Almost Famous–Live from L.A.

Yes, I am in L.A., the land of the rich and beautiful. Well, I have heard rumor they are around here somewhere. Didn’t see them last night when I snuck off to Broadway for dinner at El Pollo Loco. I found myself wolfing down my food prison style (arm curled in front of the plate, plastic knife at the ready). Why? Um…the five homeless people banging on the glass next to my head might have been a tad nerve wracking. I was tired, been flying all day, and I was not sharing my chicken with anyone, even if they were willing to trade me a bag of aluminum cans.


Yes, I have one. So here I am in L.A. and I walk into the hotel and see a gaggle of romance writers in the lobby. It was so refreshing to see FACES I knew from Facebook and Twitter; peeps I have seen float by my screen for-like-ever.

Channeling my inner Valley Girl. Oh muh Gawd!

Oh, yeah. Back to my point. Here in L.A. everyone has a headshot. Probably even the housekeeper who bought me extra towels. They have this headshot…just in case. They want to be movie stars and movie stars have pictures of themselves…which got me to thinking.

Yes, I made sure not to stand next to anything flammable.

Best-selling authors all have pictures of themselves on their Twitter (normally it is the picture on the back of their books). Experts and authorities all have a picture of their face. And suddenly it struck me how pleasant it is to see a human face. Not a cover of a book, or a cat or a landscape or even a hunka hunka’s six-pack abs. A face. A smiling, friendly, happy, inviting face.

I enjoy seeing faces. I connect differently with tweeps and FB peeps who use a picture of themselves. The people who hide behind book covers, to me, are always at a distance.

Thus, my position as social media expert is that we always use a picture of our face. It connects with people. It makes us more approachable. We don’t have to be model-beautiful. Some of my favorite faces on Twitter are real people…with a smile and twinkle in their eye that says, “Let’s be peeps.”

Oh, I know some people with wail and gnash teeth over this. But, I have to be blunt. The first people I approach at conferences are those I recognize. I also am far more likely to repost their stuff and promote them. Must be a subconscious thing because I just noted that behavior. If NY Times best-selling authors all use a picture of their face, and we want to eventually be like them, stands to reason we would watch what they do and emulate it.

I know that my avatar for the longest was a picture I had taken of myself. You know….where you set the camera on the counter and press the button and jump back and hope it is just blurry enough that none of your wrinkles show. Finally, as a gift to myself, I let the professionals take over and invested in a headshot.

What do you guys think? Author’s smiling face? Or book covers? If you don’t use your own picture, why? I’m curious. What’s your opinion?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Stay tuned for March’s winners. Will post soon. No Mash-Up of Awesomeness today. The hotel Internet connection makes glaciers look fast. I nearly tore out all my own hair just trying to get the blog posted. Okay, done whining. The MUA will resume next week. Promise.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.


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  1. Enjoy LA and good luck at the convention.

  2. I think my blog/Twitter picture is one thing I did right. Maybe. I still have to do the name change thing. Yup, hello Leanne Shirtliffe.

    By the way, if you see Colin Firth in L.A., tell him Leanne says hi. And maybe a few other things.

  3. Have fun at the convention! And…Headshot all the way. I compromise, though, and have several–just-the-face, and also one with the pets (on a count of my writerly furry topics *s*). Besides, one hopes that there’ll be more than ONE book, and with a headshot there’s no need to keep a-changing your Avatar just when someone started to recognise you.

  4. Yep, I agree a face is better. Though getting that picture was hard, LOL. Finished WANA over the weekend and set up my sites (still need some tweaking) yesterday. Have fun at the convention.

  5. Definitely faces. I know a lot of people don’t like to do that because they’re paranoid about how they look or whatever, and yes, I know I’m blessed to be married to a photographer with mad photoshop skillz (seriously, he took one round of pictures of me IN FULL HIVES and you can’t tell), but for all the reasons you said, faces personalize. It enables you to connect with people on a visceral level. We as humans are hard wired for that.

    I think, being that authors are so often a private bunch, there is a tendency to want to hide behind things. Handles. Pen names. Avatars. But as you’ve said before, this isn’t witness protection. We are WRITERS, people! We should be LOUD AND PROUD of what we do.

