book dedications,book cover design,publishing success,book editor,author websites,self-editing,rules of self-publishing,self-publishing workshop,proofread,self-publishing,booktrack

Are Book Dedications Really Necessary?

Book dedications are a time-honoured tradition. But is your book really incomplete without one?

At a book signing one time, a girl was perusing my novel, when a man sidled up to her and said, “You can tell how good a book is going to be by its dedication.”
This, I have to admit, was something I was quite unaware of.

The man then smirked at me, picked up my book, and read its dedication aloud:

“To the Bearded One in the Sky

Or in the Ground

Or Wherever You Call Home These Days”

He looked a little astonished. I have a feeling that it wasn’t what he was expecting.

Book dedications bestow a high honour on those who have inspired us. Whether it be that certain teacher, a close family member, or anyone else who pushed us on with unwavering support, thanking them in permanent ink is our way of giving back.

The dedication tradition is so cemented in publishing that, although it’s usually completely disconnected to anything else in the book, it has its own page, and is often times considered a standard part of a book’s front matter, along with the table of contents, foreword, etc.

Some famous authors have had fun with dedications, or created ones designed to get back at people.

Yet author each felt the need to include a dedication, again, because of tradition.

But what if you chose not to include a dedication in your book? Are readers so used to them that they might feel something is missing?

As a reader, I believe that the dedication is a quick way to get to know the author better. There’s always the “About the Author” page, but dedications always seem more personal than a biography. In many cases, we learn what’s important to the author: their spouse, their cat, their editor, etc. We see who else really played a role in creating this work of art.

[tweetthis]Because, as we authors and editors know, creating a book is a team effort.[/tweetthis]

Even if you dedicate your work to the wind and trees, there’s always something to inspire us. So, as a writer, I will always include a dedication.

As you may have gleaned, I like to have a little fun and be lyrically ambiguous with my dedications. Here’s the one from my second novel:

“To the Pain I Feel

Whenever You Dance Across my Heart”

So who or what am I talking about? Not to be coy, but I think it would ruin the fun if I confessed its meaning. Rather, I prefer the reader take those dedications and apply their own feelings to them.

In other words, who or what has danced across your heart, and left such an indelible mark that it bled?

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


repetitive strain injury

4 Moves to Avoid Repetitive Strain Injury!

For writers (or anyone spending several hours a day on the keyboard), there is a risk of incurring Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The wrist, elbows and shoulders are areas commonly affected.

So how can you avoid the pain, inconvenience, and loss of productivity that’s associated with this condition?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

Previously, he’s provided sound advice about neck and back stretches and working your core at your desk. This week, Alex offers four steps to help you avoid repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow tendonitis and frozen shoulder, all while staying productive at your computer!

Read this first: Perform the following exercises either as a warm up before working on the computer, or during a midday break. When you first try them, find a space near your desk that allows a three-foot radius.

Once you are comfortable with the moves, you can bring the exercises to your desk space. I suggest standing, however, as not only do you have the advantage of space to work with, but you should also notice your core becoming engaged as it compensates for those fluctuations in your hand.

1) Flying FingersIn this exercise, you simply open your hands, fully extending your fingers, and then close them into a loose fist.

First, perform this exercise quite slowly, holding your hands in front of you at shoulder height. Do 10 repetitions. Shake out your hands.

Repeat the exercise three more times, now opening and closing as rapidly as you can for about 30 seconds. Don’t cheat! Make sure your fingers are fully extended and flexed on each repetition.

You can also try these different positions: out in front of you, above your head, or out to your sides, with your palms either up or down.

2) Waving In and OutThis is another opening and closing exercise. This time, the fingers will move independently of each other, one flowing into the next.

To get the motion, think about finger tapping on a desk in which the pinky-tip strikes the surface first, followed by the ring, middle and index fingers. Begin with your hands extended in front with your palms turned up. Wave the fingers in while simultaneously flexing at the wrist and elbow, bringing the hands toward you.

Once you are fully flexed, allow your elbows to wing outwards to allow your hands to continue their circle down, and then away from you as the fingers wave back out to a fully extended position. Repeat 10 times.

