What Does Your AUTHOR PICTURE Say about You?

author-picture

IS YOUR AUTHOR PHOTO SENDING THE RIGHT MESSAGE?

This is the question that authors should be asking when trying to find or create a good author picture.

Your author pic can:

  • help to reinforce the message that your product page conveys
  • help to lend credibility at the time of purchase
  • help with author branding

DOES YOUR AUTHOR PICTURE REALLY MATTER?

The picture shown next to the author’s biography is worth some thought, time, and effort. I’m not saying that customers are out to scrutinize the author page. But when customers do encounter the author photo, it can play a valuable role:

  • When I’m looking at a product page and I feel undecided, while I’m thinking it over, I continue browsing the product page. As I scroll down, I naturally see the author’s photo. Sometimes, I see the photo, and it sends a great visual message (see below for examples). But sometimes a golden opportunity is lost. When a customer is on the fence about buying your book, you want to send the right message to the customer.
  • When I want to find more books by the author, I find the author page. In addition to finding a list of other books, I see the author picture. This visual message comes at another pivotal moment, where I’m thinking about buying more books from the author.
  • I often find the author’s photo when I reach the end of a book. This is yet another occasion where I may be thinking about finding more of the author’s books.
  • And for all you authors who have blogs and social media, I see your author pictures several times every day. A good author picture is a valuable part of your branding process.

In the past, I have experimented with my author photo, and found that it could make a very significant impact on sales. One time I put up a picture that cut the daily sales on most of my books way down (while for two books that were related to the picture, sales went up). When I put the original picture back up, sales immediately returned to normal. A few weeks later, I found what I believed was a better picture, and sales improved significantly.

But there have been a couple of times where a new picture scarcely made a difference. It depends on the pictures. Sometimes two different pictures make roughly the same impact on the customer.

The right picture can help to send the right message, and if everything else on your product page is favorable, it can make a difference. On the other hand, the wrong picture can deter sales.

SAMPLE MESSAGES

Here are some messages that an author picture can convey visually to customers:

  • This author looks knowledgeable. This is a great message for nonfiction authors.
  • This author looks businesslike.
  • This author appears family oriented. This can make a difference if your target audience includes parents (that’s the case with children‘s authors).
  • This author seems funny. Important for authors of humorous books.
  • This author has personality. This depends strongly on your audience. With most nonfiction, for example, you want to convey professionalism and be taken seriously: You don’t want too much personality to take away from that. But with some fiction genres and a few nonfiction subjects, some degree of personality can add the right touch. This is the kind of thing I would experiment with to try to get it right.
  • This author has experience. This is often important with both fiction and nonfiction (and the younger the author’s appearance, the harder this is to convey).

There are many other kinds of messages that an author picture can send. The first question to ask is, what message do you want your author picture to send. Then you want to work to create an author picture that sends the desired message. Finally, you need to get feedback from your target audience to find out if your author picture accomplishes the task.

FEEDBACK

You need to ask fans, prospective readers, followers, etc. the following question:

“What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you see my author picture?”

Don’t make it multiple choice. Don’t plant the word you have in their head. If most of your audience immediately says (with a positive reaction) the word you have in mind, you nailed it.

MORE TIPS

  • Change up your author picture when sales are slow. Don’t mess with your Author Central page when things are going well.
  • When you create your author picture, you need to consider such things as lighting, shadows, resolution, aspect ratio, red-eye, bags under your eyes, five o’clock shadow (not necessarily bad), your hair, camera angle, how close to the camera to stand, how much to zoom in or out, what the background looks like and how it works with you and your clothing, etc. Use a search engine to learn more about the art of creating an author photo.
  • Take several pictures and carefully sort through them. Don’t be afraid to start over.
  • You don’t necessarily need a photo or a picture of yourself. I’ve seen many alternatives (some good, some not so much). You might find a picture of an item related to the kinds of books that you write. You might use a variation of your cover or logo. If you absolutely don’t want to show your own face (or if you use a pen name and want to remain anonymous), there are options out there.
  • Spend some time browsing Author Central photos of other authors. You will see a variety of ideas, and you may learn from a few mistakes, too. Something you see might give you inspiration for your own picture.

