(Jeff Herrity wrote:) I was currently reading the most recent issue of The Writer magazine (September 2009) – looking for tips and other things that can help John with his branding and marketing efforts behind getting his book Dodging and Burning published. Coincidentally, I ran across something that confirmed a recent discussion we were having.
At dinner the other night John and I were talking about elements that we felt were VERY important and what will make his site more engaging and visually interesting. Content is, and always will be, king. We decided that the photos we included must be GOOD and representative of who John is. All cliches aside, a picture is worth 1,000 words and words are important to writers; in this visual culture, the images that represent the writer should be as carefully chosen as the words that represent the writer. This may seem a little vain, but in creating a brand of yourself, you want it to be the shiniest so that it stands out in a crowded marketplace.
This discussion was confirmed in the ‘Take Note’ section of The Writer magazine (September 2009) – the article discusses how an editor at HaperCollins mentions that “attractive authors ‘get a little bit of an advantage‘ when marketing their books, especially when it come to visual media.” (Before you leave hateful comments, the article still says a great picture can’t save a crappy book.)
As my previous blog post mentioned, John is a ‘brand’ and his site must represent clearly who he is. His site must look good. (Or at least better than the competition!!!)
I’m getting ready to launch John’s personal web site in the next week or so, and I had a heck of a time selecting images to use throughout his site and its photo gallery. (Yes, your site should include a photo gallery.) I like pictures of him for specific reasons or snapshots that they remind me of trips or funny things that have happened that we managed to catch on film. Some of these are great to use, some not. Pictures can quickly and easily be taken out of context and must remain neutral, yet convey WHO the subject is.
Here are a few tips for you when selecting images for your site:
1. NEVER use a photo with flash. Nothing will make you look like a wide-eyed, pasty zombie like flash blow-out. Use something with natural lighting, or a softer flash and deflector. Leave flash photography to professionals.
2. The setting should be interesting, but not distracting. Crowd shots should be avoided. NEVER use a photo of you on the dancefloor at your friends wedding.
3. Remember that your branded clothing just became advertising. While it’s not a bad thing, be careful of product endorsements. That Hooters t-shirt may send the wrong message about your pro-feminist literary masterpiece.
4. Close-ups are good if done well. Otherwise they can be a disastrous display of pores.
5. Be careful of the crop tool – there are actually rules on how to best crop a photo. Nobody should wonder if you don’t have a left arm from the elbow down.
6. Now is not the time to play with the five zillion filters in Photoshop. One or two photos that are ‘arty’ are fine – but you don’t want someone to say “Oh, look who upped the saturation on that one!”
7. Do not share. While its great for your mom to have access to your flickr photo-stream, you shouldn’t provide an automatic feed from flickr to your site. (And while you are at it, leave anything that is ‘intimate’ off the web. Or, if you can look at a picture and the first thing that comes to mind is: “…Gone Wild” it’s also a good idea to just hit delete and save yourself future embarrassment.)
While none of these tips are hard-and-fast rules, just try to use your best judgement when selecting images that represent who YOU are – to people that do not know you. Of course, don’t only select images that would be the most professional representation of who you are – try for a sampling that give a good range of your personality.