I did my first-ever photo shoot yesterday, courtesy of Denver-area photographer Eric Weber. Eric does tons of headshots for actors—including Tom’s—so I figured he’d do a fine job for my author photo.

Why a professional author photo, you ask, when I’m still a writer and not quite an author? One word: marketing. I’ve made my first pitch and will make several more when I attend the Romance Writers of America national conference next month. If an agent is interested in a writer’s book, the agent will Google the writer, see what they’re doing online, see how many followers they have on Twitter, take a gander at the website. And what’s on their website? A picture. And it had better not be that picture of you from last year’s conference where you cut out Darcy who was standing next to you and you’re grinning a bit maniacally. (Not that I did that. At all. Not even close. Okay maybe that’s my profile pic on my Facebook author page.)

A proper picture tells a prospective agent you’re ready to be an asset in the real world of book marketing, that you’re polished and professional and already hard at work building your “platform.” You’ve been telling potential readers about your book and building buzz. You’re serious about becoming a published author.

Whew, I’m feeling all growed up about now.

As for the shoot itself, I had a makeup artist do her thing first, as I have no idea how to do makeup for photos. It always amazes me how much makeup you can have swabbed, smoothed and brushed on your face, yet look like you don’t have much on at all. I’m also incredibly impressed when someone else can put mascara on me and not stab me in the eye or blind me. (By the way, once again a professional makeup artist used Maybelline mascara—the stuff in the hot pink tube—which pleases me. I like that I can buy industrial-grade mascara at Target.)

The actual picture-taking part was fun, though stressful. You would think that for someone as vain about her looks as me, a photo shoot would be like Christmas morning, but I didn’t feel like I was very good at it. I had to smile not just to smile, but to convey something else, a “buy my book” message. I had to keep my “brand” in mind, that I want to appear friendly and approachable so readers will want to keep in touch with me and keep reading my books. I’m selling myself as a storyteller, but also as a friend, because when I look at authors’ website pictures, I like the ones who look like I’d want to chat with them. But I’m a romance author, so a bit of glamour or sexiness is just fine too. One little picture has a lot of work to do. And Eric did a terrific job of putting me at ease and getting the expressions he wanted.

My job now is to look through the dozens of pictures and choose the best one. Then Eric will make it all pretty, adjusting the colors, etc. (possibly erasing my ever-increasing laugh lines!), and poof! Jean Ditslear of Redwall Communications (she designed my site) will put it up on my website and my fancy new business cards. I debated putting my picture on my business cards, as it smacked of me being a Realtor or an actor. But business cards fly around the RWA national conference like fireflies in June, and a picture will help people remember who I am. It feels rather vain, but at the end of the day (a catchphrase I hate), it’s practical.

Stay tuned for the big reveal. And thanks for your support!