The Author Bio Part 2: The Four W’s

Janet Grant

Blogger: Kathleen Y’Barbo

Janet here: Yes, I am back from my nomadic existence as a fire evacuee. Thanks to all of you for your prayers during the disastrous fires Northern California experienced earlier this month. While I’m safely ensconced in my house, which only sustained smoke damage, I am re-entering the work of our agency with a soft opening. I still have ash to clean up from my yard, windows and screens to wash the ash and smoke off of, several shelves of thawed freezer items to dump, and insurance claim papers to sift through. Not to mention catching up on my work for my clients!

I’m beyond measure thankful to Kathleen Y’Barbo for stepping in as my substitute blogger. Wendy pointed out to me that Kathleen’s super blog post on writing a single-sentence bio was the first segment of a three-part series on bios. I’ve asked her permission to post the two other blogs that comprised that series, and she has graciously agreed that I may.

Here is the second of that series, which helps you decide what to include in a longer bio. Next week she’ll give instructions on writing a snappy, lengthier bio.

After her series concludes, I’ll be ba-a-a-ck with my own blog posts. Now, on to Kathleen’s insights…

I read some fabulous one-sentence bios in response to last week’s challenge. If you missed the blog post, I highly suggest you go back and read it. Be sure to scan the comments for some clever bios.

For those of you who’ve risen to the challenge and completed a brief bio, bravo. While the one-sentence bio is a great calling card for potential editors, agents, and eventually readers, it doesn’t completely convey the Four W’s of You.

The Four W’s

1. Who are you?

A simple question, and yet oh so complicated. Answer this as it relates to your writing. “Wendy Writer is a professor of botany and purveyor of fine chocolates,” is a dandy statement, especially if you write murder mysteries featuring food and plants. Think of what aspects of who you will make the greatest impression on your readers and highlight those. Grab ’em with something that makes the reader respond, “Wow.”

2. What have you written?

For the published author, this would be either your most recognizable title, your most recent title, or the title most closely connected to the one you’re connecting your bio to. For those of you who haven’t yet seen your novel or nonfiction work in the bookstore, remember that most writers don’t begin by penning longer works. Generally their foray into the writing world starts with an article, a devotional, a vignette in a book, such as Chicken Soup for the Soul, a short story or even a piece for their church newsletter. Guess what? That’s writing, and yes, it counts! Now, do NOT list everything you’ve ever put to paper including yesterday’s grocery list. (Unless you’re a clever mom writing books to other moms.) Be choosy. Select a few key pieces and let the rest be known as the remainder of the body of your work.

3. Why do you write?

This question isn’t always appropriate, but at least consider answering it in your bio. When added in just the right place, I believe this nugget of information will showcase not only the author’s voice but also answer questions in the minds of a reader/editor/agent as to the author’s heart. The response to this question should be somewhere between a phrase and a sentence and should reflect the type of writing you do. For example, an author of a nonfiction book on grace might say: “Andy Author has taken on the happy task of telling the world about the Lord’s ability to forgive repeatedly because of Andy’s first-hand knowledge on the topic.”

4. What else do you want them to know?

The answers to this question can be as varied as the books we write. Perhaps you have a one-sentence anecdote about yourself or your body of work that will fit here. Maybe this is the place to put the more mundane stuff of life such as education or day job, if those don’t fit elsewhere but will fill in more about who you are.

Your assignment?

Start answering these questions. As with the one-sentence bios, your voice should always shine through, even in the just-the-facts areas of the bio.

Next week we will talk about how to take these Four W’s of You and turn them into a three-hundred word bio that will make your publicist smile. In the meantime, start posting your answers. Try out some ideas on us. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!


Writers: What questions should you answer in your long bio? Click to tweet.

If a writer can’t figure out what to put in her bio, here’s some help. Click to tweet.