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Rated: ASR · Editorial · How-To/Advice · #878253
#140, August 16, 2004 Writing an Author's Bio
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Weekly Editor's Letter:

Writing An Author’s Bio

The Short Version

1. Always write in third person
2. Write truth, state facts
3. Cite relevant experiences
4. Show you belong, and write tight
5. Do it in 150 words or less

The Long Version

It is a disheartening struggle for many writers to write their own bio, but it is a very necessary component in the process of being published. As part of the multi-faceted existence of a writer’s life, an author’s bio is a marketing tool. Do not confuse a bio with an obituary, which it probably feels like to most of us, who first attempt to write our own bio without any, or at best, limited instruction or research.

Writing an author’s bio is a sort of an exercise in putting your writing house in order, and your writer’s life on public display. A writer’s bio is more of a public statement that will be forever attached to a book you have published, and it is so much more than an obituary that will be published in a newspaper upon our departure from this world. Why? Because books have endured the test of time, whereas yesterday’s newspaper is today’s trash.

It is important that you provide your readers with an understanding or sense of who you are, and your bio is the first opportunity to do just that. If not crafted properly you may lose countless potential readers.

It is important to instill, in your readers, a certain amount of confidence in you; since you and your publisher, want people to buy your book. As a writer, you need to earn the respect of your audience in your ability and knowledge. Respect is then transformed into recognition. Recognition that you, the writer, needs to increase the odds of your work being read again and again by reader after reader. Your bio is a brief opportunity to shine.

According to a May 28th, 2004 poll on http://www.Bookreporter.com 210 out of the 594 respondent's chose Author background when asked, What kind of information would you like to get from your online bookseller? Out of the same 594 poll participants 529, which is 89 percent, said that they DO buy books online. Admittedly the poll represents a small sampling of readers in general, but there are number crunchers' and bean counters' that can explain all the numbers in excruciating detail, but from an author's perspective, I know all I need to know --reader's read an author's bio. While researching information for this newsletter, I copied this quote that sums it all up rather nicely, The jacket is the packaging of your book and contrary to the old adage "you can't judge a book...," it is the first thing a bookseller or consumer sees.. Forgive my oversight of failing to remember to copy the individual’s name that I just quoted. Regardless, new facts now in evidence reveal a new, twisted interpretation to the old adage.

People automatically give more weight to another person’s opinion about someone than they give to what that someone has to say about him or herself. As proof of what I am saying is true, then ask yourself, “Why do potential employers ask for references?” Surely, a potential employer should know that you are not going to list someone as a professional or personal reference that is going to make horrible or unflattering comments about you as a person, but still they want references just the same.

It is simple elementary psychology that people trust what is said of one person by another more than what someone says about himself or herself. Most readers don’t think about who wrote an author’s bio. Reader’s are thinking about what makes the author interesting, credible, or deserving of their trust in the author’s ability to meet their expectations. A reader’s purpose for reading any author’s bio is as varied as the people who read it. Writing your bio in the third person establishes trust and respect.

According to many educators the most professional style of writing is written in the third person. The third person style of writing allows for, “taking the: I, me, you, we or us, objective and subjective, singular or plural pronouns out” of the writing and keeping it impersonal and objective. In addition, the third person creates the distance that allows the reader to feel less intruded upon by what may sound like nothing more than a lame sales pitch or blatant self-promotion.

It is also important to remember that an author’s bio will evolve over time right along with an author’s list of published credits. Most authors develop bios specifically written for the different markets or genres the author publishes works in. The credibility of an author a reader is looking for when deciding to buy a children’s book is certainly not the same as when a reader is looking to buy a horror story written for adults. Thus, the bio on the dusk jacket or back cover of a paper back should reference what qualifies an authors ability and state his or her credentials that the author possesses to have actually written the book.

Every unpublished author has to always remember that you are your own product first. It is necessary to sell yourself, in addition to your book, article, or poem. Perfect the two or three line bio, and then make sure that it is on every work that you submit to an editor. If you have a web page make sure a visiting editor will find a well-written bio along with whatever else the editor may find. The more professionally written your bio appears the more likely it is to catch the eye of an editor. Or when the time comes and you get the call from and editor requesting your bio, then that is one less headache you will have to worry about.

