There are a few ways that facial expressions are very valuable tools for authors:
- People pictured on the book cover.
- Author photos online and in the book.
- Interacting with people in the target audience.
Body gestures go hand-in-hand with the facial expression, even in still photos.
(1) Book Covers
A simple, subtle thing like a facial expression can make the difference between an amazing cover that attracts attention and a lousy cover that gets passed by. I’ve seen covers with eye-catching colors, amazing imagery, interesting fonts, and did everything right except for the facial expression. Unfortunately, the facial expression can be quite influential.
Would the following facial expressions compel you to buy a book that you discovered?
- Blank expressions make prospective buyers feel dull and lifeless. Is that what the book will be like?
- Lack of emotion makes the model seem bored. The model wasn’t too interested in the book, huh?
- If the displayed emotion doesn’t fit the theme, it can have an adverse impact on sales.
- If you want to design an awful cover, just photograph somebody who is yawning. (Unless perhaps you’re selling a book that relates to boredom…)
The right facial expression can put the potential reader in a good mood. Many shoppers are impulsive to the point that the right facial expression can actually help to inspire sales; whereas the wrong expression can greatly deter sales. Even an expression that usually puts people in a good mood is poorly suited if the writing is horror. Everything has to fit.
The expression has to match the content. For example, a model would have a different expression for historical romance than romantic comedy.
Remember, gestures are just as important as facial expressions. The pose has to look realistic. It shouldn’t look like the model is posing for a family picture. For an action book, it should look like an action shot; but it has to look real. The pose has to fit the genre; an action shot won’t look appropriate on many other kinds of books.
Study the facial expressions, poses, and gestures of the models on top selling books in the genre that have highly attractive covers. Get plenty of honest feedback about the cover prior to publishing.
The answer is not that three-letter word. There may be plenty of magazines and other items selling that three-letter word effectively. But if the book isn’t erotica or doesn’t include such scenes, it’s not really selling that three-letter word. Instead, this sort of appeal on the wrong book can create buyer confusion, which deters sales. Very often, it is overdone on a book where the audience really isn’t look for it, and it doesn’t have the intended effect. (There is also possible embarrassment if someone else sees what they are currently reading.)
Think about this: If a girl is dressed up like a barbarian in combat, does it look better if she is smiling flirtatiously at the audience or if she looks like she is focused on the battle? Should she have bright red lipstick on her lips and a clean face, or should she appear battle-scarred?
(2) Author Photos
Many authors include their photos on their books’ Amazon detail pages. They may also appear on their blogs, social media sites, and an About the Author section inside the book itself.
Just like front cover characters, the facial expression and gestures are important on the author’s photo. These help convey whether or not the author should be taken seriously, and seems like someone who could write such a book. A professional looking author photo helps to send the message that the author is, in fact, professional. The photo can convey a sense of personality, but only if it fits the kind of writing that the author sells.
Would you feel compelled to buy a book from an author who looks bored or disinterested?
(3) Personal Interaction
Potential readers can meet authors at book readings and signings. Anytime authors interact with people who might read their books, their facial expressions and gestures can influence sales.
When people from the target audience sense an author’s passion, knowledgeability, devotion, preparation, and genuine interest in them (i.e. they feel special), such things impact sales.
Just like great characters can sell books, authors’ personalities can also help to encourage or discourage sales. The personality also needs to fit the writing.
Imagine an actor or actress who is so passionate about a part that he or she is playing that it carries over to his or her interactions with friends, family, and acquaintances. Similarly, an author’s passion for his or her own book can carry over this way, showing through facial expressions and gestures.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
I know it’s not what the post is about (great post, btw) but aren’t facial expressions tough to describe in fiction without just saying, “The look seemed to say…”?
That’s a good question. I’m curious, too, so I actually posted this question in a new article. Hopefully, some of the great fiction writers here will share their ideas.
That’s cool – I’ll check that out. I suppose we should be on the hunt for good facial descriptions when we’re reading. If I spot one soon, I’ll post it for you. Best, –Mark