10 Tips for Writing a Winning Author’s Bio

“Everyday manners for American boys and girls” 1922

10 Ways to make your author’s bio sing

There are literally hundreds of blogs and sites out there instructing aspiring authors on how to craft a well-received author’s bio, so the information here may not be new to you. Coming from a place of unemployment, where I spend a margin of my “spare time” (if there really is such a thing with an infant/toddler crawling/running around), writing cover letters and resumes hoping to land a job, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to talk about one’s self. In the US, confidence is at a premium these days, however, I didn’t grow up that way. An introvert by nature, boasting about myself not only makes me uncomfortable, my mother discouraged it throughout my youth, giving me a significant handicap compared to the next up and coming generation. I come from a long line of self-depreciating humorists, and I enjoy that type of deflection, as harmful as it can be to one’s self-esteem. However, I realize how important is it to be proud of one’s achievements. They may not be as grand as what other’s have wracked up, but they’re yours and worth closer examination.

So here we go, the top 10 things I’ve learned about writing an author’s bio:

1. Leave the demographics until the end. Don’t begin with where you live, how many cats/dogs/fish/kids/hamsters you own, or your hobbies. Start out with the writing stuff (that’s what you’re promoting, not your love of animals), and leave the numbers until the end.

Crazy Stats by Beth via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2. Do it in the third person. This was something I wondered about, having just read an amazing short story followed by the author’s bio, which was in the first person. Now you know, so phrase your bio as if someone else is talking about you. Someone who thinks you’re amazing.

The Prize-Winning Cat by Starmanseries (CC BY 2.0)

3. Highlight your writing accomplishments. Awards for writing and previous publications are the icing on your bio layer cake and can be just what you need to stand apart from other authors.

What if you have no writing credits? Dorothy Thompson writes in her article, Writing An Author Bio That Will Knock The Editor’s Socks Off!, since you are sending your writing to a publisher, you are a freelancer, and since you write, you are a writer. Now you can say, “So and so is a freelance poet/novelist/writer.” However you end up saying it, make it sound professional.

 

Idea by Pimthida (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4. Take ideas from established writers. Read online bios, book jackets, and interviews for ideas on how to plan your bio, especially from writers in your genre. Pick out active words that jump off the page and put them to use in your bio. Look at how they wrote about past achievements and publications. Can you apply this technique to your bio? The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so borrow a little to make your bio glow.
Example bios:
Stephen King
Doug Dorst
Betsy Tobin
John Green

 

Shay n Lucy by Amanda Tipton (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

5. “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” What’s worse than writing about yourself? Having your photo taken. Find a professional or semi-professional photographer, or friend with a knack for the art, and take a lot of pictures. I mean lots and lots of pictures. As someone who used to photograph weddings, the more photos you take, the better your odds are of capturing at least one perfect image. Find that image you like, and use the hell out of it. For some tips on how to stage your photo, check out Heather Hummel’s article.

 

 

6. Join professional writing groups. This is particularly important for writers with no publication credits to their names. As an active member of a writing or critique group tells editors you are serious about honing your craft. For a genre writer, join a group relating to your writing style.
Writers Associations: Local And National Organizations For Writers
For Writers: Writing Groups
10 Best Organizations for Writers
Writing Groups, Associations & Organizations – Canada

 

Diploma by Naomi Green (CC0 1.0)

7. Link to your website. This is a great way to let people know what you’re up to, and get updates on new material publishing soon. If you don’t have a website, join a site like GoodReads or Facebook, and create an author’s page and put your bio there. This is also a fun way to interact with fans and let people know what you’ve been up to.

 

8. What to do with your degree(s). If you have earned an AA, BA, BS, MA, MS, Ph.D., or some other degree, only mention it if it pertains to the topic you’re writing on. For example, if you’re promoting your new children’s book, and have an MBA, make sure your story is related to business if you mention your degree. If your book isn’t about the littles account, save your MBA for later titles pertaining to finance. However, if you’re an elementary school teacher, mentioning that in your bio for your new children’s book is completely relevant.

Outdated by Nick Rowland (CC BY-ND 2.0)

9. Keep it updated. Your bio, much like the rest of the world, will change over time, so keep your biography up-to-date as your career progresses. Have you won more awards? Published more poems, essays, or short stories? Make sure that as your writing credits accumulate, your bio reflects your accomplishments.

    10. What to avoid. We’ve talked about what you need to include in your bio, but it’s always nice to reiterate this by listing what you should absolutely stay away from.

    • Do not list your complete bibliography. If you mention previous publication credits, keep it down to 5 titles.
    • College and high school publication don’t count unless attached to a prize of some sort.
    • Personal statements. This type of thing will end up being your dedication.
    • Your home address. This may seem obvious, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention it. There are crazy people out there, and some of them know how to use the internet, so listing your current city and state is enough. If it’s a large city, then maybe giving your neighborhood would be fine, but even that is hinky.
    • Your creative process. Save this for interviews.

    I hope these tips have been of use to you. If you still don’t know where to begin, check out Anne R. Allen’s quick and dirty bio template. It will give you a great jumping off point. I’m off to write my own bio. Cheers, and happy writing!

    Originally published on Jul 4, 2014, for DuelingLibrarians.net

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