Something I have always found difficult to come up with is my author’s bio. I don’t like talking about myself in general and whenever asked to tell someone a little bit about myself, my introversion really kicks in.
When I first started submitting my work, one of the things I hadn’t anticipated was being asked for an author’s bio to accompany my story. After all, what the hell has that got to do with the quality of my story? It doesn’t, and an overwhelming majority of places I’ve submitted to state that it doesn’t affect whether or not they accept a piece. Mainly it’s there for them to print in case your story is selected.
While reassuring to a degree, I quickly had to look up what to include in an author’s bio. Are there industry accepted requirements? And what are those requirements? I probably spent a solid day researching the topic and determined two things: word limit and content. However, there is no simple answer as to the correct formula. Check out any About the Author blurb in a book and you’ll see even at a professional level, it varies.
Word limit This is probably the biggest factor because it determines content. I’ve noticed many places ask for a biography of 50 words or less. Some even want only a sentence or two.
Depending on where you’re at in your career, this can be a great length or problematic. At first I found this sorta easy as I had nothing published, but that did mean I had to talk about myself more. Below is an example of the bio I submitted for the first piece that came out:
DH Hanni lives in Eastern Washington state and enjoys writing historical fiction. When not lost in her own world, she enjoys spending time with her four-legged family and spouse.
As you can see I stated what I enjoyed writing, scant personal details, and where I lived. Admittedly it’s not great and for the life of me I don’t understand why I capitalized Eastern. Yet those two simple, crappy sentences took me a while.
What helped improve my author’s blurb was further examination of other blurbs. When the next piece came out, I had a much better blurb although I still cringe looking at it:
DH Hanni enjoys historical fiction, fantasy, and anything with great characters and a compelling story. New to the world of writing but not reading The Child is the first published work by the author. DH Hanni currently lives in Eastern Washington (state).
Apparently I still hadn’t figured out why I capitalized Eastern and I know I’m missing a comma. I’m pretty sure I threw in the (state) to be cheeky. At least it’s better and was a more accurate reflection of my personality.
Currently I have several different versions of my bio saved. I have one that is around 50 words, another that is slightly longer, and one that is closer to 100 words.
Content So what exactly do you put into your author’s bio? After paying attention to the word limit, it’s up to you. A good rule of thumb is list any relevant information regarding writing. Do you have a degree in English or Creative Writing? A degree related to the subject of the piece or some other kind of specialized knowledge? Have you won any awards? Any other kind of prestigious or well-known accolade like a fellowship or grant?
Another bit of information to include is if you have previous publishing credits. If you don’t have any, that’s completely fine. Look at the first two bios I cobbled together. One came out before the other one even though it was accepted before the other. It’s why the second bio doesn’t reference the first publishing credit. It’s okay to be honest. If you don’t have any publishing credits, then consider emphasizing other things related to writing or personal interests.
As you get further along in your career and have more publishing credits, then the struggle with content changes. Amazingly I’ve been fortunate enough to have a mixture of online and print credits so I mention both. For online credits I reference the most recent and try to keep all of my print credits if the word limit allows me. If the word limit is really restrictive then I stick to most recent publications.
I think it’s a great idea to include some more personal items in your biography. If I have the space I like to list some hobbies and mention my spouse and furry children as they have to deal with living with a writer. Besides, we have lives outside of writing so why not mention them?
Finally, if you have a website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, any kind of online and social media presence, list them. It’s free promotion that will be seen by lots of eyes. Hopefully when a reader sees your biography they’ll be interested enough in your work to check you out. Maybe they’ll even follow your blog, Twitter, what have you, or friend you on Facebook.
For my last example, here’s what my current short bio looks like:
DH Hanni writes whatever pops into her mind. Her work has appeared online in Gravel Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, and Lorelei Signal and in print in the LocoThology 2013: Tales of Fantasy and Science Fiction, First Contact Café, and Through Clouded Eyes anthologies. She enjoys reading, her three furry children and husband, history, cooking, and movies. DH Hanni can be found on Facebook or at dhhanni.net.
Granted, that blurb is 66 words so when I use it to accompany a story and the word limit is 50 words, I have to pare it down. Usually what I do is cut the personal stuff as I’d rather retain as many of my publishing credits and list my blog and Facebook.
When it comes to the author’s bio, make it as representative of you as possible. Keep in mind it will change over time and don’t be afraid to change it up for each place you submit work to. I tailor mine depending on the publication and my mood. Most importantly, be honest and be true to who you are.