Author Photo -- Then & Now (Cheryl Reneé Herbsman)
You'd be surprised how often people ask if that's me and my husband on the cover of my YA debut, Breathing. It's not. But I always find it interesting that people think it might be. Even though I had the design team make the female model look significantly less skinny than she actually did in the real photo (that's a story for another day), I still wouldn't mind people thinking I ever had that body.
We ended up using two author photos for the book. I found myself shocked and somewhat terrified when my editor called to say, "Hey, could you send us an author photo in the next day or two?" What? I suppose I'd known I'd need to do that at some point, but no one had said anything, and I didn't realize it would be so soon. So I was completely unprepared. "It doesn't have to be anything fancy," my editor said. "A snapshot is fine." But I didn't want a snapshot. It felt too important. Having an author photo was just one more piece of the dream of becoming an actual author and I took that dream very seriously.
Luckily, I have a neighbor who's an amateur photographer. I called him up and he was happy to come by and take photos. We took a lot of them -- inside, outside, in a white top, in a black sweater, smiling, not smiling, up close, far away. In the end, we decided to go with this one. It was taken in my living room. I think I liked this one best because it felt the most real. The smile didn't feel forced, my eyes were actually open (which is rare for me in photographs), and I hoped it felt as though you were standing in the room talking with me, the way it might feel to be with me in real life.
So I sent that one to my editor and she loved it and that might have been that. Except the next day I was sitting on my bed, where I almost always sit when I'm writing, and I looked up and saw on my wall a framed photo of my husband and me when we were teenagers. We're on a beach, which was always our favorite place to be. It's also my main character, Savannah and her boyfriend, Jackson's favorite place to be. And the idea popped into my head that maybe it would be fun to use that photo instead of the author photo. I asked my editor what she thought (of course fretting that she would think it was ridiculous) and she loved the idea. I sent her the photo and she thought it was perfect, probably because it really evoked the setting and the feeling of Breathing. She still wanted to use the author photo I'd already sent as well so it would be clear that the book wasn't written by a teen, but rather reminded the reader that I'd been there and remembered what it was like.
I can assure you that when I was sixteen-years-old it never in a million years could have occurred to me that this picture would someday find its way to the cover of my first published novel. (Clearly, if I had thought of it, I wouldn't have let the fact that I had no clean clothes left convince me to wear that shirt!)
But I do love this photo, I love the sweetness it shares, and I love that it pays homage to our relationship because I don't think I ever would have made it to the point of getting a book published without my husband's support.
So that is how I ended up with two author photos on the cover of my debut novel: the author then and now.