Monday, November 11, 2013

Writing Your Author Bio

Today I'm featuring another selection from the archives. Whether traditionally or independently published, you'll want to craft an effective author bio! This post originally appeared on November 8, 2010. 

"There is properly no history; only biography." Ralph Waldo Emerson

You've finished your novel--that was the easy part! Now you've overcome your fears and written the query letter. In addition, you fought the idea of condensing your "baby" to five pages, but finally did and wrote a synopsis.

Good to go, right? In some cases yes, but not when the agent/publisher requests an author biography!  Writing your bio isn't as daunting as it is challenging for those of us who lead average, run of the mill lives.

Some people have experienced exciting and adventurous lives as army brats, or pursued glamorous professions such as corporate law or international business.  Even some not so glamorous professions can be rather exciting, such as truck driving or jail wardening.

But if we're not  lawyers like John Grisham, or doctors like Robin Cook, how can we make our lives (as housewives, sales clerks, accountants, insurance salesmen, etc.) sound a little more--robust?

First of all, you're not required to write a book! Usually no more than a paragraph is expected. You can take any significant experience in your life that has shaped you as a writer and put it in your bio.

Include your education if relevant to your writing background or your subject matter.  If you were an English major or have an MFA, great!  If you're a nuclear physicist, who's written a thriller about a nuclear physical disaster, by all means, state that.

Even if you don't have an MFA, or didn't go to college, you can take the life you've lived and work with it.  However, don't "toot your own horn." Author bios are written in third person. Your mother may think you're the greatest writer alive, but leave that to the agent/publisher to decide.

A previous published article (even if you weren't paid) and where it appeared can be mentioned in your bio.  Working in a job that used (or uses) your writing skill is also relevant info (such as news script writing for a local news station).

If you're a native of a notorious town (Las Vegas), popular tourist destination (San Francisco), or a historic city (Cincinnati), that fact can be used in crafting your bio.  Perhaps your hometown's crime history, famous prison, or relationship with the Underground Railroad tapped into your creative juices as you wove your story about the Mafia, Alcatraz, or an escaped slave.

As an avid reader, you can mention the authors who've influenced your work, such as Thomas Fleming and Eugenia Price for historicals, or John Grisham and Scott Turow for legal thrillers.

If you experienced an exciting trip to an exotic locale (this can be a trip in the mission field, or that trip to Europe you took with the high school senior class), you can describe how that experience inspired you in creating your story. Perhaps the people, the history/culture, or the art made an impression upon you.

Lastly, if you belong to a writers' organization (e.g. Romance Writers of America), and a critique group, place that in your bio.  This shows that your serious about your writing career and are working to improve your craft.

Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:
  • Write in third person
  • List facts
  • Cite relevant experience
  • Write tight
For more help, check out this link and this one. Both provide some great information for writing a compelling author bio!

Have you written your author bio yet? Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

7 comments:

shelly said...

This was a great post, Maria.

Hugs and chocolate!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Shelly! Glad you enjoyed it!

William Kendall said...

My author's bio, at present, is a rather brief one....

Maria McKenzie said...

Brief but powerful, I'm sure!

Norma Beishir said...

When I was with Berkley and Silhouette, each of them wanted me to write a bio. Oddly enough, the two bios were very different even though they were both mine....

Tamara Woods said...

This was a really informative post. Thank you!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Norma: Perhaps you were tailoring each to different audiences;).

@Tamara: Hi, Tamara! Thanks so much for visiting. I'm glad you found this post informative:).