3) Shoulder FliesIf you are familiar with the shoulder press, this movement is quite similar, except that you provide your own resistance!

Raise your hands above your head, with your fingers together and your thumbs out, creating an “L” shape. Bring the hands together at head height with your hands locked at the webbing between your thumbs.

Now, press your hands together as you extend them in an upward direction. Release at the top, allowing your hands to drop back to head height.

Repeat and alternate between locking positions (left hand in front, right hand in front). Start with 30 reps, and work up to 100.

4) Front & back-strokeReady to hit the pool?

Well, if you don’t have time to really go for a swim, we can pretend by finishing with this relaxing move.

As the name suggests, this is exactly the motion of a front and back stroke. Maintain a straight elbow, and reach to your utmost extreme positions to the front, above, and behind.

Try 20 front strokes and 20 back strokes with each hand. You can do one hand at a time, or alternate as if you were actually swimming!

Have fun and live well!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

strong core

Build a Strong Core Without Leaving Your Desk!

Ok, you might not get ripped abs typing away on your computer all day. But you can develop a strong core and improved wellness with these three simple moves.

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part two of a five part series.

Last time, we touched on correct sitting posture. By focusing on this you’ve already begun to build that strong core! Just by keeping proper alignment while sitting, you are activating your postural muscles including the lumbar and abdominals.

So here are three more moves that can help with wellness, while being productive at work.

Belly Breathing: Our first exercise will take this correct sitting posture and add a type of belly breathing into the mix. Belly breathing is taught in dance, martial arts, singing, and other disciplines.

The majority of adults who have not been formally trained in belly breathing from one of these disciplines usually breathe using the expansion and contraction of the rib cage. This fills little more than the upper chambers of the lungs, just over a third capacity. To fill the rest of our lungs with vital oxygen we must consciously draw down our diaphragm by expanding your belly while inhaling.

To make the cleansing effect of our respiratory system extremely efficient, we must also come as close to completely emptying our lungs as possible when exhaling. To make this happen, simply flex those abdominals as you breath out until past the point you feel you have nothing left. Yes, this will help strengthen those stomach muscles. And what’s the wonderful side effect? How about increased blood flow to the brain even more rich in oxygen! Are alertness, thought power, and focus important to any of you?

Lounging: No, I don’t mean lunging. But lounging might not be quite as easy as it may sound either. More like edge-of-your-seat action!

First, shift forward in your seat so that your back is well away from the backrest. Now, slowly begin to lean back maintaining a straight spine. You should notice your abdominals are forced to flex, with the tension increasing the further you lean. Find a position that works for you and provides a sufficient challenge. Start with 30 seconds to test the waters, but you could potentially work to 20-30 minute stretches of this exercise rather quickly.

Knee Lifts: Alternating knee lifts will help you target your lower abdominals. Choose a time when you know you have a few minutes of reading or reflecting to do this exercise.

Push that keyboard drawer in and move back enough to give your knees some clearance. If you’re reading, adjust your monitor to make sure you are not straining your eyes in the process.

Now raise one knee towards your chest, as high as you can go before returning to the original position. Try to maintain a steady movement with a 3-4 count up and a 3-4 count down, consisting of about 10 reps each leg per set. You can alternate performing sets of the exercise by thrusting the knee as quickly and high as you can and gently returning it down.

WARNING: Do not throw your head and body forward to raise your knee higher! Keeping good posture throughout these exercises is paramount!

Bonus Move! Since the above exercise does require you to be slightly further from your desk, let’s look into another option you can even perform while writing!

You can also engage your core focusing on lower abdominals by extending your feet off the ground and away from you under the desk.

Begin by shifting forward until your sitting bones are close to the edge of your chair. When you hold your feet away from your centre, your core is forced to engage utilizing the lower fibres in order to counterbalance the weight. Your abdominals will receive a sustained isometric contraction building muscle tone and endurance.

Start with 10 second repetitions and work your way up. When you can maintain the hold for at least 30 seconds, try easing in some paddling with the feet (moving them up and down alternately).

A strong core will help you in your daily life, whether you’re lifting a child, carrying groceries, painting a wall, or delivering a presentation. Don’t neglect it!