  6. The photo that you are using on your blog now is gorgeous and just right — it matches your writing wit and verve beautifully.

    May the Prose Papparazzi be with you in L.A. … have fun!

  7. I like seeing faces too…have a great time in LA!

  8. Maybe some of the post-apoc writers sent some zombies your way, disguised as homeless people. Hope you’re enjoying L.A.! (they must have a time machine there, b/c you seem partly stuck in March on your post, LOL).

    Really do have a face, but wordpress isn’t cooperating when I post a comment, drat it. I’m a face everywhere else though 🙂

    Thanks, Kristen, for posting for your peeps even when you’re away!

    1. Now it’s working! 🙂

  9. I prefer seeing faces too. I need to hurry up and upgrade my blog so I have a real profile picture of myself.

    • Callene Rapp on April 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm
    • Reply

    But….this is what I really look like!

    1. Funny Callene!

  10. This reminds me, i need a WordPress account. Having my avatar up seems to attract more responses than the anonymous pattern WordPress uses.

    • laradunning on April 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm
    • Reply

    I’m with you, headshots are important. From the get go I wanted to use a picture of my own face as my avatar. I think that is just as much of a branding tool as your name – or pen name. If you write more than one book, which is usually the goal, having your book cover as your avatar would constantly change. When I log onto twitter or look through comments on my blog there is a strong association with the image people use for themselves. I often seek people out by their image if they use a catchy name phrase instead of their real name.

  11. Glad to hear you’re not standing next to anything flammable while you’re doing all this thinking 🙂
    Having a picture of yourself is a bit like using your name for identification, it helps (and I’m being sarky here). No matter what you look like, its easier for me to identify with a face than a pink bunny. That pink bunny instantly polarizes people, they either like or dislike, whereas everyone expects you to have a face.
    Have fun in LA!

    1. But it still refuses to recognize my picture … ho hum!

  12. Definitely a headshot. If I’m “talking” to someone, it’s nice to know what they look like. And a smile instantly engages people.

  13. Hi Kirsten,

    Thanks for your post and greetings to LA. I spent two months over there early this year. Well, I certainly agree with you that recognizing faces is important when you go on conventions etc. However, I also believe that it depends what you are doing. If you are in the solar business, no one will be attracted to your face but to the sight of a nice panel or a symbol of nature. In case you are in the health sector you want to attract people by something soothing or enjoyable. This is at least what I would like to see, not the face of some XYZ and a Doctor title in front of it. Too many of these around.
    In your case, however, or for anyone who would really like to become famous, I guess one has no chance but showing faces. The book cover won`t do. It also says a lot about the personality behind it. Then again, I judge people by what they write, not what they look like. I don`t care what they look like if they have something intelligent to say which might also be extraordinary. One gets to know the personality way more intense than by a pretty face – who cares? I liked Elizabeth Gilberts books. I tried to imagine what the person looks like who would go through all these experiences and write in such a witty style. That she is also pretty, was really more of a turn off for me. Thinking “Ah, now I understand, why she got into the bestsellers”. What I am saying is, that it is sometimes probably not even helpful to show your face. Not showing it and convincing by your deeds actually creates more of a “myth” around the author. Just my humble opion. Your picture looks nice, though.

    Enjoy beautiful LA


  14. I agree. Why on earth would a person be on FB and not use a real picture of themselves? Isn’t that defeating the real purpose? It is called Facebook. By gosh show the world your real face and not some cartoon character. When on FB, I want to see a real human face that I can relate too. So, for all you cartoon lover, flower lovers, dog or cat lovers, get brave and bold, show your friends a great photo of yourself. Your fans will be glad you did. Oh, my, gosh. I’m starting to get on my band wagon. I sound like you, Kristen. That’s crazy man.

  15. Hug a romance cover hunk for meeeeee!

  16. I like the headshots too. Otherwise the flesh will just reanimate and then you’ve got to…wait, what? We’re not talking about killing zombies? Oh, I thought the people outside your window last night were metaphors or something.

    Right then. I agree. That’s the official position of me and my entourage (read: little dog).

    Although I’m pretty sure Piper thinks my Twitter pic looks like Christian Bale if he wasn’t scary. But I refuse to show cleavage on my profile pic. Or Clayvage. Either way, I’m not flashing my chest to advance my career. Probably. Maybe.

