With the Bio Bash coming up (tentatively set for Feb 22), I’ve been kicking around the idea of what to put in my bio. Leisurely. Calmly. And then I realized that this would be an actual thing that people would really be reading about me. And then I thought about actually sending one of these to an agent/publisher/other human. *cue panic*
Bios are a funny thing. Writers gonna write, but we tend to like a little leeway in the things we put to page. I’ve been making up fiction pretty much since birth and dearly wish I could apply that well-honed skill to my bio as well. Boy, that’d be a great bio. (Why of course I know the Dali Lama! And I’m a wizard, too! Ask me about my pet plesiosaur!) Unfortunately, I’ve been told that bios should be true. And not boring. And when it comes to my life, those two things are hard to combine.
So what does go into a good author bio? How can you talk about yourself in a way that is both professional and interesting?
Third Person It may seem backward, especially if the work you are querying with is in the first person, but give the reader a little psychic distance on this one, especially for things like the dust jacket bio. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it is a pretty safe standard to fall back on if you aren’t sure. (It also makes it marginally easier to talk about your achievements.)
Length Your bio will be pretty brief. Most writers only need between fifty and a hundred words about themselves for queries or to append onto short stories in magazines, and less is most often more. It’s probably a good idea to have a few different lengths: a longer, more casual one of a couple hundred words for your website; a midsized one (~75); and a mini one-liner.
Pro Tags Awards (whether for writing, or for the things you’re writing about), publications, degrees, credentials, applicable career, etc. Anything that makes it seem like you have any idea what the heck you’re doing, trot it out there. If you’ve got more than you know what to do with, stick with the most impressive achievements.
Contact Make sure interested readers have a way of finding you again. Blog address? Twitter handle? Facebook page? Make it easy for your readers to find more of your work.
Relevance Keep everything on topic. This might mean that your usual bio gets tweaked a little depending on the publication it’s being sent to. For longer bios, you can stray a little further into not-strictly-applicable-but-newsworthy territory, but the short ones have to be tight. (Part of keeping your bio relevant is keeping it updated! The minute you unlock some new achievement in writerhood, adjust your bio.) Similarly:
Matching Tone An author bio for JoJo’s Pretty Pretty Puppy Parade is probably going to be a bit different from the one for The Bloodmoon Chronicles 2: Sleeping with the Enemy. Even if they’re both written by the same person. Make sure your bio matches the tone of the work you’re presenting. (This will probably mean that you will have different bios for appending to different genres.) Writing a light-hearted romantic comedy? A brooding WWII Germany coming-of-age? Match that in your query.
Solid Editing Don’t dash off something in five minutes and send it out. Your bio is just as much a reflection of your writing abilities as the rest of your submission. Find that sweet spot between encyclopedia entry and meandering chitchat. Clean it up, get some feedback, read it out loud. Use all the tricks you use for editing the rest of your writing.
Remember: professional and interesting. Sell yourself just as well as you sell your work! How about you fine folks? What elements do you think are necessary to a finely tuned author bio?