WRITING YOUR AUTHOR BIO 101 – WHAT TO PUT IN AND WHAT TO LEAVE OUT

10 points to consider when writing your author bio.

1. Keep your author bio short

writing your author bio

When writing your author bio, don’t tell your whole life story, keep it on point. 100 words is a good starting place. Once you’ve got that version firmed up, you can create a slightly longer author bio for PR purposes, or cut it down to 50 or 75 words for other uses such as contributor pages in a print publications, social media profiles, etc. Many poetry journals will ask you to send them an author bio as short as 25 words, which is the same length as this very sentence.

2. Write in the 3rd person

Telling your story in the third person may seem a little pretentious at first, but it does make it easier to talk confidently about your achievements. Give it a try.

3. A little history goes a long way

Ask yourself, “does anyone care where I’m from?”

If you’re writing a series of poems set in San Francisco and you were born and raised in the Bay Area, sure — that detail could be crucial to your author bio. But if your work is a paranormal romance set in Russia, do we really need to know you were born in Paris and now live in London?

Mentioning your birthplace, your year of birth or your parents’ occupation are some of the  default things we put in bios: Mary was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1953. And these are fine for the blurb of your book, but not for a magazine that is taking a 500 word essay.

We begin at the beginning by habit. Boring!

Cut to the good stuff that really matters to your audience. Maybe your parents’ occupations are crucial to your own story, but leave them out of your bio. A succinct author bio will tell the reader about your achievements, major awards, recent publishing credits.

4. Your older publishing credits probably don’t matter

Again, this isn’t a dictum, merely a consideration — but I recommend only mentioning your most recent one or two articles published..

Think about it: if you’re famous, everyone already knows what you’ve written; if you’re relatively new, no one cares what you’ve written.

If you’re in the later camp, the only thing that matters is that the details of your life which you choose to include in your author bio make the reader want to check out your work.

5. So, List SOME of your literary achievements, not all of them.

It’s usually enough to mention any big literary prizes or awards you’ve won, plus the most impressive moments from your publication history. This sort of stuff establishes credibility.

If you’re a highly celebrated writer, no need to be exhaustive (and probably no need to read this article further, since I’ll assuming your author bio is already polished to perfection).

Academic achievements that are relevant to your writing should be included. If you teach, then you should most certainly mention that too.

6. Do mention your most relevant professional skills, your qualifications and relevant travel, or personal experiences

Remember, when writing your author bio, you want it to resonate with your readers and be relevant to the topics you’re writing about. If you’re a poet who writes about the sea, your background as a ship’s captain is going to interest people. If you’re a cancer survivor writing about healthy attitudes towards ageing, mentioning your personal medical history is crucial. Writing about Italy? Talk about how you spent a year in Tuscany.

7. Get some help (the hardest thing to write about is yourself)

It’s tough to see yourself and your career objectively. So when writing your author bio, ask your friends, family, and readers what they consider to be the most important or interesting aspects of your life. Ask your editor, agent, or writing group who will know you well. Pay attention to their suggestions, they are your readers!

8. Write your author bio in multiple versions

Writing a few different versions of your author bio and pass them around while asking for feedback. Edit and splice them and keep going at it until you are positive you can write your author bio in its best version!

9. It’s ok to be human.

Whether you write fictions, poetry, articles or eassys, when writing your author bio, don’t miss the chance to connect with your readers. Your bio is a unique opportunity to make such a connection, so be sure that it doesn’t read like an academic article or a Wikipedia entry. Give your bio some character. Compose it so it matches your aesthetic. Light and chatty. Dark and brooding. Urbane, but with a weak spot for Wendy’s hamburgers. Remind us that you’re human, but don’t over so it. A bio that is 50% about your dogs or your cat is likely to annoy rather than enchant.

10. If you are asked for a photograph, supply a good one.

Most magazines now are online as well as in print, so quality images are important. Don’t send your holiday snaps, selfies, or out of focus images. Images taken on mobile phones are now much better than they once were, but they may still pixilate when blown up.

Your digital author image should be clear, a good quality shot that can be blown up. If you are serious about your work as a writer, then invest a little time and money to have a proper author photograph taken.

A good head and shoulders image, face on and looking at the camera while being relaxed. Many magazine editors will reject a good submission because of a grainy or pixilated image, so pay as much attention to your author image as you do to writing your author bio.

Hints and tips from the editors at Blue Nib Publishing

For more tips check out this article and the template on reedsy

About the contributor

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