by Lee French
It's your first publication or you're assembling your online presence, and you need that blurb authors put at the end of the book. You know the one:
Writer McWriterson is cooler than you because he likes excellent things, has published some books, and belongs to these prestigious-sounding societies. Also, he's won some awards that sound important.
But you don't have any of that stuff to put in a bio yet. Yours is an empty, gaping maw of inexperience. Worse, you don't know how to convert that blankness into something witty and professional.
Step 1: Do not despair.
Step 2: Or panic. Panic is also bad.
The purpose of an author bio is to provide a peek into your life for people who find your work interesting. Most readers will stumble across it in an anthology or magazine of some sort after reading your work, looking for insight into whether or not they might enjoy more of your work.
A clear, professional author bio includes these elements:
For your own self-pubbed books and website, you can take up as much space with a bio as you want. Most authors keep their bio to one or two paragraphs that fits on a single page in the back of a book. Most publications that include your work will have a word or character count maximum. As such, if you plan to submit to publications or publishers, have a short version on hand.
2. 3rd person POV
The idea is to present an introduction to yourself as if told by someone else. Everyone knows the author writes their own bio, but the POV remove offers the illusion of authority on the subject of your writer persona. You want that.
3. Your website url
This belongs at the end. If you don't have a website, get one. In the meantime, you can use a Twitter handle. Your publisher's website is also acceptable if you have one. Facebook urls look amateur, but if that's all you have, that's all you have. Don't include your email address--it'll get added a pile of mailing lists if you toss it around heedlessly.
4. An indication of where you live
Readers like have a geographical tag for their favorite authors. If you're uncomfortable revealing your city, that's okay. Pacific Northwest is valid, as is any other region or state name. Avoid being a smartass with such locations as "Earth" or "his imagination," unless you write humor--see below for notes on tone.
5. Something somewhat but not too personal
This can be a hobby, day job, or other occupation you try to wedge in around writing. It can also be an interest category, lifestyle mention, or unusual habit, like superhero movies, being vegan, or chasing squirrels. Don't say how much you love writing. You're a writer. Of course you love writing. If you don't, maybe rethink this job.
6. 1-3 publications already in your repertoire, by name
If you've had a piece published in The Magazine of Really Awesome things, say so.
Her work has appeared/been included in The Magazine of Really Awesome Things.
She has written one romantic comedy, MY BOOK IS BETTER THAN YOURS.
If this is your first confirmed publication, don't say "This is her first publication, and she's super-excited about it." Saying nothing about publications is better than saying you have none.
7. Important-sounding awards
As with #6, if you have none, say nothing. If you have an award, consider your audience before including it. Are they likely to have heard of it? Are they likely to look it up and think you're a fop for including it? Most awards try to have over-glorified names to entice authors to enter them, but maybe consider leaving out the award for Best Book Ever if it's tiny and unknown. Should you win a well-known or moderately named award, like a Nebula or Summer Indie Award, include it with the title of the honored work. Only include nominations for actually-prestigious awards.
8. Professional organization memberships, whether they sound important or not
NIWA counts as a professional membership. Unless the organization is well-known or your crushed for space, write out what the letters stand for. Even if it is well known, you may still want to write it out. If you're keen to help your org out, throw the url in parentheses after the name. Tip: Calling yourself an "active" member of an org looks better because psychology.
He is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association (niwawriters.com).
Tone: The tone of your bio should reflect the tone of your work, to the best of your ability. If you write humor, word the information in a humorous way. If you write romance, take a flirty approach. For most other types of writing, stick to straight-laced. If you write multiple types with cross-over appeal, try to walk the line between them. If your writing doesn't have much cross-over appeal, you can write a separate bio for each type. There's no contract binding you to using the same one for everything.
Note that your author bio should never be something you consider static. When you get an award, update it. If you join a group, publish something else, hit a bestseller list, or move to another part of the country, update it. Your bio can be different in every publication if you want. But don't go overboard. Keep each bio similar to the others, especially the first line. And don't try to cram every publication, award, and org into your bio. Pick what matters most to you, and consider the flow of the piece. It should feel coherent.
And finally, always open with your pseudonym.
Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She has published over a dozen fantasy and science fiction titles, including the bestselling SPIRIT KNIGHTS young adult urban fantasy series. She is an active member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association (niwawriters.com), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (sfwa.org), and the Olympia Area Writers Coop, as well as being one of two Municipal Liaisons for the NaNoWriMo Olympia region and a founding member of Clockwork Dragon Books. Find out more about her work at authorleefrench.com.