10 Tips for Creating a Kick-Ass Author Bio
Every writer needs an author bio, whether you're on the New York Times Bestseller list or you're about to submit a story for the very first time. You might wonder, But where do I start? The good news is that an author bio isn't that difficult to write, as long as you keep a few points in mind.
1. You don't have to be previously published.
If a reader or an editor is reading your bio, they have already read (and liked!) your story. They know that you can write. Now they want to know more about the person who wrote that amazing story.
2. Write in third person.
This is the way it's usually done, and the editor will tell you if they want something different. Only once has an editor asked me for a bio written in first person. Think of it as if you're talking about someone else. This might make it easier to write!
3. Create several versions that are different lengths.
Editors often tell you what length of bio they want. For short stories, nonfiction articles, and queries, one paragraph is about the right length. This is the bio that you will use most often. Aim for around 75 words, but not much longer. You can also read the publication's back issues to see the length of previous contributors' bios. You will need a longer bio for your author website, press kit, or novel. This is often 100 to 200 words, but it can be much longer. Finally, you need a very short version for social media. This should be compact enough to fit in a tweet (140 characters). When you have significant publications or other major life changes, make sure you update all versions of your bio.
4. Leave the reader with a sense of what you write.
This may include genres, story lengths, recurring themes, and mood. "Quirky, sweet opposites-attract" stories are very different from "hot, dangerous affairs," although both may be sold as romances. You can also allude to your type of writing by the way you describe your interests.
5. Make them smile.
If you can, work in a humorous turn of phrase. This is a good idea even (especially!) if your fiction is very dark. Don't force the humor if it doesn't come naturally.
6. Include your credentials, if you have them.
If you have won any major writing awards or attended a prestigious writing workshop, mention it! List up to three of your best previous publications, as long as they are relevant to the type of publication where your bio will appear. Knowing that you published a nonfiction gardening book doesn't matter much to a reader of hard science fiction, unless your science fiction story is heavily botany-based. Likewise, doctorates and other degrees need only be mentioned if they are in a literary field or relate directly to the subject of your story. If you like, you can include any professional memberships in organizations like SFWA or RWA, although that information won't mean much to your average reader. This is most useful to include when you're querying an editor or other industry professional. All this should be no more than one or two sentences long in total.
7. Show that you're interesting.
Share a few details about your hobbies, unusual jobs, or weird personal trivia. Traditionally, this is where an author will list all the bizarre short-term day jobs they've had while writing part-time. This is a great place to show some humor or to work in an allusion to your writing genre.
8. Prove that you're human.
Mention demographic information like family members, pets, or where you live. This is often the second-to-last sentence of the bio. This is another good place to add humor. If the idea of sharing this information makes you uncomfortable, you don't need to include it.
9. Tell them what to do next.
Known as the call to action, this is usually the last line of your bio. This is where you tell the reader to buy your new book, sign up for your newsletter, contribute to your Kickstarter, or visit your website. Choose one (and only one) action that you want the reader of your bio to do next, and mention it here.
10. Keep it real.
Make sure that you can recognize yourself when you read your own bio. The ultimate goal of a bio is to let your readers see a little piece of the real you.
Abra Staffin-Wiebe loves dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and futuristic fairy tales. Dozens of her short stories have appeared at publications including Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Odyssey Magazine. She lives in Minneapolis, where she wrangles two small children, three large cats, and one full-sized mad scientist. In her mythical spare time, she writes, collects fairy tales, and photographs whatever stands still long enough to allow it.
This August at the Loft, Abra Staffin-Wiebe will guide writers through the process of submitting their short stories in Submit It Now! Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Stories. (This class is open to writers in all genres, although it focuses on science fiction and fantasy.)