The masterpiece that was written did not happen overnight. There were obstacles to overcome. Edits and rewrites that had to be done. Writing a professional bio is just one more glorious chore on the often traveled, but seldom-completed journey to publication.

Preserve your creditability with the facts; it is all in how you present it

It should not be necessary to tell of the dangers in actually lying in a bio, but given the recent round of firings from a prestigious University for certain coaches lying about having earned degrees that were never earned, certain newspaper publications having to fire reporters for plagiarism, and certain CEO’s and CFO’s being tried, convicted, and sentenced in our Federal courts for lying, as well as, stealing, maybe a refresher concerning the effects of losing the public trust would be in order.

Every single lie told in a bio can and probably will come back to haunt the author who dared violate the trust and confidence of their readers. It is a betrayal. If the book has any chance of becoming a best seller, that chance will be lost and over shadowed by a single solitary lie. (Unless you are the President of the United States of America – excuse me I slipped into a political moment.) An exaggeration is not even worth the risk of appearing to be a lie. Just don’t do it. It is not likely that any writer, regardless of how well he or she writes, will be able to recover from claiming to be something that they are not. If you don’t have a college degree, do not claim to have one. If you won a full college scholarship in a writing contest, then by all means say so. If you did not bother to finish college, although you had a full college scholarship, there is no reason to have to admit so publicly that you were so stupid.

It is all in how you present the facts. Are you qualified? Mention it. John Grisham’s simple and unassuming bio in an early edition of The Firm starts:

“John Grisham, formerly a criminal defense attorney, is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Ole Miss Law School.” His beginning sentence gives legitimacy to his writing legal thrillers. He goes on to promote himself as a family man by mentioning his wife and two kids and the town where he lives (which is in the region he is writing about and therefore so relevant). His bio also states that he is “also the author of A Time To Kill." However, it does not mention that he self-published it, it simply says he wrote it. Which is absolutely true, but remember it is of great importance exactly how you present yourself, or even allow yourself to be presented to the public that is being discussed here.

Every one of the published authors today was at one time an unpublished author. Just like so many of us, they had to struggle with writing their bio. What was relevant? The very nature of being of a writer usually means that much of your time is spent alone, in pursuit of perfecting your craft, or working on a writing assignment, or doing research relating to a writing project. It is generally considered good advice that the closer a writer gets to publication that consideration be given to joining a writer’s association. Even before any of a writer’s work has been accepted for publication, if that is your hearts desire, a writer should belong to a writer’s group. As a member of a writing group or community, online or otherwise, there is the added benefit of having a reference of relevance to your craft. Even if your only connection with a writer’s guild, or association is that you pay the membership dues, mentioning that fact increases trust among readers – they know others have more information about you. Belonging somewhere promotes you to having a place in a very global community, and that adds confidence to a reader’s sense of who you are as a person and author.

There are different levels of memberships and dues in many organizations for writers', so don't automatically assume you do not qualify, or cannot afford to be a member. With a little research a writer can find a professional, and publicly recognized place to belong. As Martha Steward would say, That is a good thing.

A very short list to get you started:
*Star* Writers Guild of America
*Star* Society of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators
*Star* National Writers Union
*Star* American Society of Journalists and Authors
*Star* Romance Writers of America
*Star* National Association of Women Writers
*Star* Horror Writers Association

Cite Relevance & Experience Without Regret

If your writing is non-fiction work concerning parenting, and you have yet to be blessed with any little bundle of joy, it is not likely that fact would instill any confidence in parents, your potential readers, or a future editor, regardless of how well you researched the topic and how perfectly you write – don’t mention it. What if you operated a daycare center for ten or fifteen years? That qualifies as relevant experience when writing for parents or about children. Mention it. Being a pre-school or kindergarten teacher for any number of years is certainly qualification enough to write about your experiences. Mention it.

Another example, if your work is fiction revolving around sibling rivalry, and you are an only child then it is likely this could affect your creditability concerning the subject of your article, or book. Your being a mother of two or more children can certainly qualify you to write about sibling rivalry. Mention it.

Michael Chrichton’s early bios are mostly about his medical and scientific qualifications. He gives sparse mention of when and where he was born.