    Be sure to show LA what awesome is all about for me.

    1. Definitely a non-scary Christian Bale, with or without the Clayvage. 🙂

  17. Looks like I’m on my own here, but I use our book cover for my avatar, and the clue as to why is in the word “our”.

    Taking on all the great advice in WANA we (my co-author and I) decided to go for a brand right away. But we realised having two names on a book is not a brand. It’s a recipe for confusion.

    Rather than have a silly argument over which of our names we used, we opted for a new pen-name, unique to us, that only one of us would front.

    Saffina Desforges was born.

    Put my name, Mark Williams, into google and see where it gets you… A zillion hits and it would take a week to work out which one was actually me.

    Put Saffina Desforges into google and up comes our brand, our book, our blogs, websites, etc, every time.

    No question, as you say, that a face is easier to relate to, and my co-author uses her face as the face of Saffi for precisely the reasons you give.

    As the back end of this particular pantomine horse, it therefore makes sense for me to use the book cover as my avatar, for my contribution to the brand, rather than confuse readers with two faces. Bad enough having a second name on the blogs!

    Does it work?

    Well, just a few months ago Saffina Desforges didn’t exist and our book Sugar & Spice was unknown and unpublished. We bought Kristen’s book and took her advice.

    Today we still don’t have an agent or a publisher (the world of dead-tree publishing moves very. very slowly). But our book is a best-seller!

    Saffina Desforges is a brand, selling more than 20,000 books a month on Kindle UK, and in the top five in the Kindle UK charts.

    Thanks Kristen!

  18. I followed your advice in We Are Not Alone and opted for a head pic on my blog, Twitter account, and FB. I would LOVE to get a professional photo, but so far I’m using one I took with a self-timer. It does look like me, so I guess that’s okay.

    It’s a real lights-on moment when you realize that as a writer, you are selling yourself as much as your book! (Yikes! Am I THAT interesting?) But these days, you can’t be a recluse shaving every two years (face for men, legs for women) and churning out a novel every five years with a “no interviews” policy. You ARE the brand…especially if you want this to be a CAREER and not just single-book, “Look what I did!” hobby. People want to know something about you as well as read your writing. I always look at the book flap with an author’s photo because I like seeing a real human being; same here.

    Thanks for the advice!

    1. I feel compelled to say for the women in the bunch that long pants covers a multitude of hair legs… 😀

      1. DOH! COVER a multitude of hairY legs…

  19. I like to see faces, even if they’re not the real ones. I just like them to be real pictures of someone’s real face. This one to the left is one of about 50 that my hubby took here in our kitchen. Some day I’ll spring for a professional pic, but I’m still deciding what to wear. 🙂

    Have a great time at the convention. Can’t wait to hear about it.

  20. Headshots… As long as the picture resembles you as you are… People are slightly different on picture than on real life. I’m quite sure I won’t recognize you at first when I see you like the authors and editor I’ve seen in RT Book Camp.

    I live in the valley and went to the RT Book Camp yesterday. I heard from friends I made that the internet connection at Bonaventure is bad, too. But I digress. It’s surreal to see people I’ve only seen in Twitter before so seeing Angela James in flesh (she’s more beautiful in person than her head shot) makes me a little star struck. That’ll probably be the case when I see you in person (trying to hold my squeals).

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see you. Maybe in the future, I will. Until then, enjoy the convention. Maybe I’ll crash the event. 😉

  21. Finally bought WANA on Kindle today – AND I’m with you on the smiling face thing, but I want to see a face I might recognize – SO not author with spouse, kids and three best friends. Not author 20 pounds lighter, 20 years younger or 20 margaritas drunker. Author smiling period.

  22. Yes, I absolutely agree with this! Especially on Twitter, I look for people’s avatars to pick out their tweets from the crowd. A picture of a face means so much more.

  23. I agree Kristen. Even a picture with poor lighting and showing all the wrinkles is better than no pictures at all. I have to get mine redone sometime soon, as it was done for a corporate job I had and isn’t very friendly (very serious, no smile). But it’s better than no picture for now.

    Hope you have a great time at the conference.


