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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Case Studies 3: Accepting the Audience that Wants Your Book and Reaping the Benefits

You have an MFA in Creative Writing from a respected program/university.  You have been carefully crafting your story and verbiage to create the best literary debut you can. Now for promotion and the audience that comes with it—Paris Review?  The New Yorker? Tin House? New York Times Book Review? Not likely.

Whether you are published by a traditional publisher with a lot of muscle, a small independent press, or your own book production venture, no one can count on that kind of coverage for literary novels.  For one thing, there just aren’t enough venues anymore.  The other problem is that there are too many books and too little time, and frankly, if you are not published by Knopf or Simon & Schuster, you just won’t command the kind of attention you need to get into one of those classic publications.

Whatever you do, don’t stop writing and don’t give up hope for promotion!  We need great writing and great books, and while you can’t market a work of serious fiction as a chick lit novel, you can consider what other audiences might be interested in your story.

Recently we worked with an author and a novel.  It was definitely a literary book, but it also had different attributes that gave it potential in some niche audiences that were actually bigger than the more esoteric fiction readers that serious writers like to reach. The author had supported herself in non-traditional ways while working on her writing and had achieved a position as a teacher and founder of a charity that promotes writing for children in underdeveloped countries. She definitely had the credentials of a writer.

Since we specialize in promoting fiction across multiple genres and niches, we maximized our focus to include media that covered fiction, literary fiction, romance, christian fiction, debut novelists, philanthropy, and New York City settings.  We approached bloggers, websites, print, radio, and when warranted, television.

We were pretty happy with the coverage from the general fiction audiences and the publisher secured a review in the top trade, but what really paid off was a review on USAToday.com from a reviewer interested in the romance/womens fiction angle.  This review was not only a good one, but it did a couple of things that benefitted the author in a number of ways.  First of all when it ran there was a spike in sales on Amazon.com.  We were able to use the review and its national print-to-online paper status to secure additional media including a local television station in one of her home markets.  Was she happy about the review?  Well, at first not so enthusiastic because she was concerned that she would be “pigeon holed” as a romance writer.  I say “who cares?” as long as you sell books at this stage of the game.

Now I am also a branding strategist, so I do know that is important to avoid being classified as something that isn’t appropriate for you or your career.  However, one review for a debut novel isn’t going to determine your path.  It is a milestone that needs to be appreciated for what it is and to be used in as many positive ways as possible.

One of the best things she got from the deal? She was able to get a Bookbub promotion on the first try.  If any of you have tried to secure a slot on this infamous discounted book marketing site, you may have tried two or three times and perhaps did not even get accepted in the end.  One of their requirements is that they have legitimate reviews or news coverage of a book, whether traditionally or self-published and USAToday.com definitely can help put you over the top in terms of qualifying.

Her promotion ran, and her Amazon rank went from five figures to the lower threes, somewhere around 300, which is a major leap in ranking.  Sales activity like this will increase her audience; garner more Amazon/Goodreads reviews and ratings; generate additional full price sales; and will help along with the press coverage when she wants to bring out her next book and is searching for a publisher.

A couple of lessons here: Try to find every possible way to promote your fiction even if it doesn’t lead you to the coveted New York Times review.  When you do get a big nod that isn’t exactly what you wanted, revel in it, celebrate, do the ten second dance of joy, take a breath…and get back to work.

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