Monday, September 19, 2011

The Art & Craft of Writing Bios

There's so much information on how to write better and how to get published, but writers are often left to their own devices when it comes to writing their own bios. Not surprisingly, this little blurb can intimidate writers more than any other part of the publishing process.

Bios that fail usually fall into one of two categories:
  • Too short. Something along the lines of: "Mr. Brewer writes."
  • Too long. These bios start off at the writer's birth and motivation for writing and end with the previous day's major annoyances and/or joys.
For short pieces (not book-length), the best rule of thumb is to keep your bio between 25-50 words in length. Anything less than 20 is probably being too secretive; anything closing in on 100 words is probably too talkative.

Since books are a different animal, especially if you're the sole author, you can be encouraged to write more than 100 words in your bio. After all, your displayed expertise may help sell a few more books. Heck, I know I've been known to read a bio or two.

So now that we've established a word count, here are a few other tips to keep in mind with bios:
  1. Tie your bio into whatever's being published. My bio as the editor of Writer's Market is much different than my bio for publishing poems in literary publications--and even those bios can be personalized depending upon the publication and the poem(s) published.
  2. Include ways for readers to learn more about you. If you blog, include your blog's URL. Include an e-mail address. Give editors, agents, conference directors, journalists, and fans a way to learn more about you and offer you opportunities.
  3. Include publications, awards, etc. If you've been recognized for anything related to your publication credit, then mention it (keeping in mind word count, of course). If you've been published in 20+ publications, pick your three favorite or most relevant.
If you don't have any relevant awards, you could always include something completely out of left field to add a little humor to your bio.

As with all things in writing, my top tip is to study other author bios. Figure out what you like and why. Then, imitate and experiment. Eventually, you may even turn the craft of writing your bio into an art that others will wish they'd written.

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5 comments:

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Thanks for this post, Robert! I've been studying other bios and I think I'm going to keep it clean and simple and remember #2 above.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

That's the way to go. Don't try to force things, but make it easy for others to find you.

Judy Roney said...

Just what I needed to read right now, Robert. I am struggling with bio (length) and the fact that if I am the soul author I can be a bit more talkative about me.

poetcolette said...

Appreciated info! I love anyone's bio but mine, but now have some ideas thanks to your tips here--especially the bit about humor

Robert Lee Brewer said...

The main thing with bios is to not get too stressed out over them and don't try to do too much.