Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Writing 101: Writing an Author Bio

Every author has to have a bio somewhere, sometime, for something. Just about every website is going to want one, bloggers are bound to ask, and even Amazon expects you to write a little something about yourself when you self-publish your book. 

Who Am I? 

It's a little task, and for many authors it's terrifying. What does one say about oneself? The author bio is another little piece of promotion, and it shouldn't be overlooked. I've literally purchased books based on the strength of an author bio. You want to come up with something standard to use, 50 to 150 words, that is interesting but professional, attention-getting but low-key, suggestive without being pushy...and written in the third person. 

It's a whole lot to ask for, and frankly I find it to be one of the more undesirable tasks that come with being an author. Some people can afford to hire publicists to do this sort of thing for them, but the self-published author has got to write their own bio. Keep a few points in mind while you're working to write a good one. 


There are several standard items that traditionally go into an author bio. Lots of authors mention where they live, their credentials and what they write about. This might look something like this:

S. P. Author makes her home in Boulder, Colorado, where she writes about murders every day. After spending ten years as a private investigator, Author turned her attention to crimes that happen on the page. 

See how interesting that is? Yet the first part of the bio really only gave you the information outlined above: location, credentials, genre. Now, round your author bio out a little, doing your very best to grab the reader's attention. How? By telling them what, specifically, you've got to offer. Adding to the bio we started above, this next bit might look something like this:

S. P. Author has published five mystery novels told from the gritty perspective of a private eye who observes no rules when it comes to solving cases. Visit her blog at spauthorwrites.com for real-life crime stories, excerpts from the books and reviews of mystery novels in all genres.

Now you know even more: this author writes serial mysteries starring a lone investigator, like many of the great mystery writers of the past, and she blogs. You know more about what the author has to offer, and where you can go to get it.

The bio is right around 80 words so far. Finish it up with something colorful if you like to make a lasting impression. Adding on to the bio above, it might end with something like: 

Follow @SAuthorClues to find out why some books are worth killing for.

It's sort of tantalizing, and the author's Twitter is getting a mention, to boot. Now the entire bio is just under 100 words, which is a perfectly manageable size, and it's got all the important information in it. But it's still interesting, and reads well. It's professional, but maybe just a little provocative, too. This is the tone you'll want to strike, but adapt it to suit your own audience. I write mysteries, so naturally I tend toward something a bit dark and cryptic. If you write comedies, be a little bit more funny. If you write romances, be a little bit more suggestive or sweet. If you write children's books, put a little more emphasis on your credentials and think like a parent; they're the ones who will be reading your blurb, not the children you target with your stories.

Writing an author bio can be stressful, but it's still possible to come up with a good one. Be objective, be professional, and add all the important information. Polish it up so it reads well and looks perfect, and save it! You'll end up needing a bio in many different places, so keep it where you get at it easily.

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