Part Three coming soon!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

neck and back

Office Wellness: Neck and Back Stretches

When you sit at your computer for long periods of time, often the only exercise you get involve your fingers clicking away at the keyboard. But prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to issues with joint health, repetitive strain injuries, and other complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can writers do to avoid compromising their overall wellness without sacrificing blocks of precious writing time?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part one of a five part series.

Part One: Neck and Back

It is important to keep your back and neck supple. Some cultures even proclaim this to be the key to youthful longevity!

As a writer, or anyone spending a lot of their day in a fixed position, suppleness can be easily lost. You’re probably familiar with the mainstay methods of dealing with back health at the desk. For example, there are proper ergonomic angles associated with your workstation and its relation to your structure that are good as a general rule, and in itself can save a lot of injury. Your chair should be at a height that allows your hips and knees to be at 90 degrees. Shoulders relaxed and back aligned. Elbows around 90 degrees and keyboard height adjusted so that you can maintain your wrists in a neutral position. Take a ten-minute stretch break every 2 hours.

I believe that’s a really great start. But even sitting properly all day long isn’t going to cut it in the long run. Things get too stagnant. Muscles will spasm and vertebrae will seize. Lets look at some simple things to add to the mix to prevent this from happening.

The Slither:. Imagine you are a snake and your next idea lies across the field ahead of you. All you need to do is slither over and get it!

First check and make sure your back is in good alignment. Need help? Now begin by tilting your head slowly to one side (try to manipulate one vertebrae at a time). When it has reached its limit, fluidly allow the tilt to continue at the shoulders, then further down your back until your hip is about to rise off your seat. Now you can switch directions again starting by tilting your head to the other side.

Once you get the hang of it you can try adding in a small twisting motion and changing the size and speed of your slither. Not only is this an inspiring visualization, you will be flexing and extending the spine and all of its connective tissues laterally, giving your whole back a gentle stretch. Do it a few times on either side or as much as you need to. Remember, even when you speed it up a bit, this is meant to be a softer exercise.

The Flower Stretch: Another great stretch for the back and shoulder girdle is a modification of what I call the Flower Stretch.

Again, make sure your posture is on point. Hands on your thighs, eyes forward, breathe in deeply to the bottom of your belly. Slide your hands down towards the inside of your knees as you exhale, lips relaxed. Tuck your chin and round your shoulders spreading the shoulder blades away from each other. At this point, you should be feeling a good stretch in the upper back and neck.

Over the next few breaths, work your way down to target the lower areas. You can add a slight slither into this as well and cross your arms to use your fingers to crawl down your shins. When you are ready to come up, do so while inhaling slowly. Go past your original position, pulling your shoulders back and looking up.

Don’t miss this opportunity for a big smile!

Owl Stretch: Once again, begin by checking for proper alignment of your back. Next, simply rotate to one side beginning at the head, down to the shoulders followed by the remainder of the spine to the hips. Aim to achieve 180 degrees looking directly behind you. You may use your hands on your leg or the arm of your chair to assist the stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

After completing these three exercises throughout your day, you may find yourself feeling like you’ve been out for a massage!

Speaking of being out, I can’t over state the importance of just getting out for a walk every once in a while. Not only are the physical benefits fully evident, it also works wonders to regain a creative flow when your thoughts are stifled.

Next up we’ll discuss core strength. Now that we know how to keep our backs loose and supple, we need to develop the necessary strength to support its structure!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

book dedications,book cover design,publishing success,book editor,author websites,self-editing,rules of self-publishing,self-publishing workshop,proofread,self-publishing,booktrack

A Pro’s Advice on Book Cover Design

Thinking about your book cover design, but not sure where to turn for advice? Book cover artist Alexander von Ness shares some tips with The Editor’s Desk.

Many authors, especially ones who go the self-publishing route, will one day need to come face-to-face with book cover design.

For many, it’s a daunting prospect. Sure, we know how to tell stories. But what do we know about cover art? Should we even try to attempt it ourselves?

Personally, I believe that, along with editing, book cover design should be left to a professional. After all, the cover will be the first thing a prospective reader will see. Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

So, where do we start? To give us insight, I turned to book cover design artist Alexander von Ness, who agreed to answer some questions about this important part of your book’s overall development.

