would appear Amazon is forcing authors into their KDP SELECT program to become a member of AMS. If anyone knows any differently, or had another approach and was successful, please let me know.

I’ve read that if your book has an ISBN and you’re signed up through Createspace, this might get you into AMS, but after I explored Createspace, I did not find a way into AMS this way either.

Here’s link to an Amazon brochure on “Drive Sales with Amazon Marketing Services.”

Here is a FAQ link.

For Discussion:

1.) What do you think of the tools AMS makes available to all authors? Which service are you most interested in?

2.) Is anyone a member already? Have you encountered any problems?

3.) What do you think of the exclusivity of having this program only available to Kindle Select, meaning your book will only be sold on Amazon for a time under those rules?