Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 10

PART TEN: Bio and Photo

I can hear you now … “Oooh, this one’s gonna be easy! I already have a bio and photo.” Wait. Don’t think so fast. There are several things to consider when you’re creating the correct image for yourself. You’ll notice I didn’t say the “perfect” image for yourself and there’s a very good reason for that. This part of a Well Business Planned Future covers the obvious – a bio that honestly and correctly states your qualifications and a photo that shows not only who you are, but how you want to be perceived. In addition, today we’re going to slip into the realms of  voice, timely poise and action. In other words, we’re going far deeper into the complete image of who you, the author, are.

Why? Because if you aren’t interesting, no one will want to know about you, interview you, show your face in a story or article, or talk about you. It’s only half the package to promote your book and never make yourself a powerful force behind that book, especially if you’re writing a series or if you write in a specific genre that attracts loyal following. Many agents (including mine) say that the reader doesn’t give a squat about the author, only the book and title. My response to that is simple … BULL PUCKS!

Seriously. It’s this kind of thinking that has put authors in a terrible position. Because of the shifting publishing industry, the author suddenly needs to not only understand and implement marketing and promotion solutions, but they need to create image. Literary agents are begging their clients to build platforms, but on the other hand, telling them that the reader doesn’t care who the author is. How can one build a platform without a hammer? More precisely, how can you build a platform without being an author who is visible and approachable?

It’s time to take the reigns, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to everything and rather than shiver like deer in the headlights over this whole thing, drive the wagon where you want it to go. What makes sense and what doesn’t? Advice comes from a hundred directions, but sometimes it’s tainted with old tried and true systems that simply don’t work any longer. Book/Author marketing and promotion has slipped into a new place, it has unique, hybrid needs that require unique, hybrid solutions. Say “Bull Pucks” to your agent and/or advisors who tell you … “Readers don’t care about the author, only the book and title, and oh by the way, start building a platform” … and let’s get your image how you want it.

  • Bio and Photo. All right, kiddos, when I say you need a bio and photo I don’t mean just a bio and photo. I mean a BIO AND PHOTO. Your bio must be true, accurate and impressive. It should identify you as the one and only person qualified to write the book you wrote. Your photo must be up to date and attractive. Yes, I know you prefer to sit at your keyboard wearing a sweat shirt and baseball cap but trust me, you are not making the kind of statement you want to make by using such a photo in your Media Kit (or on your twitter or Facebook page, but that’s another rant all together). Do yourself a favor and be honest with your photo. Remember who’s looking at it – i.e. television and publication people who might want to interview you or include your photo in their story. Remember the movie A League of Their Own? No one wants to be the Marla Hooch who only gets the long distance shots or radio interviews. Respect yourself and what you’ve accomplished. You’re an author.
  • Polish and Poise. Yeah, I said polish and poise. If you have created a powerful Book Business Plan, you will need to back it up with a polished and poised image. Let’s slip into the future a bit. You have built a wonderful media kit, displayed prominently in your author and book platforms (in the media rooms of your author website and your book website). A writer from the L.A.Times takes a look. She discovers that you are writing in a genre that is selling like crazy, that your book is coming out soon, where it will be distributed and what it’s about. She has just about all the information she needs … except we want her to want more. She checks out your photo and unlike your original photo (which may have looked like a smiling homeless person holding an ugly dog), this photo tells a clear and precise story about the author are. You look awake, bright and intelligent. Now remember, I’m not telling you to hire a professional studio photographer to take a corporate portrait of you. Your best friend might have shot the perfect photo while you were reading in the park amidst autumn leaves, or while speaking to a group of other authors, or even while simply sitting on your sofa holding a copy of your book. What I am recommending is that the photo represents your personality in an inviting and interesting way. Now, let’s say Miss L.A.Times writer likes what she sees, she likes your look and your bio information sprinkled with wonderful bits of information about why you became an author. Now, she’s a little more interested and pops you and email, requesting an interview.
  • Action Polish and Poise. It starts the same way, a radio or television interviewer with a book-talk show responds to your request or press release, comes to your websites for the media kits and sees what he sees. Will you be interesting enough to present on radio or television? Is there enough information in the bio and photo to make a lively interview? Say they think “yes” and give you a call. You have questions to ask. Don’t get all flustered and excited and just say you’ll be there with bells on. Your questions should include:
    • What questions will they be asking?
    • Will they require a copy of you book to read before the interview?
    • How long will the interview take? Is it live or taped? How long will the total interview be, after editing?
    • Should you arrive early?
    • If television, what should you wear (colors or styles)? How much makeup should you wear, or will there be a makeup artist there?
    • If television, what should you bring? A book? Your banner or poster (the one you should already have for promotional events)?
    • If radio, will they be asking you to read an excerpt?
    • Will they provide you with a copy of the interview for your website media room?
    • What day and time will the interview be aired?
    • And finally … what kind of cookies do they like because you should always remember to treat them nicely. A sweet thank-you is always appreciated by the interviewer and staff, and doing something nice keeps you in their memory, a great thing for when your next book comes out.
    • In the meantime, if this is your first interview, try practicing. Get a tape recorder and listen to your responses to the questions they’re going to ask. Are your answers interesting? Is your voice clear or garbled? Are you talking too fast or too slow? Don’t panic, practice makes perfect. Listening to yourself talk or videotaping yourself as you make responses can be priceless in helping you polish your presentation style.

