Ah, author bios. Every writer’s bane. Many writers struggle talking about themselves, or worse: bragging about themselves. Still, author bios are an imperative part of the writing process. It’s a calling card to give potential readers a sense of who you are, why they should trust you, and what makes you unique.
What Is an Author Bio?
An author bio is a short description of yourself. It is usually less than 200 words that will go on the inner flap of your book or anywhere you publish work. Here’s my personal author bio as an example:
Danielle Mamaril is a teen writer that has published poetry in anthologies since 2013. She’s an active member of her school’s journalism club and writes for the Lit Nerds, a website that specializes in literature, lifestyle, and pop culture. She intends to pursue an English bachelor’s and become a librarian.
She grew up in Northern California where she volunteers at her church and learns meme-like songs on the saxophone. Check out her website where she shares her writing journey from the wins and getting back up agains at https://daniellemamaril.com
The Two Parts of an Author Bio
The first half should establish credibility. This is where you boast of any awards you’ve earned or other places you’re published. If your YouTube channel has only 40 subscribers (like me), this isn’t the time to bring that up.
But what if I don’t have any awards or publications? you may ask.
Start now. Start submitting to fancy schmancy awards and literary magazines. Write a guest post for the Lit Nerds. You can’t say you’ve won or published anything if you haven’t submitted. If you don’t feel ready to submit, you could work on growing your social media platforms or pursue a formal education that is related to your writing.
The second half should showcase your personality. Maybe you love to hike or are a boss at embroidery. You should have other hobbies outside of writing.
She grew up in Northern California where she volunteers at her church and learns meme-like songs on the saxophone.
This says a lot about my personal life. I volunteer a lot and waste my musical skill. This last part is often used to make yourself memorable, relatable, or quirky.
Write in Third Person
Writing about yourself in third person may feel awkward, but it needs to be done. It is used in professional environments such as submitting to magazines or book proposals. It seems more reliable and less boastful when your achievements seem to be written from an objective point of view.
Your readers know that you wrote the author bio. State your achievements but try to keep it modest, which is where the personality part of the author bio usually falls into place.
Keep It Interesting and Concise
This should be a given, but it needs to be said. Many writers fall back on saying that they’re a voracious reader. Every writer loves to read, that’s probably why you became a writer. Saying you don’t like to read would be interesting. It lets your readers know you don’t consume the art you create—so your book will probably be weak. Interesting, but ineffective.
Your readers want to know more about you. Some readers don’t even glance at the author bio, but for others, it’s the first step to loving you as a person and buying all your books. You have a whole book to make them fall in love with your writing, and they may just fall in love with you along the way. Give them a snippet of your life and they will make the choice for themselves.
Know Your Audience
In a historical fiction novel, an author might share how they have a degree in history. When submitting to a literary magazine, the author may choose to prioritize their awards and previous publications. I talk about writing for the Lit Nerds on my blog and to literary magazines. I don’t put that information in my author bio for this site. Obviously I write for the Lit Nerds, I’m right here.
There’s a time and a place to talk about certain experiences, and crafting the perfect author bio is all about knowing your audience.
Remember Your Bio Evolves
As you grow as a writer, you earn more credentials. As you grow as a person, your interests and priorities change.
Your debut novel may not have been a bestseller, but on your tenth novel you are much more accomplished. It’s not uncommon for your credentials to change. In the personal part of your bio, you might’ve said you loved spending time with your little ones but now they’re out of the house, in college, or making families of their own.
Life is fluid. Your author bio is your life, even if it’s condensed into a few sentences, so don’t be afraid to continually tweak it.
This is relevant for all your writing, even your author bio. Tons of writers have trouble with author bios and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially if you’ve never written one. A critique partner’s help can be just what you need to give you that extra boost.
The author bio is a small part of your life that some readers won’t even read, but it is crucial that the writer gets this right. This is the chance for you to sell not just your writing but your own self. Reedsy’s book launch specialist, John Pitney suggests the following: “Reading is an intimate endeavor in which the reader and the author are engaged in a kind of relationship. So, it’s important to provide potential readers with the chance to get a sense of who you are and why you have the authority and expertise to write about a particular topic before they pick up your book.”
Good luck in your author bio endeavors. May the wondrous writing gods bless you in your adventure.