1) How many book covers have you designed? Do you primarily work for indie authors?

I’ve designed approximately 2,000 covers, which includes covers designed for indie authors, book coaches, medium-size publishing companies, and design contests.

I personally never make any differences between first time indie authors and authors who have already sold millions of books. Every new cover design is a new challenge where I try to create a little masterpiece every time.

Even though I do this for a living, and put food on the table by doing it, this is still a form of art – and art doesn’t include any boundaries in its nature.

2) When authors approach you to design their cover, what are some of their biggest concerns?

Mostly indie authors, who have never worked with me, are concerned that their message wouldn’t be recognized on the cover at first glance. But I reassure them that I make unlimited changes until the author is 100% satisfied.

Also, first time authors are very concerned that I won’t be able to present the main character (and secondary characters) in the way they are described in the book. This is by far the greatest mistake authors make when thinking about a cover! The main character should never be on the cover, unless it’s only in one segment, or as an undefined character whose appearance could still be imagined by the reader while reading the book.

If we have the main character “served” on the book cover, especially in fiction, a lot of readers will forever be deprived of imagining and daydreaming, and might possibly be disappointed by their actual appearance on the cover!

3) What are the most important elements to consider when designing a book cover?

Definitely typography: the font choice and its placement on the cover. Nothing can be compared to that. If your typography is lame, there is no point in having a great design with the best imagery.

I saw a lot of great designs that were literally ruined by bad typography. I would even dare to say that a good designer can be exclusively recognized by a good typography choice. For example, I sometimes send my clients the same design with different typography to prove to them how important this is in the overall design. The typography change was so powerful that the cover was sending a completely different message than it was supposed to.

One of the most important features today, compared to a couple of years back, is the visibility, readability and recognition in a thumbnail size. Today the majority of books are being sold online. So today you’ll see a lot designs with the title over the whole cover, which was unthinkable, even unacceptable a while ago.

Because of this, I’ve seen a new trend in redesigning existing covers. Many authors have done their cover very quickly, unprepared and unprofessional or with a very low budget, so some great, high quality books weren’t selling at all. In the end, they would realize that it is more profitable to make a cover redesign then to write a new book!

For example, at the beginning of this year, I redesigned one fiction novel. Before I made the redesign, the book was selling about seven copies per week. After my redesign, and some extra marketing efforts on the part of the author, the same book was selling almost 2,000 per month! A redesign of the book cover can be a great opportunity to revive sales. Trust me, the results can be surprising!

4) Is it necessary for you to read the book before designing the cover?

No. If that were necessary, I would only be able to create a few covers per year!

After an author contacts me, I send them a few questions to see what they really want, what they like and what they expect from their cover design. Of course, regardless of the different wishes I get from the authors, I design the book cover so it connects to the book and its content and with the message that the author wants to convey to his audience. My goal is, above all, to draw the reader in with the cover design and to give the book a professional appearance that will improve sales.

It’s also important to know the author’s target audience. After I have determined that, I start developing a design concept. Without a strictly defined target audience there is no point in doing a cover design. The majority of authors say that their target audience is males and females from 7 – 77! The author has to realize that his book wasn’t written for every person that enters the bookstore. Once this is determined, I can create an eye-catching book cover.

5) What about interior design? How important is that to the overall reading experience?

Every single part of the book is equally important for success. The interior layout should be readable for everyone. It may not be as important as the title, editing, proofreading, cover design and back copy, because a flawless interior layout design is useless when the book wasn’t edited properly and is filled with grammatical errors.

6) Do you have an opinion about online design tools that allow authors to create book covers on their own?

I think that this is very good and useful, but only to a point. As technology moves on, we have the opportunity to witness the appearance of new tools every day, which are helping us in our everyday work, so it’s no wonder that book cover design also got its turn.

Some book cover designers are frowning because they are afraid that it might take their job away. However, I don’t see any problem here. Just the opposite! I see that the book cover culture is developing in a positive direction and that the awareness of the importance of book cover design is larger every day. We as a community can only gain through that. The ones with a lower budget will be able to have their own book cover, which is something that makes me very happy.

