Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Author Photos: Are They Necessary?

Many of us hide our faces while we blog and only post our true photos when we sign with an agent or publisher and sometimes not even then. I’ve only ever given out my photo when it was a requirement to accompany an article or short story that's been accepted for publication.

Many believe the author photo is needed to build the author brand, to offer people an association when they think of you as a writer. Many also believe those who use a photo come across as more professional.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a photo is necessary before an author gets signed? If so, should we pay for professional photos? Do you need to know what an author looks like? Do you need to know what a blogger looks like?

I’d like to hear your opinion.

--
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71 comments:

  1. Personally, I do like knowing what authors look like, but I know a lot of readers don't necessarily feel the way I do. It never occurred to me not to have an author photo, but will admit that sometimes I feel a bit... exposed.

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  2. I think for a book - it's nice to have a photo of the author, but not essential for me. The trend these days is to have pics of journalists too next to their articles. I don't see the point but I guess these days things are so visual and so interactive that putting a face to the name seems to be the thing to do. Personally it detracts me from the writing - but that's different I guess to having the author's face in the dust jacket of their book. Am I making sense?!? Off I go!

    Take care
    x

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  3. I hate, hate, hate photos but unfortunately, I do think they are necessary. Query Tracker had a pretty nice article on that here (http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2011/02/your-author-photo-general-tips.html)

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  4. Now that we're buying ebooks, which rarely have author's photos, I think we'll see less and less of writers. However, when you're famous and the press follow you around, a picture or two is bound to come out.

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  5. I really like having a picture of someone on their blog-- I feel like I can connect with them better. And I like author photos, too, for the same reason. Still, I don't plan on getting a pro photo until a publisher asks for it-- if that ever happens. :)

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  6. I also like knowing what the author or blogger looks like. Makes it more personal I think. :) I don't know if I'll get a professional photo if I get published, but you never know. If the publisher asks for it, then maybe. :)

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  7. I totally need and love seeing how a blogger or a writer looks like! And I'm sad most of them never show us their pics. I know you're among them, Lyndy :) but fortunately this little spy has managed to take a peek at your pic over at Facebook :) But I don't get bloggers who never show their pics. We bloggers hang around each other for such a long time, become great friends, we start loving each other, we visit and read each other blogs every day ... sometimes we become the best of friends, or as you said once we influence and inspire each other in ways we are not even aware of ... so not seeing the face behind all of it is strange and sad.

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  8. Photos are nice, but I don't think they're necessary ... obviously. :)

    As a teacher who includes a romantic storyline in everything she writes, I worry my employer may not be happy with me using my name and photo. So for now I'm sticking with the flower :)

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  9. It took me awhile to post a photo on my blog. Now I'm ok with it, blogland isn't as scary a place as I thought at the beginning and so I have photos of myself on all 3 of my blogs plus facebook. What I don't care for are the posed professional "author photos." They seem silly to me. Why not just get a cool pic that shows the real you and use it for an author bio photo, even on a published book? Instead of looking like you're the CEO of a major company or something. All stiff and formal. If I were to get a professional bio photo, I'd go for more artsy than formal.

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  10. Jennifer, for me, as a reader, I'm not so interested in what an author looks like. I think it's more important for building an author brand though (I'm just a bit resistant because I too feel a bit exposed)

    Old Kitty, yep, that makes sense :)

    Sierra, I'm the same :( And yep, I read that article. It was good.

    Clarissa, interesting point about ebooks.

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  11. Shallee, this seems to be a recurring theme

    Chantele, yeah, I've seen brilliant professional pics and I've seen terrible ones too.

    Dezzy, I kinda knew what you would say ;) But the thing is even you use a cute little 3D avatar! Admittedly you look just like your avatar, but still... ;)

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  12. Jemi, that's a good point. I don't have that excuse ;) I'm just shy lol.

    KarenG, oh, I love what you have to say about professional photos. You are so right! I prefer the outdoor ones. They seem more relaxed.

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  13. Pre-publication, I don't suppose it is of the utmost importance to have a photo done. It's nice to put a face to the name in terms of bloggers, particularly when they write great posts, but I guess it isn't absolutely essential. I form my own visuals anyway. :D

    Once the book contract is a done deal though, a professional head shot is nice so that people can start associating the writer with their book. At a teleconference with my publisher and a group of other writers, we were told that it was important for branding purposes and I believe that.

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  14. yes, Lyndy, but I've posted my real picture many times, and in first year of my blog I had only my real pics, so pretty much everyone knows how I look like :) I've put the avatar because it basically gave my blog an original and a whole new image which seems to attract readers and new visitors. So I kinda have a good excuse :)

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  15. Yes and no. Really, when your advertizing your book, no one cares what you look like. I saw a really bad add recently where the author probably paid $$$ and there was her pic, looking all grumpy in the corner, distracting from the book. The pic of the author will not sell the book.
    Then again, when I love a book and care to read about the author, I want to know what he/she looks like, what inspired them, etc... Then again, I'm a writer. I know that all writers are sharing a part of themselves through their books, so the pic just is one more piece of of the puzzle.

