“Vigorous writing is concise”
Nothing confounds an author emerging from a long manuscript draft more than having to construct a short, sharp, pithy bio.
Your author bio should be the ultimate highlight reel of your writing life.
You’ll need your author bio for your book proposal, for any publicity you do before or around your book’s publication, and even on your website.
A good bio will also help you get freelance writing assignments and could nab you a literary agent.
But why is it so hard to write about ourselves objectively?
Read on for three steps to crafting a killer bio (and what to avoid!). There’s a simple cut-and-keep template you can use for your author bio at the end.
1: Think of your target audience and start with your BEST writing experience
- Where have you been published? Use the top tier places over the less relevant (eg. The Paris Review trumps Take Five magazine if you’re pitching to a literary agent. If you’re hoping to write an excerpt for an online magazine, find similar journals to the one you’re pitching.)
- Have you won any writing awards, fellowships, or even been nominated for something? Include the best of this, too.
2: Keep it short, sharp, third person and objective
- An author bio (as part of your book proposal) should be 150 words maximum. I prefer them to be under 100 words. You want it to be your absolute highlight reel. Your author bio should get an agent or publisher curious enough to want to know more and see more, you want them suitably impressed, sure that you can handle yourself ‘in the ring’ so-to-speak. You don’t want them to feel like they’re stuck in a corner with someone going on and on about themselves at a party or worse, telling a story that has no relevance to their wants and needs as professionals.
3: Don’t give TMI (too much information)
- Most good author bios have a few words about what the author personally does or enjoys (eg. Drinks too much tea / coffee or lives in the Scottish Highlands with her Basset Hound) but don’t go overboard. A sentence is plenty, include a quirky aspect, but nothing too intensely personal.
- As above do NOT include deeply personal information about your private life (eg. has been married five times, doesn’t like anchovies, etc etc – unless the book is about anchovies, of course).
- Don’t talk about writing awards you got in school – or anything from school years, in fact. (I have seen this done. Horrifying.)
- Try to keep any extra information relevant to the genre you’re writing in. So, for example, if you’re pitching a memoir about running, you’d include a sentence around your experience in that area – for example, you’ve run three Boston marathons or you particularly love trail-running.
Your author bio template (just fill in the XX sections with your personal details!):
XXX (name) is a XXX(insert country/town of residence)-based XXX (insert genre, awards) writer who has XXXX (been nominated for / published in / writing about) for XXX (years).
Her piece, XXX, about XXX was nominated for/published in / chronicled her experience with XXXX.
XXX is fascinated by the XXX (insert niche or topic of memoir) and worked with (highlight anyone incredible you’ve worked with or something unsual or amazing related to your book.)
When not writing, XXX can be found curled up in her favourite bookstore (insert cute and pithy but not too personal info about what you like to do in your spare time.)
XXX is XXXs first/second/third book. OR XXX is about the two years when XXX did this (use your memoir focus sentence for this).
Did this help? If you still have any questions about your author bio, comment below!