I’d like to wrap up this series of articles about writing your author bio with this post, which includes some additional bits of general “bio-writing wisdom” to add to what we’ve covered so far during this writer’s workshop designed to help you write your author bio.
A well-written bio can convey to your potential reading audience that you are fun, creative and entertaining. Most bios I read are rambling, overly personal and very disjointed, and some of the most talented authors write the worst bios. Part of what makes most bios so dull is that many people lift material from their resumes, including long lists of things such as degrees earned, honors and awards, and non-relevant employment history. If you’re writing a bio that’s posted at your website, provide a few paragraphs of bio information, then link to a PDF of your actual resume, where anyone who cares can search for details about your job history.
Most of the time it’s best to limit your bio to three or four sentences. This is particularly true for a professional bio that you would use when being introduced as a speaker, or at the end of an article you have written. When writing a bio for your website or the inside of a book jacket, you can make it a little longer if you wish. But make sure you break it into short paragraphs (no more than three sentences in each paragraph). This will increase the likelihood that people will actually read your bio.
The first line or two of your bio should include your full name and either:
1) A writing positioning statement — Jane Smith
- is the author of BOOK 1, BOOK 2, etc.
- has been writing since (you pick a time)
- has had a number of short stories, poems, articles, etc. published in places such as (print magazine), (online ezine), (local paper), (forum articles), etc.
2) An aspiring writing positioning statement — Jane Smith
- has been itching to write for as long as she can remember
- has been writing since she first learned how
- has been honing her craft for many years
or something along those lines. Always include your first and last name, and don’t be bashful about using all caps (JANE SMITH has been writing). That will start your bio off with a bang.
Subsequent lines can include other jobs or interests, published works, awards that you have received, quotes, beliefs about your chosen profession, jokes about your chosen profession, inspiring comments, and other personal items that make you stand out from the crowd. When you have multiple talents listed, you also show that you are a very diverse individual. By showing a breadth of your interests, you will enable the reader to see different aspects of your personality.
Share no more than one or two personal tidbits
Be sure to reveal one or two personal tidbits about who you are and just what motivates you. You may want to include the reason that you want to be a writer (Jane Smith read The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child and knew that she wanted to be a writer).
A witty experience in your bio shows everyone that reads it that you can be funny and yet down-to-earth when you want or need to be. By including a single witty sentence, you can quickly illuminate your personal experiences and people will be able to understand your abilities and motivations. Some possible topics:
- Who is your hero? And why?
- What one event in your childhood had the greatest effect on your life?
- If you weren’t doing what you do today, what other job would you have?
- What “lesson from mom” do you still live by today?
- Do you have a pet? If so, tell me about him or her.
- What’s the craziest thing you have done?
If told in a professional manner, you can reach out and touch whoever reads your bio. But don’t overdo it—more than one or two personal reflections could make you sound cutesy instead of professional.
Benefits of a Snippet Library
Because you will need to craft many versions of your bio over the years, and to better suit your audience, I highly recommend that you establish a “snippet library.” This can be done in a Word document, a spreadsheet, or even a database program if you have one. The benefit to a spreadsheet is that you can sort the data alphabetically or by subject.
What you’ll need to do is break apart your bio information, sentence by sentence, and categorize it with headings such as “Work/Titles,” “Family,” “Awards,” “Books,” “Interests,” etc. Then, when you are asked to submit a bio for something, it makes it easier to cherry-pick sentences and arrange them into a new 3-5 sentence paragraph.
Each time you open your snippet library, you will undoubtedly make some tweaks, add in a new sentence or two, etc. This can come in handy if you have several diverse interests or career experiences. For example, I teach religious education (R.E.) to the second graders at my church each year, and while teaching R.E. has helped me learn many skills that are useful in my day job (such as public speaking, planning classes, interacting with a diverse age range of people), it’s not the kind of thing I would want to include in my professional bio, because the last thing I want to do is turn people off before I get a chance to interact with them directly. However, I also conduct online seminars and workshops (such as this one) a few times a year. So when I am asked to speak, I do include a generic line from my snippet library:
Ms. Gormley has been conducting classes, seminars and workshops to diverse groups on a wide variety of topics for many years.
This line from my snippet library lets me combine a somewhat diverse group of activities in a way that is both truthful and yet relevant to a potential audience.
In the final article of this writer’s workshop, I will discuss how to get a headshot taken. You’ll want to look your best on that book cover, so please stay tuned for my tips on how to approach this important task that will have many uses.