Yesterday, I posted about the catchy opening on author Barry Eisler's web site. I also posted his headshot. Although we did talk about that blurb and the premise of his books, that photo caused quite the stir.
All hubba-hubba references aside, that's a magnificent promotional headshot. His expression, the five-o-clock shadow, the dark attire--all help to convey the tone of his novels. If you scan his website, you'll see plenty of candid shots of Eisler smiling, clean-shaven, and wearing glasses. He looks like he has a great sense of humor. He looks like a nice guy. If he copped that look for his promotional headshot, he'd be setting the reader up for a different tone. Perhaps they'd be expecting a cozy mystery as opposed to an edgy thriller. Instead, for promotional purposes he opted for a dark and dangerous look, a perfect tie-in to his books.
Perception. Something to keep in mind, writers, when you invest in that professional headshot. Your clothes, your pose, your expression. Are you accurately setting the reader up for the tone of your work? Note Nora Roberts who also writes as J.D. Robb. She uses a softer photo (softer make-up, hair, light-colored suit) to promote her 'Roberts' romances. A tougher, sexier look (heavier make-up, darker clothing) for her edgier 'Robb' series. When you look at the author photo on the book jacket, she's setting the reader up for the tone of the book.
Performers run into a similar challenge. Often an agent, buyer, casting director will see the performer's headshot before they ever see their work. The headshot/bodyshot sets a tone, and if that tone is light, the actor might get passed over, never even considered for a darker role. The actor may well possess the chops, but the buyer has already been influenced by that headshot.
Actor Bruno Amato, recently ran into that problem. Although he auditions and lands roles for several various shows such HOUSE, ZOEY 101, and VERONICA MARS, he found he wasn't being considered for detective roles. Perhaps the casting director took one look at his headshot and thought, "Naw, not this guy. He looks too nice." Thus a trip to his photographer for new headshots, shots that conveyed a more serious tone. Hard-boiled dectective as opposed highschool football coach. Hop over to Bruno's blog and check out his latest post. He provided a link to a contact sheet that features several different poses from that 'detective' photo shoot. Note his attire. But also note how different expressions convey different mood and tone.
Are you a performer? An author? Take another look at your promotional headshot. What is it saying to the buyer? Are you accurately promoting the tone of your work?