AUTHOR CENTRAL

At Amazon’s Author Central (available in the US, UK, and a few other countries, but not all of them—and you must visit each separately), you can do more than just add a photo. A complete Author Central page can be impressive:

  • author picture
  • author biography
  • author video (you can’t show book trailers on the product page, but you can have a trailer on your author page)
  • from the author (several possibilities and ways to utilize this space)
  • pictures of your author books at the top (in addition to the vertical list; this is automatic)
  • additional author pictures and recent blog feeds under the top row of covers

EXAMPLE AUTHOR PAGES

Following are a few examples of author pages. Note how mine ends with just my name and not all the funny numbers that show up by default: You can do this from the Author Page tab (look for Author Page URL). This is great for business cards or other places where customers can’t click on a link, but must manually type it in later.

There are many other authors whom I know who have great author pages. Let me apologize to all of you whose name isn’t on my list.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Author Central INDIA

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

AUTHOR CENTRAL now in INDIA

Amazon’s Author Central is now available in India.

Authors can now setup free author pages for Amazon India.

But unlike the UK, France, Germany, and Japan, this is really, really easy.

In fact, it’s automatic.

Once you setup Author Central in the US, it automatically propagates your Author Central page to India.

If you already have Author Central in the US, your author page should already show in India.

Would you like to check if your author page shows up at Amazon India?

If so, use this link: http://www.amazon.in. Once there, search for one of your books. Scroll down the product page and you should eventually find your author photo on the left-hand side.

Note that the Author Central info appears farther down the page than usual, below the review section.

Don’t have an Author Central account yet?

You should. It’s free. Visit http://authorcentral.amazon.com to setup a free Author Central account at Amazon’s US site. Your author page will automatically show up in India, too.

Want to setup Author Central in other countries?

It’s not available in every country. The following list shows where it is available (but for the US, look above).

Every author should setup an author page in the US and the UK, at a minimum.

In the UK, France, Germany, and Japan, you should be able to log into Author Central with your US account info, and it should eventually pull up your books once you get it set up.

Not every feature from the US translates into the other Author Central sites. For example, you can feed your WordPress blog into the US site, but not into the UK site.

While it may pull up your list of books, you may need to input your biography or photos. Check and see what shows up, and then add anything that’s missing.

Works written in English show up under foreign authors in France, Germany, and Japan.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

How to Claim a Pen Name at Author Central

Pen Name

Image from ShutterStock

 

AUTHOR CENTRAL PEN NAME

Do you write under a pseudonym?

Do you write under a pen name in addition to your own name?

Do you write under multiple pseudonyms?

But, of course, you still want to setup an Amazon author page via Author Central.

Don’t worry. You can manage a pen name at Author Central.

You can associate up to three different names with a single Author Central account.

Here is how to claim books under a second name after you’ve already claimed books under one name:

  • Log into Author Central (of course!).
  • Click on the Books tab.
  • Proceed to claim a book that you’ve written.
  • Search until you find the book under your second name.
  • Claim the book.
  • Author Central should recognize the different name and prompt you.
  • Click the option to add the pen name.
  • Enter your pen name.
  • When you see your name, click This is Mine (to the right).

Once your pen name is added to your Author Central account, the next step is to deal with your dual personality. Hee hee. 🙂

Here is how to switch between multiple names associated with a single Author Central account:

  • Log into Author Central (I call this step Doh!).
  • Click on your name (whichever of the names it is) in the top right corner.
  • This will show your list of pen names.
  • Click on one of your pen names.
  • Now you can choose any of the tabs over to the left.
  • When you want to switch pen names, just click on the name in the top right corner to select a different pen name.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Put a Video Trailer on Amazon’s Author Central

Author Central

AUTHOR VIDEO

I created an author video and uploaded it to Amazon’s Author Central today. If interested, you can check it out on my author page:

https://amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen

It’s incredibly simple: You just make a video, upload it to Author Central, and wait up to 24 hours for the video to be processed and approved (mine showed up on Amazon in less than an hour).

On the background, you can see a white dry erase board installed in a spare bedroom. I used a Sony camcorder (surprisingly small and inexpensive, compared to 20 years ago), which recorded the video in MP4 format. If you have a smartphone, you might be able to use that instead. Or maybe you can borrow a recording device from someone. Many computers even come with basic video editing software, in case you need to edit the video or add effects. (Though sometimes keeping it simple works best.)

