Monday, November 8, 2010

Writing Your Author Bio

"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?

Tweet me @maria_mckenzie. Thanks for stopping by!


Old Kitty said...

Hello! My first time on your fab blog and I like this very sound advice! Whenever I try to write my bio for writing purposes it always sounds so flat and boring - but I like that I may add authors who influence me - I never thought of doing that! Thank you! I guess the best I can do is sound enthusiastic about my own meagre acheivements and passionate about the world of literature! Take care

Lydia Kang said...

Great thoughts on this! Especially the "write tight" part. Personally I'm just procrastinating this part until someone pins me down and makes me do it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Good advice!! It's surprising how many "bad" bios I see from great writers. :)

Nas said...

Thanks for the info, great advice. I checked out the links. Faboulous! said...

I've written mine as a kind of Writer's CV
I hope it fits your criteria. :O)

Maria McKenzie said...

@Old Kitty: Thanks so much for your comments, and thanks for the follow:). Glad you found the post useful for jazzing up your bio!

@Lydia: Thanks for your comments! It is easier to procrastinate than do it:).

@Jennifer: Thanks! Let's hope no one ever says our bios stink

@Nas: Glad you liked the post and the links!

@Madeleine: Thanks for visiting today! Love what you've done in your blog. You've got all you need to make a great one paragraph bio!

Jennifer L. Armentrout said...

Great Advice with perfect timing. I just had to write my bio for my editor and I stared at a blank Word program for about 10 minutes.

Unknown said...

Awesome post Maria. I never really thought much about the bio part of the process. Guess I should have. Thanks

Maria McKenzie said...

@Jennifer: Thanks for the follow! Glad the post showed up at just the right time for you!

@TC: Thanks for the comment! Bios are easy NOT to think about! The synopsis and the query are draining enough:).

Elena DeRosa said...

Excellent advice...can't wait to use it!

Natascha said...

Great post, Maria. Thanks for stopping by my blog! So glad I found your site :)

Saumya said...

Haha, I have never written an author bio (I need to finish my novel first)! This is such excellent advice. I always see author bios that do not seem well thought out!

Great blog!! I'm excited to be a new follower!!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Elena: Hi, Elena! Thanks so much! Hope you write your bio soon:).

@The Las Vegas Writer: Thank you, and thanks for the follow!

@Saumya: Thanks for your comments! And thanks for following me! When you need a break from your novel, get that bio together:).

Unknown said...

I was seeking for a good bio writing services online, while started reading your post found it very interesting. I enjoyed reading it.Very informative post.

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