Quick, look at your back cover. If there’s a big blank space there, you probably need to write your author biography. This is not the time to be shy; your author biography, while only a few sentences long, can have a huge impact on the success of your book and you as an author.
Consider your audience; what do your readers want to know? Keep your information relevant to the book’s subject and your audience. If you’re writing children’s books, leave out the fact that you started your own tax firm at age 19, and vice versa; if your books are about preparing your own small-business taxes, don’t mention that your two Shih-tzus are named Jingles and Meriwether.
Elements to include:
- Education. Where did you get your advanced degree(s)? If you don’t have a lot of other career or writing experience, name-dropping your university helps show qualification.
- Experience with the subject. Tell us how you became an expert, or how you’ve recently used your expertise.
- Previous publications/writing experience. Were you published in the New York Times? Fantastic! If this is your first book, you might mention it briefly, but only if you have room after all of your more important information. Otherwise, you can simply state what you are in vague terms: novelist, writer, poet, etc.
- Other ways to find you. Do you blog? Have a podcast? Write regular articles for a popular site? Include other ways for readers to find your work or contact you directly, if you wish.
- Personal life. Decide how comfortable you and your family are with divulging personal information; naming your spouse, children, and pets are not necessary, takes up precious space in your bio, and won’t necessarily sell your book any better. Including your city (or the nearest major city) may help you connect with local readers.
- Your personality. If your book is of an appropriate subject matter, don’t be afraid to show your personality in your bio. What are your hobbies, your interests, your weird personality traits? If you’re a witty, clever person, your bio should reflect that.
Write multiple versions. One should be very short (~ 25 words) and contain the name of your most recent book, to use for article bylines, and one should be around 100 words for your book cover and website. Finally, be prepared to edit the bio for each publication you need it for. For example, you may not mention your obsession with designer shoes in your main bio, but if you’re writing an article for a shopping magazine, those readers would find interest in your unhealthy Manolo Blahnik collection.
Finally, have a few honest friends and colleagues review your bio. Aside from being able to benefit from a final proofread, you may realize you left out an important factoid or gone on for too long about Jingles and Meriwether.
Short: Maggie the Cat is the author of Don’t Scratch the Carpet and Other Advice to Ignore. She blogs at CatOnaColdTinRoof.wordpress.com. (20 words)
Medium: Maggie the Cat was adopted in 1996 and has since written volumes about domestic cat life. She is founder and annual keynote speaker of the Sleep in the Sunshine summit in Atlanta and hosts a variety of call-in internet radio shows about cat happiness, exercise, and interacting with human counterparts. Her other books include Bookshelves, Bathtubs, and Laundry Baskets: Hiding from Human Toddlers and Napping the Good Nap: How to Let Go of the Guilt and Enjoy Your “Me-ow” Time. She lives in Raleigh, NC, where she blogs at CatOnaColdTinRoof.wordpress.com and definitely does not scratch the carpet. (97 words)
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