WRITING

6 Tips for Writing an Effective Author Bio

BY HANNAH GUY • April 15, 2019

6 Tips for Writing an Effective Author Bio

With paper (or screen) in front of you, magic happens. You can conjure an entire world and a cast of characters, new towns and planets, new languages and technologies. You can weave memory, research, and experience to create a compelling personal account of life.

That is, until you’re tasked with writing your own author biography. Gone is the face of inspiration. In its place, a fearful expression or, worse, just a blank stare.

Suddenly have dishes that need washing? Or the compulsion to bake eighty dozen cookies and then painstakingly decorate them? Nothing induces procrastination quite like the prospect of writing about yourself without the safety of creative license.

But writing your bio doesn’t need to be a painful or paralyzing process. Here are our favorite tips for writing about yourself—while keeping procrastination at bay and your sanity intact.

1. Keep it short.

Unless you’ve been instructed otherwise by an editor or publisher, your bio should be tightly written, to the point, and short. Aim for no more than 150 words. Aside from forcing you to distill your information to the very basics, it will also keep readers from wandering off before they get to the end. Remember that your bio should be just a quick snapshot of your writing history, accolades, and where readers can learn more about you and your books.

2. Start with your writing history.

The first sentence of your bio isn’t just an introduction. It’s the best way to demonstrate your position as an author within your genre. Write about yourself in third person and establish your credentials right at the outset.

What choices led you to write this book? Was writing part of your career path, or did you start with another profession? Authors can have enormously varied backgrounds. While some were published as teenagers, others don’t pen their first book until their forties, fifties, or even their sixties.

This is also the time to let readers know your publishing history—whether your work has appeared in magazines or blogs, or if you studied creative writing or journalism in school. Are you a bestselling author, or have you won a book prize or earned other notable literary achievements? And for those authors who are writing a book as a result of their professional expertise, this is where you share your professional background.

Example for authors with lots of writing credentials and experience:

Former Los Angeles Times political journalist Jenny Kirkus is the award-winning and bestselling author of Jenny on the Campaign Trail and Jenny: Behind the Debates…

 Example for authors with a less traditional writing background:

A chief ER surgeon and self-taught knitting genius, Jenny Kirkus came up with the idea for The Knitting Doctor series during an emergency appendectomy…

3. Tailor your bio for your book’s audience.

While some authors choose to create a general, tone-neutral bio, you can catch a reader’s eye by crafting one that reflects not only the genre of the book you’ve written but also your writing style. While adding some comic color can be perfect for a piece of lighthearted romantic fiction or a children’s chapter book, it can seem out of place for a professional self-help book or a memoir filled with struggle and heartache. Try to match the tone of your bio to your book. This is your opportunity to further engage your audience and inspire readers to pick up more of your books. Which leads to…

4. Don’t be afraid to self-promote.

There is a fine line between bragging and effectively letting your readers know what you’ve accomplished and where they can read more about you and your writing. While it’s important to make yourself look as shiny as possible, try to avoid awkward and unnecessary self-praise. Adjectives—“brilliant,” “heartbreaking,” “groundbreaking,” and the like—should never be used by you to describe yourself or your book. Instead, let your credentials, sales, and reviews provide the hype. Here are some examples:

Examples using credentials:

Golden Heart Award winner and vice president of the Illinois chapter of RWA, Jenny Kirkus…
 
After serving for two decades as a Navy SEAL, James Kirkus published his Special Ops series…

 Example using sales:

Jenny Kirkus’s debut, The Loveliest Story, was a #1 Kindle bestselling novel in the book club fiction category and is being translated into Spanish, French, and Italian…

 Example using review quotes:

Hailed by Incredible Book Reviews as “the most terrifying new thriller writer today,” Jenny Kirkus is the author of Slash and Burn…

 5. Provide contact points—but be judicious about sharing personal information.

The end of your bio should include your author website and one or two social media links through what marketing types refer to as a “call to action.” Invite your readers to visit your website or follow you on social media for more information, news, or to check out your blog. This is a chance to keep readers in the loop about what you’re working on, what books you’ve written, and—most important—how to buy them.

Excited by the possibility of feedback, authors sometimes include their personal email addresses. We strongly recommend not giving out any information that might allow a stranger access to your private life. (That also includes specific details about where you might work or live, as well as the names of your family members.) Of course, most people reading your bio are just regular ol’ book lovers, but we’re believers in an ounce of prevention. If the outlying creeper could track you down using the information in your bio and on your website, you might want to fix that.

Consider creating a general email address and business-only social media accounts, where your readers can write to you and follow you, completely separate from your personal ones. Ensure that your bio and any links you include do not divulge information that you do not want strangers to have. Because at the end of the day, you want to encourage your fans—not stalkers and internet trolls.

6. And finally: ask someone to edit your bio.

When it comes to writing about ourselves, it can be really hard to remain objective. While some writers have no problem exaggerating their successes, most of us have a tendency to downplay our achievements. The best way around this is to ask a friend or family member—or even a coworker you’re comfortable with—to look over what you’ve written. They’ll be able to point out missing information, and if it’s someone you trust, they’ll call you out if you veer too far off track. If you have the budget, you might also consider hiring a professional editor to take a look. While it won’t be free, it’s a quick and effective way to ensure your bio is tightly written, error-free, and engaging.

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