How to write a great author bio

Many authors are comfortable writing about their characters, but cringe when it comes to writing about themselves. Yet it must be done! Part of selling your book is selling yourself … but this doesn’t mean making readers doze over your life history.

Keep in mind that as an author you’ll need more than one bio. You’ll need an extended one for your website (say about 200 words) that you can also use for book proposals and media kits. You’ll need a shorter one that will appear on the book/story itself and for shorter marketing material. Depending on the situation, this may be 50 to 100 words. Here are some tips to help you create snappy bios that will connect with your audience.

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Use the third person

It might feel odd referring to yourself by your name, but this is usually the norm. Probably because it sounds less boastful, as if someone else is blowing your horn for you. But we know better, don’t we?

Bio not biography

Don’t tell your entire life story. Ask whether it really matters when and where you were born, where you went to school, what your parents did. If it’s relevant to the story, then sure. Go for it. Otherwise, it might just be taking up valuable space. Start with the good stuff, the interesting stuff, the relevant stuff. Leave the rest until you write your autobiography!

Mention relevant interests and experiences

If you’ve lived through something that inspired you to write the book, pointing this out is a good way to connect with your readers. It gives you credibility and an interest in common. Highlight your inspiration, your passions, your reasons for writing. If it’s clear you care about your book, the readers will be more likely to care too!

Previous awards or publications?

It might be worth listing some of your literary achievements. Have you won awards for your writing, or for something your writing relates to? Have you had other books, poems or short stories published? You don’t need a long exhaustive list – this isn’t a CV – but give enough to establish your credentials.

Mention relevant qualifications

Note the word ‘relevant’. If your degree, job, or other qualification relates to the book, it’s worth mentioning. Again, it gives you credibility. I flung my degrees around when promoting my law books. There’s not much point referring to them with my kids’ fiction, however. Unless I’m writing about a girl who sets herself up as an amateur lawyer and takes on cases for her schoolmates … actually, that’s not a bad idea!

Suit the situation

This is the single most important consideration; it’s what everything else boils down to. It’s most certainly not a case of ‘one bio fits all’. My junior novel about a boy with nits is being released soon. The bio contains quips about how I’ve always been ‘itching to write fiction’. It would be most bizarre if I wrote that on my legal studies textbooks! Give serious thought to each and every bio you write, and tailor it to the situation. Start each one from scratch, as it were …

Photo credit: Cali4beach / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

 

4 comments

  1. All good points. Keeping it relevant and tailored to the specific book/story is the key with short’ish bios. For example, my own esoteric university studies (Physics and Philosophy) would have little relevance to most things I write today, so I would not mention them in my contemporary bios. Though the Philosophy angle does have relevance to the novel I’m (still) writing.
    Steven Fernandez.

    • Wow, I didn’t know you studied physics and philosophy! Interesting subjects and an even more interesting combination. I think people might want to know that about you, to be honest!

  2. Always good tips, Stella. Most writers have a hard time to write about themselves or at least in a concise and marketing way.
    I’ll use your tips for my next book!

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