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  16. FWIW I enjoyed having to have a good photo for my book covers. So many of mine over the years have been far short of good. ; )

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  17. And you know my opinion, because I've been dinging you about posting one. LOL

    I personally like the visual connection; perhaps cuz I'm an artist and very visual. But not everyone is comfy posting one, and it should be a personal choice. Don't post one if you're not comfy with it!

    I agree with the others; I won't bother getting a professional one (yuk, I'd hate that) unless I'm forced to by a publisher or whomever. :)

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  18. I think they're kind of important, but that said I don't have a proper official writer/author photo myself yet ;)

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  19. I think I'll avoid photos until I absolutely have to. I sort of like the semi-anonymity and also don't mind when people don't have photos on their blogs. But I'm also one of the least visually-oriented people I know, so that's probably why.

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  20. I like to see a photo, though it isn't essential. Someone can be old, like me, and post a young photo. I've seen baby photos! And kitty ones (Hi, Old Kitty!). I didn't post a younger photo, but I did keep trying until I got a photo that didn't make me look ancient. The camera CAN be wicked. And I didn't want to pay for a professional photo; I'm with KarenG's comment above!! And there's the comment above about eBooks. No photograph on the front cover, or no photograph at all.

    Then I'm thinking how photographs, for me, make it all more personal, and in a constantly de-personalizing world, I think I go for photographs.

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  21. I do like to see what a blogger or author looks like. I don't think it's a requirement, but I very much appreciate when I have a face to put with the name. I don't think I'd pay money for a professional photo until I had a book coming out, though.

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  22. I agree with many of the others. I have always been a visual person. As a kid, I would assign faces to the characters in the books we read for school - usually celebrity faces, though I always associated the 'not so nice' characters with those I didn't care for at school. It helped me comprehend the story. Since blogs are more personalized writing pieces, I do prefer seeing the face behind the voice.

    I had a professional CD made back in November, and I use these pictures for anything related to my writing. I think it creates a professional image and invites readers to your page. (Of course, my face requires a lot of digital enhancements to be pleasing, so that was a big motivator as well...)

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  23. I think it all depends on what you like as an individual. Are they necessary? Not really. Are you not going to buy that fascinating book just because the author has bad hair in the photo. No. So then what's the point of making a big fuss over it. I like the beauty of anonymity in a world where too many of us freely give too much of ourselves away. I say keep your face to yourself if you can!

    ♥ Mary Mary

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  24. I don't think they're necessary, but I do wonder why they don't have one (if one is missing from a jacket). I realize it's a personal preference, so I don't really mind if someone chooses not to have one. It's a way of connecting to the author though, and that's increasingly important for sales these days.

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  25. I like knowing what an author looks like, but it isn't necessary for me to purchase a book. Besides, a lot of the author photos I've seen are usually a younger image of the author anyway. The author's writing should speak for itself, but a photo.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

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  26. I don't know if a photo is needed either way. The writing should speak for itself. The reason I show my real photo and use my real name, I think it's responsible. If I'm going to put my name after the words I write it keeps a certain level of integrity.

    Nikki

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  27. Love your new look :) I like to see the author's picture, but I'm too afraid to put up one of me!

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  28. I love photos! There is something to be said for faces...they are the only physical part of us that expresses who we are - our personalities, our feelings, our emotions. Our face makes us unique; everyone's other body parts all kinda look the same, but the face tells us a story. So much of our non-verbal communication is said in our face. I know still photos can only say so much, but I think it really helps readers form a psychological connection - a relationship - with the author whose work they love. Just sayin'.

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  29. It doesn't bother me, but I've gotten less squeamish about it over the last few years. I can see how it would be helpful as a branding tool, particularly as humans remember faces. However I've noticed that many web comics will have sketches they've done of themselves in their comic style, and that seems just as useful. So possibly if you don't want a picture of yourself, a graphic representation could be a good compromise.

    I also use author photos to determine gender. It can be potentially embarrassing if I were to call someone (e.g. Morgan Smith) a "she" when the person is really a "he." So I appreciate people making it clear, just so I don't stick my foot in my mouth.

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  30. I like seeing author photos, mainly because, like you said, it forms a kind of 'author brand' and as a fan of their work they become a lot more recognisable to you. This has plus points in book signings (when I gave books away at my local library for World Book Night, I was asked if I was the author and could I sign it for them. The book was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman :P)

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  31. I don't really like them. A good writer should be unobtrusive in the telling of a novel, so it doesn't make much sense to me to have photos on back covers. It's the story that counts.