Now that we’ve covered Bio and Photo and a little more, what are you going to change about your current image? Are you ready for the big time because the truth is carved in stone … the Big Time doesn’t come to you, you have to lure it in!


Author Success Coaching

Publicity Marketing Promotions

Author Success, A Well “Business Planned” Future

Lesson 1, But … I’m a Writer, Not a Businessperson

Lesson 2, Your Subject Hooks and Selling Handles

Lesson 3, How Long

Lesson 4, Author Platform and Book Platform

Lesson 5, Target Markets

Lesson 6. Your Exposure Plan

Lesson 7, Your Promotional Plan

Lesson 8, Your Competition

Lesson 9, Resources Required

About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

10 responses to “Author Success: A Well “Business Planned” Future, part 10

  • Cynthia Echterling

    I write fake autobiography and have a fake photo and biography for my character/writer. I dread the day when someone wants to get behind that image! 😉

  • Deborah Riley-Magnus

    Hey Cynthia, as long as the checks are written out to the real author, right? LOL!


  • Suzannah Burke

    Thank you, this is such a timely post for me Deborah, I can’t afford a professional photo shoot, however have a good friend who has a knack with photographs coming over on the weekend. I have selected various colors to wear that are vibrant, and some that are strictly business. I have rehearsed hairstyles, both flattering and hopefully attractive. It will be fun of course, but the main objective is an updated profile shot or shots to try out on my various sites.

    I am who I am, and I want the photograph to reflect a little of the crazy and a lot of the warmth. My other piccies are outdated and too informal.
    Thanks for this post, now I don’t feel quite as silly for thinking this was a good idea.

  • Fran Orenstein

    Thank you for the great tips, Deborah. Getting known as a respected author is important, the books will follow on our reputation. I write in different genres for different age groups, kids to adults, so I keep my picture and bio generic.

  • Deborah Riley-Magnus

    Perfect, Fran,

    Knowing your reader (and in this case, variety of readers) is the most important part of creating the right author image. Good job!


  • Sascha Illyvich

    it’s definitely something to strongly consider. The Author Image is one that I feel can be part of a persona and not, at the same time.

  • Deborah Riley-Magnus

    Sascha! Exactly! WOW, you get it! LOL


  • Tim


    I see a lot of people who think that they are “free lance” editors in this E-business. Tell me, Deb, of your background and literary education. Which books might one read to further a career in writing?



    • Deborah Riley-Magnus

      Hi Tim,

      One of the things I will say first here, is that I’m a writer just like you. I’m not a writing coach or editor and I certainly seek those out when I need them.

      What I am is an “Author Success Coach” and what I do is help authors navigate through the marketing, promoting and publicity difficulties. No one is helping them anymore. Publishers, big and small, have backed off, and even agents are looking more closely at authors with successful sales and marketing track records before signing new clients. It’s a tough world, and without all the help the last generation of authors received, authors now need to understand all the nuance and responsibilities of making themselves Marketing Savvy.

      My background is 27 years in advertising, marketing and public relations. I’ve written for radio and television and handled numerous public relations projects over the years. My first book was fiction and my non-fiction book entitled “The Author Success Coach: Strategies for Author Success in a Turbulent Publishing Landscape” is being released in August/September of this year. If you have a writing career you want to make more successful, I’d imagine you have little need to craft and technique, so focus on books that target marketing, promotions and publicity. These are the three most important skills for real sales success.

      And yes, do be careful of “Free lance” editors. Ask for credentials, ask to see a list of which books they’ve edited, ask to talk to their clients and be sure to request a sample of their work on the first ten to twenty pages of your manuscript. Most do this, and it will give you a good idea of their skill level and turnaround time.


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