blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Writers are often asked for a bio–usually 30-50 words. Sometimes 100. A strong, compelling bio says a lot about an author.
How can we make sure we’re truly beefing up our author bios without making them muscle-bound?
The “two all-beef patties” method of beefing up your author bio:
Agents and editors want to see the heftiest part of your author bio devoted to who are you, what do you write, and what qualifies you to write the project you’re pitching. Usually author bios are written in third person. That might look like this–
Evelyn Everwriting creates pulse-pounding suspense for the Christian market. Her background as a criminal investigator for the NYPD adds realism to her stories. Her work with victim’s advocacy groups adds an emotional connection her readers have come to appreciate. A two-time Carol Award winner and 2018 Christy Award finalist, Evelyn conducts research between shifts in her loft apartment overlooking the city that never sleeps, and fleshes out her stories in a she-shed on her hobby farm in Upstate New York. #citysuspensewithcountryheart
Special sauce author bio:
Some authors pour on a little too much special sauce.
Prolific, bestselling, award-winning, super-nice and uber-talented author Evelyn Everwriting creates the most amazing pulse-pounding suspense for the Christian market, but really, her books could be read by anyone around the world…
An agent or editor somewhere just hit delete. “The most amazing” is a decision best left to the agent or editor.
Lettuce author bio:
Lettuce consider what’s healthy to add to a longer author bio. You have a PhD in Agronomy? If you write urban fantasy, that may not be helpful for an agent or editor. Instead, it comes across as an assumption that a PhD in anything is an automatic, “This guy can write!” (It isn’t always a given.)
You sailed solo across the Atlantic as an 18-year-old? Does that information apply to this book, or this genre? Is it an interesting tidbit? Most of the time, interesting tidbits fit better in radio interviews or blog posts or trivia contests than they do in book proposals…unless they matter to the book. But if you’re writing a book about not underestimating the courage of a teen or a cookbook about the wonders of dried seaweed, then it might matter.
Cheese author bio:
Some authors pull off a comedic bio with panache.
Axel Everwriting lives in the shadow of his famous wife–Evelyn–but has somehow managed to get a word in edgewise. A hundred thousand words, to be exact. His memoir is dull and listless, but his humorous devotional for spouses of writers–Just One More Page?–was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
Axel can get away with a bio like that because he writes humor. On anyone else, it would be considered cheesy.
Pickles author bio:
Some author bios leave a sour taste.
Evelyn Everwriting began her writing career because nothing on the market was worth buying, much less reading. She specializes in writing for herself, a genre she invented–hostility horror. If anyone chooses to purchase one of her books, fine. But that’s not her goal. Art for arts sake is her tagline. Check out Evelyn’s blog: #jesusandmearenotonspeakingterms
Yeah, I’d turn that one down too. Because of the typo on art’s.
Onion author bio:
Evelyn Everwriting writes. That’s obvious from her bestselling free Kindle download of her 50-page handbook for onion skin origami. And from her name. With a name like Everwriting, what else could she do but write? Evelyn is also a prolific speller, having won the coveted Logan Middle School Spelling Extravaganza all four years she participated. Yes, four years. She was a red shirt speller, because of a hangnail injury in eighth grade that necessitated her repeating that school year.
Evelyn and her husband Axel and their son Edsel and daughter Everly, who played the part of Annie in the off-off Broadway version of the play of the same name, share their New York loft apartment with two Great Danes and a Saint Bernard named Buffy. Buffy is named for Axel’s dearly departed mother.
When not writing, Evelyn enjoys rethreading used baseballs and sharpening her collection of No. 2 pencils. She and her husband are in the middle of a complicated bathroom renovation project. Following the success of her onion skin origami project, Evelyn is hard at work on an epic historical romance series set in the year 417 AD.
Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn…
Sesame seed bun author bio:
Fans of sesame seed buns know that a plain bun is missing a little something. It’s not the same. Beefing up your author bio may include double-checking to make sure you haven’t left out an important element. Or four.
Evelyn Everwriting is an author from Soho. You can learn more about her on her website, which is currently under construction.
Your turn. Imagine yourself an agent or editor getting a first glimpse at an author’s bio. When WOULD PhD credentials be significant? How much heartfelt and homey is too much? How does the genre in which you write inform what you include in your bio? What does your bio need? What needs to be jettisoned to make it lean and effective rather than muscle-bound?
NOTE: No authors were harmed in the making of this blog post. The bios are imaginary. But you’d be surprised how close they come to bios we’ve seen cross our desks.
AND ANOTHER THING: Special thanks to the vegans and vegetarians who averted their eyes and kept reading.