  24. At first I didn’t use a picture of myself because I didn’t have any good ones. I mean, if I counted giving metal fingers while wearing a black tank top in a back yard a good picture then, yes! I absolutely had one.
    I finally got my boyfriend to take some serious pictures of me in non-slutty clothes. Now I have a head shot on one of my blogs and I have some other respectable picture of me on my other page. My Twitter account has a picture of me as well. I no longer use my favorite band logo… darn it.


    • Cindy on April 7, 2011 at 12:04 am
    • Reply

    It’s not that I don’t love the idea of a sparkling picture of ME jumping out from my Facebook homepsge. For me, it’s a question of safety. I’m a middle-aged woman living alone. There’s already SO MUCH information about me out there in cyberspace (some intentional, some not) I just can’t bring myself to put that final piece out there. Sure, if I’m meeting someone at a conference, I’ll email you a picture beforehand and we can have a mutual laugh over how bad it is–no problem but for now, my CAT takes front and center on any of my pages, he’s much cuter anyway!:-)

  25. Groooaaannnn….Kristen, can this just be one of those I know you’re right but I don’t wanna things? (and yeah, read that as whiny as you can) Part of what I love about the internet is being about to just be the me I know is in here. Um, yeah, hangups galore on this one. I always tell Kait: easy for you to say, pretty girl! But I know both of you are right, and that I made a decision to be something other than “just me” and should suck it up and deal. I have agreed to a photoshoot with her guy next time I make the trek to go see her.

    At least my old avatar was a face. I think this new picture better represents what I plan to do, but…everytime I glance at it I see Charlie Brown’s midsection.

  26. Definitely a headshot – I like to see who I’m connecting with, makes them more personal to me.
    Have a great time in LA!

    • Texanne on April 7, 2011 at 12:14 am
    • Reply

    Photo ID on blogs is okay, though not the least bit necessary for me.

    However, photos on Twitter all look alike. So, here’s a batch of beige. Could be anybody. Except Bob, who is a batch of gray. As a user of Twitter, I’d much, much, much rather see a strong symbol rather than a beige blur, or lordy! some animation or photo taken from so far away that it’s a green blur. Just give me some kind of image that’s easy to see and quick to identify. Put your photos on your blogs, if it makes you happy. Or on the back of your books, 20 years younger, 20 pounds lighter, and a completely different shade of red hair, and the whole thing.

    Having said that, I do not have a good symbol for me, either, but for now, how about some nice flowers–hey, a blue and green blur!

    • Texanne on April 7, 2011 at 12:15 am
    • Reply

    Now, see, that is the old avatar. I thought I had killed that thing. Back to Gravatar for the coup de grace.

  27. Love your post, Kristen! I agree–even if I don’t know a full name, you get used to seeing the same photos and they do feel like old friends. How cool to run into them at the conference! I had photos taken, but they aren’t my normal smiley type. The photographer did her own thing, and I’ve been thinking of having another one taken. Do you think I should social media goddess? Love yours, by the way! Looks fun and warm and gives off good vibes. Have a blast in LA!

    1. I think your picture is lovely, but when you do get new ones made an open warm smile is more memorable. Just my opinion :).

  28. I know it’s not popular to love L.A., but I do 😀 I have great friends, family and good times whenever I go there!

  29. I like faces – particularly on things like Facebook. You feel much more connected to a face than a book cover.

  30. I use my face! It’s probably one of the few things I’ve done right from the get-go. I agree that I much prefer to see a human face than an avatar, book cover or any other cutesy thing.

  31. You’re in my neck of the woods??! Wish I’d known…I’d have brought you a token of appreciation for all the author brand time and advice. 🙂

    Have fun at RT….say hi to all my OCC/RWA peeps if you know them. Tessa Dare is definitely there but I’m not sure who else.

  32. Have fun while you are out there! I’ll have to get my own headshot now…

  33. I’ll make sure to wear a beret to every writing conference I go to, lol!

    Have a good time in LA, Kristen!