    They do seem to be getting more popular lately, though. Luckily I write for children where photos are still rare. (Not that I'm published yet :)

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  32. I never really thought about it before. I've been blogging over a year now and I still haven't shared a picture of myself on my blog. I keep telling myself I will, but haven't made the time to do it yet.

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  33. I don't think it's essential, but it is nice to see the author's face. I do think it helps build a connection.

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  34. I read an agent's blog post a couple of months ago and she said that, yes, you should have one and it should match the look and feel of your book. Personally, I want to see what the author looks like.

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  35. I always check out author photos when they're there, but I don't think they're absolutely necessary. Sometimes a little mystery can be a good thing. Yes? :o) <3

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  36. Personally, I think author photos are
    are important when you visit a blog or a website, as we can connect with the face behind the words written. As for a book, I don't think its mandatory (my publisher insisted on putting my photo in my books)overlooking my reluctance.

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  37. The voice of the blogger/author is more important than the looks.

    I respect other people's choice to remain faceless, although I don't really see why it is seen as important.

    :-)

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  38. I vote for the picture. I just enjoy seeing the person speaking. On the other hand, some of the avatars people choose (like your flower!) also share a bit of personality that a normal picture can't capture. I only recently thought about having a professional picture taken...I suppose if a publisher ever asks for one, I'll spend the money!

    Carla

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  39. I do have my real photo on Twitter and other places. But I love my astronaut head, which I made in photoshop. I think photos can trigger prejudices. So, I'd rather stay under the radar and let my stories shine for themselves without the reader bringing in any preconceived notions -- as long as possible. Of course if I get signed by a big publisher and agent and they demand a photo, I'll for sure get one to them.

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  40. J L Campbell, yep, it's that association I think that's important.

    Dezzy, darnit. It seems I'm running out of excuses ;) And yes I love your avatar.

    Erin, if an author shows a pic, then it really has to be a good one.

    Zan, that's my problem! I don't like any of my photos!!!

    Carol, yes indeedy you have ;) I do plan to post a pic, I'm just not ready. I don't even know if I will end up using this name because it's so common. Hahaha

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  41. Trisha, same

    Sarah, interesting to get a non-visual point of view.

    Ann, I think your last point is the clincher. It's that personal touch (especially if the photo is a casual one rather than set in a studio).

    Susan, if you have a patient friend willing to take billions of pics, there's bound to be one in there that you like so there isn't any need for anything professional in the early stages.

    Paul, haha yeah I can doctor any photo thats been taken, so that helps ;)

    Mary Mary, from a reader's point of view I don't think a photo is important. But what about a networking, career building point of view?

    Jess, some authors are kind of funny looking. ;)

    Mason, true the writing should speak for itself.

    Nikki, interesting point.

    Las Vegas, thanks :)

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  42. Personally I feel if there's a face behind the name, all the better to connect with the readers.

    Great points in your post as well as in these comments.

    BTW, I'm hosting Roland D Yeomans today, who self-published his book THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS and is sharing his journey with us as well as a four book giveaway!

    www.nas-dean.blogspot.com

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  43. Kelly, well said though :)

    Callie, hahaha yep, I've come across that problem before too. lol

    Jamie, lol you could have been an author for a day!

    Girl Friday, yep I'm thinking they aren't so important on the books, but kind of more important in the networking side of things.

    Susanne, yep same

    Talli, I'm realising this is true.

    Shari, yeah but what if the author's look doesn't match the stories they write? My friend made a fantastic comment on my facebook page regarding this.

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  44. LTM, in regards to book covers, I agree.

    Rachna, I think you've nailed it :)

    Misha, and that's a good thing too in my case ;)

    Carla, thanks :)

    M Pax, your astronaut head looks awesome and it matches your name (for anyone who doesn't know, you could be a male writer) and the stories you write.

    Nas, based on these comments, I think the majority prefer seeing a photo for networking.

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  45. I think photos are necessary to build the author brand. In my case, however, the writing nut logo which I made on inkscape seems to do a much better job than my actual face:) so i'll stick with that for now.

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  46. I don't think a photo is necessary but everyone has their own opinion. I don't use one. On the other hand, I do post pics of myself on my blog, occasionally, and now I'm doing some vlogs too so that puts my face out there a bit.

    Jai

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  47. I don't think they are necessary on books. For some reason, I like to see photos of bloggers. Published or not. Feels more like a conversation I guess.

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  48. I think they're so cheesy!! Some of my favorites have come from Stephen King. Ahhh...he makes me laugh. But at the same time I see their worth and the reader-connection. If that day comes for me, I would pay a professional to take the "official" photo. I've tried it on my own/with friends and they just turn out stinky. :)

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  49. I don't think photos are necessary, but I like being able to put a face with a name. At conferences, I've recognized blog friends and they've recognized me because of our blog photos!

