It happens to everyone. You read an amazing short story, a poem that stars your eyes, or an article that introduces you to a compelling new perspective. Who wrote this piece, you ask? The writer must be incredible! You scroll to the bottom of the page and there it is, a picture of this awing weaver of words and an author bio.
Only the biography is flat and dull. There is the usual mix of college degrees, awards, cats, coffee, hobbies, amazing kids, and potentially the spouse that ‘makes it all go’. The writer could be any other writer you have read about.
Author biographies are the subject of much debate and are, interestingly, a place where even many gifted writers may struggle to shine.
The best author biographies are not a neat sum-up of quirks, degrees, and publication credits but instead offer a slice of the writer; they impart not only texture but also smell and taste.
While discussing the writing of a creative bio with an artistic friend of mine, it came to light my partner in conversation felt hesitant and awkward listing her achievements alongside her dreams. Even in the third person she felt like she was bragging and possibly presenting a shallow picture of herself.
Certainly, reading a fifty-to-two-hundred-word bio composed entirely of publication credits is not only uninteresting but also flat.
So, what goes into a good author bio?
A strong author bio is engaging and informative. Include
- Your name and possibly your state of residence
- An appropriate number (1-3) of relevant degrees, certificates, and/or awards
- An appropriate number (1-4) of published books
- Up to five but preferably three publication credits
- A link to your website
- At least one line entirely about you as a personality
Mention sparingly, especially if it makes up the bulk of your personality line:
- Amazing spouses
If all you got going for you, is you love a good cup of chai, well, I have come across hundreds of people who say the same. Similarly, saying you kill for cozy mysteries does not set you apart from the rest of the crowd. However, it does sound cute and quaint and quirky and that captures the heart of writers a little too well.
The six elements previously mentioned, cleverly used, all go toward crafting a final picture of you. For example, one way citing previous publications helps is in rounding out what you are passionate about writing.
It is necessary to tailor the publications you cite to keep them relevant. If I am submitting to a nature-driven publication, I include literary names like Green Ink Poetry, Black Flowers, and Silver Birch Press. Because most editors also know each other, at least in passing, it gives a publication a sense of your style. Note, however, ultimately it is your writing itself that carries the most weight.
You will need three author bios.
The first one should be a personal, fun bio, such as you might put in the sidebar of your website/blog.
To include with your creative writing submissions, write a bare-bones bio of fifty words or less (if this is a variation of your website/blog bio, all the better!) and a lengthier piece for places that encourage people to paint a picture of themselves without word restraint. I recommend regaling for no more than three hundred words, but I find one hundred and fifty is about as long as I can entertain for. List away and weave together your achievements! I view it not as bragging but as proof I am passionate about what I do. You are a celebration. Celebrate yourself.
Bonus Tip: Look at your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook bios. Most likely you have written something fun and interesting about yourself within the character restraints offered by social media platforms. See if you can weave in these refined elements of yourself into your author bio.
Do not be afraid to let your biography change and evolve
It has taken me three years to write my bios in their current forms. As I continue to refine down what makes up the most potent parts of me, no doubt my writer’s statement will change again. Hold onto the parts you truly love and let go of the parts that are starting to shed their old skin. Let what is underneath come through!
Extra: Six Elements to Include in your Bio as an Artist
- Your state of residence. Consider mentioning where you were born/ grew up if it adds depth to your art
- The art mediums you use and/or special techniques
- Where you find inspiration and what you are passionate about
- Your grandest achievements. This can include awards, noteworthy clients, shops that consign your art, and gallery shows
- A link to your website/online shop
- At least one line about you as a personality
Did you love writing your author/artist bios or are you still struggling? Share the ups and downs of your journey below!
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