One of the most useful and serious tools would be, which started very well and one that I hope will develop in a good direction. Every tool or application which helps the authors to create their book with less effort can only be beneficial for us who are engaged in the book business. Here I don’t only mean book cover design, but also editing, proofreading, etc. However, I would never recommend people to do these things on their own if they have serious intentions with their book.

Alexander von Ness is a book cover designer with almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design, and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. In the past few years his main area of focus is book cover design. His website Nessgraphica is among the top trusted sites for book cover design services overall.

Questions? Send them to

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

book dedications,book cover design,publishing success,book editor,author websites,self-editing,rules of self-publishing,self-publishing workshop,proofread,self-publishing,booktrack

Measuring Publishing Success

Is publishing success only measured in sales?

Here in North America, one of the first questions you’re asked when you first meet someone is, “What do you do for a living?” And because success is too often equated with money, status, and possessions, the rest of the conversation (and ensuing relationship) could very well hinge on your answer.

For authors, publishing success should be measured by accomplishments, not by book sales. I’ve had many folks (writers and non-writers alike) call me a success simply because I wrote a book and had it published. People seem astounded, without even knowing any sales figures.

And I’ve also written a second? Amazing!

So for all you writers out there, the next time you are disappointed at lagging sales, be proud that you were committed enough to see such an enormous project straight through to the end. I know it’s not easy. And I can attest to the fact that many people admire your efforts as well.

Come to think of it, the only ones who consider low book sales as a sign of failure are the traditional publishers. So self publish away and hold your head up high!

You’re already a publishing success. Believe it.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk.

worst places to write

The 10 Worst Places to Write

Need somewhere to create that compelling content? Whatever you do, avoid these 10 worst places to write.

All writers have their favourite places to write. Mine is my couch. In fact, I’m on it right now.

But there are some places where even seasoned writers just can’t seem to find that proverbial muse. We polled several of them for their “favourite” worst places to write, and while you might be able to relate to some of their responses, others might surprise you.

10) Around their kids: Yep. Little ones are a constant distraction, from wanting more milk to needing the channel changed. They also tend to peek over your shoulder, breathing down your neck as they inspect what’s keeping you from showering them with attention. But who can blame them for being curious about what you’re doing? It looks so interesting…for about three seconds.

Then it becomes all about them again. Pouring milk. Changing channels.

If you have teenagers, you’re slightly better off. They won’t want anything to do with you, as long as there’s food, TV, and available car keys. So you’ll have lots of time to write, probably about how much you miss them being little.

Face it: no matter how old they are, you’re screwed.

9) Near the TV: In this on-demand world, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. So, you can always catch up on those episodes of Modern Family that you missed.

In fact, why not watch them right now? They’ll just be on in the background while you write.

Two hours later you’re caught up on watching, but the page will still be blank. Stupid TV.

8) In the Nude: Ok, not really a “where”, but a “state of undress” is still a state, isn’t it?

They say that Oscar Wilde used to write in an empty room, completely naked, so he had no distractions. But that was in the days of pen and paper, before the threat of having our web cams broken into existed.

But leaked nude pictures have actually helped some careers.

Would it help yours? Hmm….

7) Around a cat: “Feed me.”

“Be my scratching post.”

“Your keyboard looks warm – I think I’ll lie on it.”

“Chase me away and I’ll stare at you from across the room. Try to concentrate now, human, under the powerful gaze of my stare.”

“Just try.”

“Ha! Knew you couldn’t.”

6) Home: See ALL of the above. If you have no kids, no pets, no TV, and enjoy wearing clothes, you might be okay.

Oh wait, there’s wine?

5) Anywhere you can access Facebook: WiFi is everywhere, so the temptation to check your Facebook newsfeed, upload some pictures, or play Candy Crush can be insurmountable. For authors, theses distractions are all too common.

In fact, I ran this poll on Facebook and got a huge response. Point proven.

4) On Date Night: You think the cat has a powerful death stare? Check out the one on your partner when you bring the laptop to date night.

The cat will probably never leave you, but your partner might.

Then again, look at all the time you’ll have to write now.

3) In the Mall: Great for people watching. But the constant stream of humanity flowing by can be too entertaining to be distracted by writing. People are just too darn fun to miss!