Are you a retired police detective writing murder mysteries? Mention it. If you are an engineer or a physicist writing Sci Fi, mention it. If you have spent the last fifteen years playing some online game with other online gamers, and you are now writing Fantasy, you might want to let the world know your dirty little secret, as it will certainly prove that you understand the conventions and can take them where they want to go with vivid imagery and imagination.

Always start or end with any publishing credits or writing qualifications you have when writing your bio. This demonstrates that you understand the craft.

Wally Lamb’s first novel was chosen by Oprah. His bio simply relates all his short-story publishing credits and competition wins, his academic qualifications and then mentions that he is a beloved creative writing teacher.


Always look for qualifications in your daily life that relate to your story or subject matter.


Charles Frazier's beautiful novel Cold Mountain is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His bio reads in part:

“Charles Frazier grew up in South Carolina. He now lives in Raleigh with his wife and his daughter where they raise horses.” A perfect bio for a pastoral Southern novel.”

His bio goes on to mention that Cold Mountain is his first novel, but not to many first time novelist have a gold National Book Award Winner stamp on the cover. Unless some better known writer, agent, or reviewer has publicly praised your book using such words as, ‘breakout’, ‘sensational’, or luminous’, you might not want to mention that this is a first novel in any bio you would write for your book.

Write and tailor a bio to each book or article if you write in different genres. Your Science Fiction readers may not care if you were a police detective, whereas your mystery readers might.

Good News, Bad News & Really Bad News for Freelance Author's

Just because a writer writes magazine articles does not allow him or her to escape the obligation of writing an author's bio.

The really bad news is that it needs to be even shorter and tighter than a novelist's bio. A magazine writer's bio should be no more than 50 words. A mere two or three sentences. That's tight!

The good news is contained in an article written by Emily K. Bivens. She says that 63.4 percent of readers DO read the author's bio after the articles. Read: When Less Is More: How to Write Your Bio here: http://www.everywriter.com/feature13.htm

Write Tight

Writing tight is...

I can't explain it, but I know it when I read it. *Laugh*

And Finally…
If you really can’t do it, try asking another writer to do it for you. It should be a writer with some journalistic writing ability. Face your fear, and remember that it is not likely that a soul will read a book by an author whose cover bio reads:

I only started writing last year and I don’t reckon I’m very good, but you might like my story and I sure hope you do.

I guess the above is a bit of an exaggeration, because it is not likely any editor or publisher would really put the aforementioned bio on a cover of any kind of book. You think?

The Critic

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Featured Works From Our Members:

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daycare has a collection of interviews. Who wouldn't be flattered, and maybe a little grateful, if you perused their portfolio, read their interview, and then presented them with a well written bio? *Idea* And what good practice for perfecting your Author Bio writing skills. *Exclaim*

 Susan Rutz bio -The Fifteenth Scarecrow  (E)
Written for an author in desperate need of a well written bio - publisher requested a bio.
#875828 by The Critic

This is the bio that I wrote for sdodger and I am proud to announce is the bio that won me 15,000 gift points. Thank you so much sdodger as much for the challenge as the gift points. *Bigsmile*
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Featured Works From Non-Members:

 The Last Page (1)  (13+)
Excerpt from my debut novel which is now available!
#814613 by Brians Next Novel Almost Done!

A success story. He is being published. Congratulations are in order.

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Writing Prompt:
Write your author’s bio that would be on the back or inside cover of your book. Write your bio and display it proudly in your portfolio.

If it is really your hearts desire to be published: Write different versions of your author’s bio, especially if you write in different genres. Remember, no more than 150 words.

And you may all ask sdodger if she wishes that she had been better prepared when she received the call from her publisher to submit her bio for her book. *Bigsmile*

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If you can't describe a book in one or two pithy sentences that would make you or my mother want to read it, then of course you can't sell it. — Michael Korda, editor-in-chief, Simon & Schuster. Source: The Quotable Writer, edited by William A. Gordon.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Live the questions now.
--Rainer Maria Rilke

I do! I really, really do love the questions. Just ask Jessiebelle if I love the questions, and most of the time much more than the answers.
--The Critic

This week's quotes were selected by The Critic

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Recommended Reading and Forums:

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An accomplished poet’s way of keeping track or her literary career, and it is our good fortune that she shares this information with us. What a neat idea*Idea*

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Issue #140
Edited by: The Critic

Next weeks newsletter will be edited by The Critic

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