Your author bio is SO IMPORTANT if you’re pitching to a publisher or editor or trying to get yourself a literary agent. I’ve seen some agonising author bios and the biggest problem is that there’s too much (irrelevant) information and not enough of the good stuff. Why are we so quick to doubt our amazing achievements?!
Imagine sitting in solitary confinement for months in order to finish your book and then having to write a short, sharp, highlight reel of your life from a marketing perspective in order to pitch your book. Eek!
Read on for what to include in your author bio as well as where you will use it. I’ve also included a fill-in-the-blanks template to make it easy for you!
Nothing confounds an author emerging from a long manuscript draft more than having to construct a short, sharp, pithy bio. It’s no wonder. From the creative brain to the sales and marketing brain, you need to really switch from humility and confusion and messy drafting creative flow to throwing those writing pyjamas off and pulling on your glamour outfit to put yourself out in the world. Read on for exactly how to do this!
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.
Read on for three steps to crafting a killer bio (and what to avoid!). I can’t tell you how many author bios I’ve read, and then questioned the author on their experience only to find they have the most incredible media experience, marketing know-how or global connections they just “didn’t think” to include because they didn’t know how. It can be hard to know how to pitch ourselves.
STEP 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 – 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).
You’ll need a longer bio with more information on your platform for your book proposal, but the shorter one will be used in your queries, social media profiles, and publicity material.
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Very helpful, thank you! The template is fab.
Thank you so much. I am finding this all so helpful, am on my second biro and well over half-way through my exercise book.
There’s one thing I would like to ask you. You tell us to write two pages a day, and I am averaging five or six. Should I stick to the two pages or keep on until I run out of steam as I am doing now?
Hi Gill, sorry for my late reply, I’ve only just seen this! That’s SO GREAT you’re onto your second biro already!! Ha.
In terms of the page numbers, I set 2 pages as a minimum guideline, because sometimes if we overestimate we can set ourselves up for disappointment. I also like to end each journalling session on a ‘high’ ie. wanting to write more. BUT that said, please don’t question it, or stop the writing flowing. I’m so happy it’s producing so much creative flow for you!
Thanks! Finally I have a bio thanks to this page!
Great to hear!
I’m about to pitch my first book. Thank you SO much for all this great information.