Author biographies are everywhere - they will be in your query letters, on your website or blog, on your book pages on the major retailer websites, and in almost every bit of promotion you do. While your author bio isn't going to make or break your career, or your ability to sell books, having an affective bio is worth a little effort.
Some authors have a magic touch when it comes to writing bios. In just a couple of short paragraphs they manage to include humour, or make their lives look unimaginably exciting.
Like this one from Eric Carle:
You don't need to achieve all of that. The only thing your bio needs to achieve, is that it needs to be genuine.
If you write serious books, then a humorous bio isn't going to be true to you. If you aren't a glamorous movie star, then maybe your life won't appear glamorous. And that is completely okay. Because the purpose of a bio is simply for the reader to get to know you.
You would be amazed at how many readers will give your books a chance just because they feel a connection to you.
But what happens if you're writing under a pseudonym, and don't want anyone to know that it's really you?
You don't need to share your name, your address, your photo, or your place of employment for people to know you. Beneath your pseudonym you're still you, so even if you don't want readers to be able to connect the dots to your job or your kids, there are still a lot of personal details you can include that are genuinely part of who you are, and which will enable readers to connect with you.
What you don't want is to come across as secretive, stand-offish or aloof. Too little information and it'll seem as if you're in witness protection - which only works if your novels are about characters living in the witness protection program!
For a few ideas on what you can include without getting too personal: are you more a red wine drinker, or a cocktail drinker? Do you prefer hiking in the mountains, or lazing on a beach with a good book? Do you love pottery, or traveling, or country music? In what dream place you'd want to live if you won the lottery...? And yes, a reader could feel a connection to you through something as simple as a shared love of baking or shoes!
On the flip side, be aware of giving away too much information about yourself. You don't want to make it easy for potential stalkers! Do NOT include your address, the name of your employer, or your kids' names. In fact, do not include anything personal about your partner or your children. This bio is about you, not them, and should not infringe upon their right to privacy in any way.
Okay, so what should you include in your bio?
Before you start writing, I recommend you do four things:
Think about your brand. What kind of books do you write - light and fluffy, dark and edgy, serious and dramatic. Then that's what you should try to achieve with your bio.
Jot down a few unusual and interesting things about yourself. And yes, there are plenty of things about you that others will find fascinating. Your hobbies, past jobs, interesting places you've visited, your favourite songs / books / movies. All of those will tell the reader a little about you, and even give a window into what your books are likely to be about.
What do you care about most? Making people happy, your kids, your day job, a passion project, or giving back to the community in some way? Then share it!
Finally, what are your writing credentials? I put this last because if you're just starting out, you may not have many writing achievements to boast about yet. Your biography isn't a CV, so you don't need to list every article you've ever authored, or every writing award you've ever won - though if you're a USA Today Bestseller, or have won an ATKV award, that definitely deserves a mention! But don't feel pressured to include a whole lot of writing credentials if they aren't relevant. In the same way that you wouldn't tell a potential agent or editor about that high school creative writing prize you won, don't feel you need to include it for the benefit of readers either.
A recent professional-looking head-and-shoulders picture of yourself. I don't mean a photo taken by a professional, but rather a photo that makes you look like a professional. No selfies, or boozy party pictures with your BFF's arm and shoulder cut off. (Obviously, this is for your website and promo materials, and not to be included if the bio in question is for a query letter!)
Now you have a few ideas jotted down about what you'd like to include in your bio. Write them out nicely in a few paragraphs, in your own style and voice. Now comes the hard part: go back and delete at least a third of what you've included.
Keep it short and (mostly) relevant!
The best author bios are not paragraphs and paragraphs long. Have you visited an author's profile page and seen a page full of dense writing and been so enthusiastic you wanted to read it all the way to the end right then and there? Of course not!
Besides, Amazon's space for the bio is limited, so you want to be able to fit your key points into a paragraph that will be visible on screen.
By writing one short, pithy bio that can be used anywhere and everywhere, you'll not only have an effective bio, but save yourself a lot of time editing it down later!
Like a book blurb, your bio is there to entice. It is not a LinkedIn CV!
Here are a few examples of really effective biographies.
From Emma Chase:
From Jill Shalvis:
From Angie Fox:
And finally, from Dorothy Gale:
See, short, interesting, genuine, and effective!