Maybe avoid the mall. Besides, nothing in the food court is brain food. More like drain food. For mall rats.

2) At Work:  Hee! I know someone who actually did this! Good thing their boss was away at the time. Make sure yours is too before you use company time to write your retirement book.

Unless, of course, you’re prepared to live solely on a typical writer’s income. If you like Kraft Dinner three times per day, you might not mind so much.

1) Starbucks: Strangely, few mentioned coffee shops in general. Starbucks was specifically named, so I suppose Timothy’s and Second Cup are fine.

What’s the difference that makes Starbucks stand out in such dubious fashion?

They’re noisy. Every Starbucks I’ve been in seems designed to broadcast every whispered conversation so that you drown in a cacophony of voices.

They’re crowded. Good luck getting a table, no matter the time of day.

And, worst of all, they’re stereotypical. “There’s ANOTHER writer with his laptop, taking two hours to drink his coffee!”

Where do you find it impossible to write? Leave your answer in the comments below!

to-do list,content marketing strategy,copywriting tips,contact us,copywriting services, seo copywriting,to-do-list

Have a To-Do List? Create a Done List!

A done list will motivate you to tackle that to-do list, and give you a better sense of accomplishment.

If you’re a first time entrepreneur developing your startup, you will likely have a to-do list.

And, chances are, it’s pretty daunting.

My startup checklist covered three months worth of tasks, covering simple jobs such as business registration and domain name purchase, to more complex projects like conducting a market research survey. And for every task I checked off the list, I added at least two more.

I could only see how much there was to do, and wasn’t appreciating all I had accomplished. It’s not very motivating to look at an ever-growing list every day, without taking the time to reflect on the journey I’d already travelled.

Until I discovered the done list.

Where the to-do list is all about planning, the done list allows you to evaluate how you executed the plan. It’s the perfect balance for the to-do list, giving you a rear-view mirror on how your startup is growing. It also allows you to compare your expectations and results and examine the entire process, empowering you to make better to-do lists in the future.

The done list is also a powerful motivational tool, as it shows you real results. You can pat yourself on the back because you’ve accomplished things! Not intangible goals or wishes, but actual things. At the end of the day, you can look back and be proud of all you’ve done, reenergizing you for the next day.

Your done list may never be as big as your to-do list, but you’ll get more satisfaction from the process by keeping track of both.

As they say, it’s not always about the destination. It’s also about the journey.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk.

professional headshot

What Your Professional Headshot Says About You, Part 2

“If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re a major part of what you’re selling…” Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography, on professional headshots.

Last week, we spoke to Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography about using professional headshots as personal branding images. She shared with us how entrepreneurs should approach professional headshots for their websites and social media sites.

This week, Sara and The Editor’s Desk President Richard S. Todd compare two images she took of Richard, and how each could be used in corporate or personal branding.

Image #1 – Traditional Headshot

Professional Headshot,Sara Elisabeth,Personal Branding

Sara: “This image is much closer to your traditional “professional headshot” in terms of the crop and the focus on the face. There’s not much in the image to distract from Richard, other than the bricks, which add in a bit of texture and pattern. The absolute positive aspects of this image are how comfortable, inviting, and confident Richard looks. He looks friendly, cool, and calm, and this image makes me trust him. I would still consider this a personal branding image because it exudes personality and the brand that Richard is trying to portray.”

Richard: “Agreed, this is the kind of picture one would normally associate with a professional headshot. Very simple, strong focus on the face with a relaxed expression. The bricks in the back not only add pattern, but also suggest building on a solid foundation. Building relationships, building partnerships, and strength in unity.”

Image #2 – Full Body Shot

Professional Headshot,Sara Elisabeth PhotographySara: “The second image is different in terms of composition and the look and feel of the image. It shows more environment and the reflection in the glass is relevant for a writer who is always thinking about the meaning behind words and ideas. This image is a great compliment to the first one for someone like Richard to add to their website. It would allow potential clients to see more of his personality via his body language.”

Richard: “I like the second because it’s not like the first! As it shows more than the head and shoulders, it will stand out among the crowd of traditional professional headshots while retaining the same relaxed image. The subject is not only someone you could do business with, he’s someone you could hang out with too! Sara also mentioned off-line that the reflection of the building suggests something that writers often do – reflect.”


