Publishing 101: Creating Your Author Bio

Author Bio Claire McKinneyPRWhen I was young and naïve, I thought the bios you read in theater programs and on the backs of books were written by someone who had a lot of nice things to say about the person. I didn’t know that individual people wrote their own author bio.

From that perspective, I started to categorize them by how much ego the subject had in order to write such glowing praise about himself!  I was amazed at how much people touted their own accomplishments.  I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to write about myself. I feel much more comfortable singing the praises of other people.  However, in order to sell our books, we all need to try to channel that egomaniac and compose a good author bio.

There are two forms to consider when crafting your author bio. One is a brief, three-to-four sentence paragraph that can go on the back jacket of your book.  The other is a lengthier explanation that could be found on a separate page in your book under “About the Author,” or as a separate page in your press kit with your author photo.

To help you get started on your author bio, try answering some questions:

  • Where did you go to college and what degrees do you have?  If you attended an MFA program or writer’s retreat, where was it?
  • Where do you live? How many children/pets do you have?
  • What do you do during the day? (i.e. what’s your day job? Are you a full-time care giver, doctor, consultant, etc?)
  • Do you have any previously published articles or books?  What are they?
  • Are you a member of any organizations, or do you serve on the boards of any non-profits? What are they?
  • What are your special interests?
  • Have you been interviewed by, reviewed in, or wrote for any media outlets?  What were they?
  • What is your website address? What is your Twitter or Instagram handle, Facebook or LinkedIn page, or Snapchat name?

Now take a look at everything you have noted above ,and highlight all of the information you would want to read about someone with a book like yours.  What gives you credibility?  What makes you interesting as a writer?  People these days are accustomed to looking in private bedrooms on the internet, and they feel entitled to know about their authors.  This holds true even more if you have written a work of non-fiction.  Then your education and other items that relate to your credibility become super important.  Once you have pulled out all of the material that could go into your bio you are ready to write.

If you haven’t already looked at author bios in the books you have on your shelves, do so.  You can model yours after theirs to fit the style and length that you need.  The short bio should list your credentials and education, especially for non-fiction; your affiliations; and perhaps the state and/or city in which you live.  You are not required to print your address for all-the world to see, but telling people the region where you reside is a nice way to give readers some perspective on what your lifestyle might be.   You can mention your kids and pets as well, but it isn’t a requirement.  Again, these are just additional personal details that bring potential book buyers closer to you as a person/writer. On this page is an example of a short bio from Laurie B. Levine, a family therapist with a young adult novel.

For the longer bio you should write about three paragraphs that fit on approximately three-quarters of a page.  In this version you will have more freedom to talk a bit more about why you wrote the book and what your interests are.  Just take a look at the questions you answered earlier to find the material with which you have to work. Here is an example of a long bio from Merle Bombardieri, a psychotherapist with a self-help guide.

Any bio is an opportunity for an author to come out of the book to say hello to a reader.  Make it your own.  In the longer author bio, it is easier to be you. If you have a sense of humor, let it come through.  If you are more straight-laced and like to stick with the facts, then do that.  Most of all do not be afraid to talk about the good things you have done.

After you have written your long and short forms, have a friend, family member, neighbor take a look and provide some feedback.  I like to have several sets of eyeballs check out anything I write and I always accept feedback (even if I grit my teeth during the delivery of it). Get it done and check it off your list.

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Book Publicity 101: 5 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter

I have heard directly from book review editors that they toss the materials that come with review copies.  I have also had a radio producer chastise me for mistakenly not sending a press packet with a book.  Clients have asked me if press releases matter anymore: “I mean does anybody really read those things?”  The short answer is “yes”: there are media, booksellers, librarians, academics, etc. who actually do pay attention to an old fashioned press release, and you have no way of knowing who is going to insist on having one and who isn’t.  So in my opinion, I wouldn’t sacrifice this tool just yet.

Here are five practical reasons why:

  1. The Core Message: Press releases are different from any of the other copy you will use to market your book. Some of the words may be the same as what you have on the back of the jacket, but the release is supposed to achieve a few things including delivering the newsworthy or unique aspects of what you are presenting; giving the reader an idea of why you would be a good interview subject; and a relatively brief synopsis of the best points of the book (or product depending on your industry).  If you want to read some examples you can check out these links on our website:
  2. Press Approved Copy or When Your Words Come Back to Haunt You: This is my favorite.  First of all the copy on your release is assumed to be vetted and usable for the press.  It is likely that one outlet or another will actually lift the synopsis or even the entire release and reprint it online or in the newspaper.  The first time I saw this it was a little weird, but the words on the release, by the very nature of what the document is, are fair game for repurposing.
  3. SEO Optimization: Having the release available on your website, your publicist’s, publishers, etc. gives you more real estate online and can offer more search results. You will notice a search for your book brings up Amazon.com and other big properties first, your publisher, and even our website can appear on the first or near the top of the second page.  It gives you more power online when there are more references to you and your work.
  4. The Pitch Package: So many people interact primarily on email these days, so there is a bit more “room” to present the best aspects of your book. As a standard practice we write pitches according to which people we are sending them, and we paste the press release below so the media contact can choose to learn more.  In the past we would send a cover letter with the press kit which constituted the pitch, and I know that today all of those pages won’t get read in a mailing.  The release is an informational supplement that provides another tool for marketing.  If a contact only wants to read three sentences, fine.  If more is desired, it’s all there in the email.
  5. Standard Practices: More people want to see a release than not, and it’s part of the public relations/media relations process. In addition, your booksellers, event coordinators at higher end venues, librarians—they want to see the meat of what you are selling without having to read the entire book.  Having a press release gives you a more serious, professional persona when you are marketing your book.  It says, you mean business and people should pay attention to you.  Don’t sell yourself short.

The other more esoteric reason for the release is that it is an opportunity for you and your publicist to come to an understanding of what your intention is about your book and its relevance.  You may also discover some things that are unclear about your work, or an interpretation that is not at all what you meant.  It’s important to come to terms with how the book will be presented and what the selling points are.  It’s super competitive out there, as you know, and you want to make sure your work is getting the attention it deserves.

 

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