Are you struggling to tell the world about you as a writer? In this post, we tell you how to write an author bio.
How To Write An Author Bio
Your bio is your calling card or sales pitch as an author. It’s a chance to give potential readers and followers a rapid summary of who you are. It tells them what kind of writer you are, what’s unique about you and why people should read you. You want it to be engaging, pithy, and distinctive. It should be written in third person. Here are some tips for how to craft yours…
Start With The Core
You can see your bio as a piece of text that you build up in a series of layers, adding or tweaking additional layers as the context allows or requires. But at its heart it should have a core thought about who you are and what you stand for as a writer. ‘Funny-sad author’, ‘Regency romantic’, ‘Philosophical world-builder’ and so on. One way to surface this thought is to develop a vision statement.
Once you have this key thought, always include it wherever you need a bio. Then you can build up other layers around it as suggested below. Add in achievements, credentials, testimonials, and biographical details. Version according to context.
Version Your Bio For Different Lengths…
Your bio could be used in lots of different places, such as:
- In your social profiles, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
- In your covering letter to agents.
- To accompany competition entries and submissions to litmags (for example, as a ‘covering letter’ in Submittable).
- To accompany articles and stories wherever they are published by third parties, such as guest blogs, Medium stories, review sites, and print or online litmags.
- On sites selling or promoting your work, such as Goodreads or Amazon’s author page.
- On your own website (likely to be a more detailed version).
- Anywhere promoting events or courses you are leading.
So it’s a good idea to have versions of your bio at different lengths for these different uses.
…And Tailor For Your Different Hats
Similarly, you might want to version your bio to emphasise different elements of your work. Many writers wear different hats, and it’s useful to have different versions of your bio that you can use where needed. For example, my hats include journalism, comedy, content, short fiction, and novels. I have different versions of my bio to reflect all these.
Resist The Temptation To Say Everything
Don’t list every publication that has featured your work, every competition that’s ever longlisted you, and so on. Pick a few that count as the highlights or most representative. Three great publications or credentials looks impressive, and the reader imagines there are many more. But 17 items starts to look desperate!
Include A Quotation
If you have a great, short quote from a well-known source, that could be worth including. For example: ‘The scariest writer writing today’ – Stephen King. ‘The funniest novel I’ve read this year’ – New York Times. Make sure the source is likely to be known to people.
Credentials are brief facts that provide a short-hand index to your abilities. For example: ‘Pushcart nominated’. Or ‘Amazon bestseller in Business Books’. Or ‘Runner-up, Smokelong 2021’.
Include Follow-up Details
Make sure where possible to include a way for people to find out more about you. This might be a link to a website or Linktree page, and any publications you mention could have links too (where permitted). If you have a web address or handles of social media platforms where you are most active, include those too. But again, cherry-pick your details – don’t try to shoehorn everything in.
Think About SEO
Google likes articles with an author bio, as they demonstrate expertise and authority, qualities it rewards with better rankings. Look to fold in search key phrases that you think people might search for, especially sub-genres such as ‘steampunk’, ‘dark fantasy’ and ‘cosy thrillers’. The more niche or specific the phrase, the better it is likely to work for you in SEO terms.
Add A Splash Of Personal Detail
Many bios include some brief biographical detail to help create a more rounded picture of the author. Sometimes these will have a wry or whimsical note. For example, ‘Sue lives in California with her husband, three children, and seven cats. Her ambition is to write a whole page of her next novel without being interrupted.’ Sometimes the biographical fact is so striking it’s worth starting with. For example: ‘After being raised in an austere Evangelical cult for the first 16 years of his life…’ Or again: ‘A former Navy Seal and hostage negotiator…’
Inject A Drop Of Humour
Another approach very new writers might adopt is to dial down the facts and go instead for a more personality-led thought. For example: ‘Bleeding at my typewriter since 1998’. Or: ‘No one told me it would be this hard’. Or: ‘Is it time for another coffee yet?’ The tone of voice and choice of thought give an idea of the writer’s personality. This can a useful approach where you are just starting and don’t have a lot of credentials to list.
Keep It Up To Date
Don’t forget to regularly update your bio with new achievements and publications. You might want to keep a master version that’s always up to date. But also remember to update your bio in other key places such as your website and social media profiles.
Take Inspiration From Others
The best way to craft and refine your author bio is to learn from how others do it. Here are some different approaches and contexts:
- Cathy Ulrich
- David Baldacci
- Marian Keyes
- Sarah J. Maas
- Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
- Rob Palk
- Aimee Bender
- Julia Quinn
- Jonathan Coe
- Gillian Flynn
- Karin Slaughter
The Last Word
I hope this post will help you write your own author bio.
[If you are writing for a company, read: How To Write An ‘About’ Page That Works]
by Dan Brotzel. Dan is the author of Hotel du Jack, a collection of short stories, co-author of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group Work in Progress (Unbound), and a solo novel, The Wolf in the Woods.
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