Sara: “In summary, Image 1 could stand on its own as a personal branding image, but image 2 could not. Together, they make a great pair, allowing the viewer to understand more about Richard. Individuals should be moving towards having more than one great image of themselves to show potential clients. If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, you’re a major part of what you’re selling – people want to work with someone they like rather than with someone who is uptight and has no personality. Time to start thinking of how you want your personal branding images to look!”

Richard: “Image 2 certainly compliments the first image, but couldn’t stand on it’s own on a website or on professional social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn. I’ve seen more than a few websites that feature something like Image 1, and then have secondary pictures just like it but with slightly different expressions or hand positioning. Something completely different like Image 2 would have been a better addition to the website.”

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professional headshot

What Your Professional Headshot Says About You, Part 1

“Each person should be authentic with who they are in the professional world.” – Sara Shirley, Sara Elisabeth Photography, on the subject of professional headshots

Professional headshots are a must for online corporate profiles, professional social media sites, and anywhere where your public image has a stake in your business.

But how many headshots have you seen on corporate profiles that don’t convey the proper image?

This week, Sara Shirley from Sara Elisabeth Photography discusses the importance of personal branding images, and how they can impact your business. She also answers the question about whether or not to use a “selfie”.

1)   You have the ability to view professional headshots with a critical eye. When you see a headshot, what kind of things do they tell you about the subject?

I look at these images as “personal branding images” rather than “professional headshots”. After first noticing the technical aspects of the image, I notice the type of expression the subject has on their face. The person’s smile, the engagement in their eyes and small differences in posture and body language are some of the factors that contribute to making the subject look authentic. If someone looks stiff and uncomfortable in their picture (like often in the standard “professional headshot”), it shows. On the other hand, if the person is warm, engaged and authentic, people will view them in a different way. They’ll be seen as someone that people will want to work with. That is why some photographers prefer to use the term “personal branding images” – the images are supposed to be representative of how a person wants to be viewed by others.

2)   What are the most important things a subject should consider when posing for professional headshots?

Trusting one’s photographer is number one. People should make sure they select a photographer they have a good rapport with and that can show you some samples of their work. Together, they should pick a location that represents the subject and their personal brand (how they want to be seen by others).

Clothing choice is also very important. Subjects should choose clothing that is appropriate to their field, clothing that is clean, ironed, and lint-free, and clothing that is of a solid colour. People want to avoid anything that has a busy design (like floral print), or anything with logos or text on them (unless it’s their uniform).

Lastly, subjects should just allow themselves to let loose and have fun. Most of us don’t like having our pictures taken, but having a great-quality professional headshot that we love is important to our brand image and to our ultimate success. Subjects should let their photographer guide them through the process and don’t forget to smile.

3)   You deal with professionals with many different roles and from many different industries. How does one’s title and industry play into the headshot?

One’s title and industry definitely play a factor in the image, but I give my clients the ultimate decision as to how they want to represent themselves in their final image(s). Some high-level executives enjoy laughing with their employees and having a more equal relationship with them, and subsequently want to be seen as extremely warm in their image. Others prefer to be a little bit more serious and be seen as an authoritarian-type. There’s a full spectrum of choices for people to choose from. Each person should be authentic with who they are in the professional world.

4)   Should a professional ever consider using a “selfie” on their professional profile?

Professionals should never consider using a “selfie” on their professional profile because, whether it’s consciously or sub-consciously, prospective clients, partners or employers will not take them as seriously. Making a small investment in a professional photographer can set you apart from the pack. It demonstrates that the individual puts effort into the way they present themselves, which in turn demonstrates that they’ll put effort into other aspects of their professional life.

5)   I’ve seen more and more companies using the same photographer for their entire staff. It suggests unity through a common image. Do you see this as a growing trend as well?

More and more companies are opting to use the same photographer for their entire staff. Companies, large or small should consider hiring a photographer to capture professional branding images of their staff because it demonstrates unity and consistency in a world where the image is more and more important.

Read Part 2 of our discussion here, where Sara and Richard compare two different types of images.

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