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  50. I'm with those who think it helps. I started off blogging with no face, but it really took off when I added a picture to my profile. I invested in some professional pictures while promoting my first book last year, and it's been worth it.

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  51. BTW, my book is launching next weekend, and I need all the support I can get, Twitter, FB, blog, etc. More details on my blog, thanks!

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  52. I don't use (or have) an author photo. When/if I publish a book, that's when I'll plaster the interwebz with my face. ;)

    Although, I do send a picture of myself when I do guest posts on other blogs...

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  53. I don't need to see the author's photo - and you know how I feel about mine!

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  54. I don't think it's that important to know what an author/blogger looks like. I always associate you with that purple flower :-) And another blogger I associate with her picture of lips, and another with her picture of crossed legs. I think it helps that there is SOMETHING to associate a person with, but it doesn't have to be a real photo.

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  55. I like having my photo for the blog, as it ties with my pov. But, if and when I get published, I will think more about it. Readers like to have a face to place with the words written, at least I do.
    Just keep writing. When faced with a conundrum, just keep writing.

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  56. I hate, hate, hate having my picture taken and I'm always annoyed by people who judge by surface vs. substance.

    That said, I think a blog photo is helpful. Because social networking is about making friends, we want to know what our friends look like. Not to judge if they're pretty/plain/; old/young, but to have an image to hang the information on.

    I actually think the photo is less important for book jackets than for social networks. I don't think I ever knew what CS Lewis looked like, but he was my favorite author when I was growing up. It was his characters that mattered to me.

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  57. I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Powerful Woman Writer Award.

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

    ~Deirdra

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  58. Photos help readers feel connected to you. I've even heard people say the writer seems more trustworthy when they post a photo - maybe this is because we were willing to share ourselves in some sense, I don't know. I've posted a few photos of myself on my blog, but it's usually with a group. I guess I'm self conscious and this helps. There is only one photo of me alone and it's the one that appears when I post comments. It's also alongside my bio. For better or worse, I suppose I should update it preiodically.

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  59. nutschell, heeh the nut is cute

    Jai, I have to say that seeing what you really look like made me feel more connected to you.

    Kari, yep, I'm coming to that conclusion also.

    Valerie, yep, his author pics are more casual.

    Dawn, yep that would be handy

    Myne, intersting! Oh and congrats on your book launch. Although I'll be on my blog break, I'll see what I can do to help out.

    Ibdiamond, yep that's a common thing too.

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  60. Alex, yes indeedy ;) You seem to be doing fine without one too :)

    Rachel, I do the same

    Susan, hehe sounds familiar ;)

    Anne, that judgement is inevitable and unavoidable though (even if there is no pic I guess). Great points.

    Deirdra, thank you so much for the award :)

    Sylvia, interesting point about the writer with a photo seeming more trustworthy.

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  61. I always look for the photo, but if it's not there, I'm okay...

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  62. I saw you already “caved” and posted a photo, but I’m chiming in anyway.

    It seems like I’m in the minority here but I don’t think they are necessary. I rarely look at the photo of an author in a book I’m thinking of reading. It IS fun to see photos of fellow bloggers though. ;)

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  63. Pat, well there's one there now ;)

    Holly, I came to that conclusion as well. I don't think they are necessary for the books themselves, but I think they are important for the ease of creating a connection when we blog and network. Thus I caved ;)

    I need a better photo though--one where I'm not squinting into the sunlight and one with a more interesting background than dead grass. HAHAHA

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  64. So where have I been??? I missed the contest--but happy for the winners! Enjoy your break-- I've been gone from home a week and going to try to catch up in the coming days.

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  65. I like knowing what an author looks like just to get that more personal conncetion. My last job involved talking to many customers on the phone and establishing an ongoing relationship. It was always so cool to go to a tradeshow or other personal contact event to see what the people actually looked like. After that I always felt more personally connected to them.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

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  66. Lee, yep, that was the conclusion I eventually came to so I posted my pic in the "about me" tab :)

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  67. For me personally, I like to put a face to a name. I feel like I know someone better when I can picture them, and I like to 'know' the writers I'm reading, whether it's a blog, article, or novel. For online photos, I don't think you should necessarily have to hire a photographer. If you only need one good photo, you could pay a lot of money for a bunch of pics and only use one. I'm going to have my sister-in-law, who's an amateur photographer, do a little photo shoot with me so that I can change my writer picture and then choose an author photo when I have my book published.

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  68. It's handy to know an amateur photographer. The beauty of digital photography is that you can take a billion pics and there's bound to be one winner ;)

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  69. Yes, I think a photo is necessary. You want your readers to get to know you and that's just another way. A professional photographer is a must.

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  70. Suzanne, yes, professional photogaphers--or at least, someone who knows what they are doing--makes a huge difference.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.