Practical Tips for Writing Your Own Author Bio

K.I.S.S. principleToday I’m going to share with you some practical tips about writing your own author bio. Even if you haven’t been professionally published yet, there is still material you can share with readers in your bio if you stick with the following tried-and-true formula.

Write in the Third Person

People automatically assign more trust to what one person says about another person over what people say about themselves—even when they know that the bio was written by the author. This is Psychology 101 and is used by everybody who wants to cultivate respect for their credentials. In addition, the third person creates a little distance between the author and the reader that allows the reader to feel less intruded upon. Some examples:

Good Third Person:

Jane Smith has dreamed of writing fiction since the time she first put pen to paper. To that end, she has been honing her craft at several online writing communities, including www.FantasyToday.com and www.AuthorsDen.com. Her efforts finally paid off in 2007, when her first novel, DRUID TWILIGHT, was accepted for publication by Virtual Tales. It will appear in eBook and paperback format in 2008. Ms. Smith lives in West Milford, New Jersey with her husband, their children and an ever-expanding family of fairies in their backyard.

Don’t Do It!

I have dreamed of writing fiction since the first time I put pen to paper. To that end, I joined the staff of my high school newspaper in 1990, and also wrote for my college newspaper. After much diligence and hard work, I received my B.A. in Communications from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1996. I had to accept a boring desk job to pay the rent, but I devoted my evenings to my life’s true calling, even joining a few online forums to share my work with other authors and get feedback on my writing. After enduring what seemed to be an endless stream of rejections by obviously second-rate publishing houses, my writing will finally receive the recognition it deserves when my very first novel, DRUID TWILIGHT, comes out in print in 2008. My husband and I are looking forward to my being able to work from our West Milford, New Jersey home full time now, as I will be able to spend more time with our children. I will also have more time to complete the fairy ring we are building in our backyard to attract inspiration for my sequel novel, DRUID REBIRTH.

List Facts, Not Wishes

If you are a mechanic and/or a housewife, you are free to say so or to leave it out. You may also say that you only write as a hobby, but don’t bother to explain that you hope to be a full time writer in the future. The reader is unlikely to be interested in your dreams at this point. Be careful not to overdo the posturing—you may well be an excellent writer, but in the end, that is for the reader to judge. Every superlative used in your bio will reduce the reader’s trust in the objectivity of that bio—and hence of your material. The “KISS” principle (keep it simple, stupid!) is really the best way to go.

Cite Relevant Experiences

If you have an education in some field of writing, then mention it; otherwise, leave it out. Any previous experience in the writing business is worth mentioning, whether you wrote an article that was published in the New York Times or an amateur ezine. Even if you haven’t been paid for any work yet, it is perfectly acceptable to list the uncompensated articles you wrote—just remember that the reader doesn’t really care whether you were paid or not, so there’s no need to distinguish between the two. Usually two or three references are sufficient to mention; you can always refer the reader to your website or blog for a complete list of your published works.

Belong Somewhere

If you are a member of any writers’ community, mention it. Many writers have found it useful to belong to a group for training or social purposes, but there is also the added benefit of being able to tout a relevant reference to your craft. Even if your only connection with a writer’s guild is that you pay the membership dues, it is worth mentioning and increases trust among the readers—they know that others are able to give more information about you or get hold of you if the need should arise.

Write Tight

This is a good rule in all your writing, and particularly in your bio. The reader is checking out your bio only for a moment, and mostly to estimate the value of your work. Write more than a few lines, and your audience may look elsewhere.

Add a Hook

You should include one or two bits of information that help give your bio that extra little color that will make readers remember your name next time you meet. Perhaps you can mention an unusual hobby, or something else that will twitch the reader’s smile muscles?

In the first example listed above, the author mentions that she keeps a fairy family in the backyard. Since her book is about druids, it’s a charming detail when written about lightly. Notice that it doesn’t come off that way in the second version—and in fact, it makes her seem a bit loony.

So if you keep your bio down to one small paragraph and write honestly and to the point, you will have a pretty good chance of being remembered.

More on writing your author bio in the next article in this series.

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