Blogger: Mary Keeley
Compared to manuscript re-writes, growing your social media relationships, and working on your marketing plan for your proposal, writing your bio may seem like a perfunctory task that needs only cursory attention. Not so. It’s often the short pieces that are the most challenging to write well. Your bio is a tiny window into who you are professionally and personally.
Actually, you should have several versions of your bio for different audiences. When you approach your bio in terms of the specific group that will be reading it, you’ll see why you need more than one. For example, the bio you include in your book proposal, which will be read by agents and editors, will differ from the one on your website and the one on the back cover of your published book.
Take a look at your current bio and ask yourself if you can improve it in any of these general areas:
1. Can I tighten it? Can you replace wordy phrases with a few well-chosen words, leaving room for something important you didn’t think you had space to include?
2. Do my word choices sound natural to me and to my writing style? In its ideal form, your bio is a microcosm of your expertise, personality, and voice. I see many bios that expound on the author’s credentials but are either lacking or trying too hard in the others. Show your natural personality and voice to let potential readers connect with you. It may help you to read your current bio aloud to identify words and phrases that seem unnatural to you. Those spots might need tweaking.
3. Do my various versions include the most important information for their intended uses? Agents and editors discern much from what you include—and don’t include—in your bio. It’s appropriate for nonfiction writers to add education and professional honors that apply to their topic because it validates their authority. But that kind of bio information in your romance proposal might seem out of place and be interpreted that you’re trying too hard to impress. However, including travels or residence in Ireland inspires confidence that the Irish setting for your historical romance is accurate. Including membership in national and international organizations may pique a publishing professional’s interest in your nonfiction work in terms of platform strength. Likewise, it is appropriate for debut novelists to include membership in local and national fiction groups like ACFW and RWA.
4. Is my bio grammatically correct? As with your manuscript and proposal, your bio should have no grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. When in doubt, consult The Chicago Manual of Style.
5. Does my overall tone communicate professionalism? Your bio always should project you as a professional, even if you’ve never been published. You want to establish yourself as an authority to build confidence in you. If you don’t feel like a professional, you might just need to practice thinking of yourself that way. Or, it might be an indication that you need to do more writing and growing in craft before you are ready to submit.
6. What about my social media profile descriptions? The focus on social media sites is to connect with your audience and build relationships. Your profile description on these sites is another type of bio, and it can be tricky to balance professionalism and the relationship factor. Ask your critique partners, family members, or friends to read those descriptions and offer comments.
Writing a great bio takes time and thought. But once you have written bio and profile templates for different audiences, it’s only a matter of updating important information and tweaking them for each new book or social media network.
Which areas in your current bio need polishing or revising? What part of writing your bio is most challenging for you? Are your personality and voice visible?
Literary agent Mary Keeley offers six tips for writing a professional author bio. Click to Tweet.
A well-written bio is a microcosm of a writer’s expertise, personality, and voice. Click to Tweet.
What to include and not include in your debut author bio. Click to Tweet.