I mounted the camcorder on a tripod, adjusted the angle, level, and zoom. When I was done, it was easy to transfer onto my computer and then upload to Amazon.

For me, the ‘hard’ part was the ‘simple’ things that I had never thought about before:

  • It’s allergy season, so I was trying desperately all morning not to rub my eyes and make them any redder.
  • Unlike writing a book, you have to give a little thought to your appearance.
  • Lighting, reflection, shadows. Sunlight entering through windows, overhead lights, not too bright, not too dark, reflection from lights on the dry erase board. It takes some thought, patience, and effort to combat these issues.
  • Noise pollution. If you’re writing, noises disrupt your concentration and train of thought. But if you’re filming a video, you have to do another take. Even if you wait until the house is empty, the phone or doorbell will surely ring, or a garbage truck will stop by.
  • Then you have to figure out what you’re going to do or say. I got all my props together (books, since it’s my author video), placed them nearby with bookmarks in key pages, turned my Kindles on and opened books (just before pressing record), and wrote some words on the dry erase board in the background.
  • I found myself a little camera shy at first. Surprisingly, for me it’s easier to stand in front of 80 students than it is to stand in front of the camera. (Normally, I find it difficult to be among large groups of people, yet somehow I love to be in a large class and teach.)

Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t let authors post book trailers on the product pages. But you can post an author video (or book trailer) on your author page.

The author video doesn’t show up on your product page. But if a customer clicks on your author profile from your product page, in order to pull up your author page, your author video will show up on your author page.

(Evidently, Amazon can ‘invite’ an author to post a book trailer on a product page. Good luck receiving an invitation. The next best thing, which requires no invitation, is to post a video on your author page.)

Do you have an author video on Amazon? If so, please post a link to your Amazon author page so that we may check it out.

I actually installed the dry erase board and invested in the camcorder so that I could create books with instructional videos. The free Kindle Textbook Creator tool allows you to embed videos in your Kindle e-books. I’m going to try it out with some math and science e-books. You may see a post about embedding video in an e-book in the near future.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Getting Squeezed (images on the new Author Central page at Amazon)

Squeezed

AUTHOR CENTRAL CHANGES

Have you checked out your Author Central page at Amazon recently?

The layout changed. (Well, every once in a while I see the old layout, but most of the time the new layout shows.)

If the new layout is showing, you’ll see a row of your cover images at the top, your blog or Twitter feeds below that, then your list of books.

You can view my page as an example, if you wish:

http://www.amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen

(Note the link above. Doesn’t that look better than http://www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS? If you print your link on a bookmark, for example, the above format is simpler. The ‘secret’ is to log into Author Central, click Author Page, and follow the instructions where you see Author Page URL.)

Do you see the problem with the new author page layout? Every image is the same aspect ratio. Unfortunately, not all books have the same aspect ratio. So some book covers are getting squeezed at the top of the author page. You can really see it with my astronomy book above: The actual book cover is square, and so it appears noticeably distorted at the top of my author page.

In many ways, a wide image makes for an attractive thumbnail at Amazon, but not at the top of the new author page. Also, a narrower image works better for Kindle e-books when customers shop from a Paperwhite and other devices.

So what aspect ratio works best for the top of the author page? The ‘trick’ is to right-click an image and view the image info. I did this and learned that every image is scaled to 158px × 248px, which is an aspect ratio of 1:1.57. That’s pretty close to the Kindle Fire screen size, 1:1.6. In print, 5.5″ x 8.5″ and 5″ x 8″ are near enough matches, while 6″ x 9″ isn’t bad.

If you use 5″ x 7″, this will get squeezed a bit (since it’s 1:1.4). Large print books like 8″ x 10″ and 8.5″ x 11″ get squeezed significantly (these are less than 1:1.3). Square books, like 8.5″ x 8.5″ look quite distorted. If you have a landscape boxed set, that’s a disaster (unless the only text appears on sides of a box that don’t lie in the plane of the screen, then nobody can tell).

Does it really matter? Probably not too much. This is just an issue on the author page. It doesn’t affect the product page at all. Somebody has to click on your author profile from the product page just to get to your author page. Even then, it’s only the row of books at the top of the author page—the thumbnails that appear below are fine.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for less than the price of 2) now available for Kindle

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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