    • Pj kaiser on April 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen – you’re definitely on the money with this one. I connect differently with peeps who use real pictures too. When I first joined twitter I used a snapshot of myself wearing sunglasses cause … Well… I was kinda shy. But then I realized that I loved seeing other people’s faces so much I felt I needed to “come out”, as it were, and use a real pic. I had a professional headshot done at the same time we had family pics taken so it was not that expensive. And well worth it 🙂

  34. FACES! It’s how I knew you when I saw you sneak into the back of the room, lol! So I’m all about faces!

    • David N Walker on April 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm
    • Reply

    I agree. It’ll be good to see your face a week from Saturday.

  35. Hmmm. Headshots.

    Even if I look like a goober?

  36. Definitely faces. I’ve been saying for years that I think writers and other publishing/entertainment industry people should also have a headshot on their business cards (like real estate agents and actors do). It makes it sooo much easier when you return home from a conference or networking event (after meeting/chatting/exchanging cards) with 100+ people, you can actually remember which name goes with what conversation.

    Have fun in L.A.! Dance a jig with one of those homeless guys–that’s what I plan to do once I escape FL and move back there. LOL

  37. Ok, so I guess I should upload a lower resolution pic to Gravatar. Maybe we don’t need THAT much face in the picture. =)

    • Gene Lempp on April 7, 2011 at 8:58 pm
    • Reply

    Definitely a head shot, although I’m just a random color snowflake at the moment. On FB I use a picture from an old Golden Book but that will be changing soon as I move that medium toward writer platform, yep, been reading this cool book by Kristen Lamb and learning 🙂

    Best of luck in LA! Bring back a palm tree globe (can’t be a snow globe, so, when you shake this one up coconuts fall off and bounce around inside…).

  38. I like photos. It gives me a connection to the author.

    Have fun being famous in LA!

  39. I’m attending my first writing conference this weekend! Woohoo! Been referencing your post on your first experience and Clay’s recent one quite a bit. I think I packed accordingly. I have a week of vacation *Angels singing Hallelujah!!!* and I brought LOTS of books with me and plan to spend my time writing writing writing. And reading, obviously. I just hope there aren’t zombies at my conference. (Actually there are zombie marches at our capital right now, but it’s cool we’re on the same side when it comes to the apocalypse, I mean budget cuts, they’re upset about.)

    As for your tactful and honest post, I agree that faces peak the most interest. I’ve been contemplating getting a headshot done and may do that soon. What I like about yours is that is very professional looking without losing all the style and vigor your writing has. You use color and fun prints to mesh your personality and profession into one. Enjoy your time in LA!

  40. Alright. Alright! You shamed me into it. I’ll put a pic up…of me this time (although my cat likes the publicity and he rather good-looking). It’s on my to-do list now. I should have one up by the end of next week. Sheesh. Stop harping on the cat pics already. LOL.

  41. *ahem* He IS rather good-looking…forgot the “is” *hanging head in shame*

  42. This is an interesting one. I do use my own face for my twitter avatar, but it’s a strange shot. A close up of my eyes, nose and mouth.

    I like to think it looks like I’m peeping at people through a little letter box.

    I definitely prefer faces to covers…

    I’ve linked to your blog on my blog. Check:


  43. People want connection. Why else would we all be doing this? Showing your own face feels to me like taking that first step towards getting to know somebody…anybody, really. It shows an openness to others.

  44. But but… what if you have a day job that you don’t want to mix with your writing? What if you want to stay incognito until you’re rich and famous and no longer need the day job?

  1. […] Kristen Lamb talks about using a headshot as part of your branding on her blog and the overwhelming majority of her comments were in the same vein. Show yourself! The question of why you wouldn’t want to show yourself came up. I have a couple of theories on this. […]

  2. […] Almost Famous – Live from L.A. @ Kristen Lamb – don’t hide behind a picture of you cat, writers, show us your face! […]

  3. […] Kristen Lamb shames encourages us to put our best face forward. […]

  4. […] that deal with social media and leaving your stamp on things.  Kristen Lamb recently blogged about the head shot (no we’re not talking zombies), and that she thinks people should use a picture of themselves […]

  5. […] blogged about this topic when I was in L.A., but one thing that will make us stand out on Twitter is a nice headshot of a smiling FACE. We are […]

  6. […] out on Twitter, Kristen’s blog is a really good place to start – and she’s met Dean Koontz (SO […]

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