Struggling to write your author bio?
Condensing your personal story into a few sentences can be a challenge.
There’s also pressure to do it well, because your author bio can either seal the deal with a reader or be a deal breaker.
You need to sell them on the fact that you’re qualified to write the book they’re considering. You also need to position yourself as a successful writer who understands industry norms.
Give yourself the credibility you deserve by including these three author bio essentials. Readers expect to see them on your book’s back cover and sales pages. Don’t disappoint.Give yourself the credibility you deserve by including these three author bio essentials.Click to tweet
1. Third person voice
Nothing says “I don’t read books” — never a good thing for a writer — like a bio that includes “I.”
Always write your bio in the third person.
One of the best ways to do that is to pretend you’re a reporter writing about someone else. Taking that step away from yourself – getting that distance – helps you become more objective about what is and isn’t relevant for your bio and how to express it.
2. Relevant author bio information
Many authors leave out important specifics. For novelists, these can be tidbits that infuse the bio with the writer’s personality. Nonfiction authors need details that establish credibility.
Typically, fiction author bios are more personal than those for nonfiction authors (other than memoirists).
Here’s a romance writer’s bio as an example. It has interesting, quirky details and personality. Don’t you love it? Let it inspire you.
“Jim Stoppani, PhD, received his doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut. After graduation, he served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the prestigious John B. Pierce Laboratory and department of cellular and molecular physiology at Yale University School of Medicine, where he investigated the effects of exercise and diet on gene regulation in muscle tissue. For his groundbreaking research he was awarded the Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science Award in 2002 by the American Physiological Society. From 2002 to 2013 Stoppani was senior science editor for Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers, and Flex magazines. He is currently the owner of the JYM Supplement Science and jimstoppani.com.
Stoppani has written thousands of articles on exercise, nutrition, and health. He is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller LL Cool J’s Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle (Rodale, 2010) as well as Stronger Arms & Upper Body (Human Kinetics, 2009) and PrayFit (Regal 2010). He is also coauthor of the chapter “Nutritional Needs of Strength/Power Athletes” in the textbook Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements (Humana Press, 2008). Dr. Stoppani is the creator of the popular training and nutrition programs Shortcut to Size and Shortcut to Shred, as seen on bodybuilding.com. Dr. Stoppani has been the personal nutrition and health consultant for numerous celebrity clients, such as LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Mario Lopez, and Chris Pine.”
Including irrelevant information is a common author bio mistake
You might be tempted to confuse your author bio with your life story.
Don’t.You might be tempted to confuse your author bio with your life story. Don't.Click to tweet
Your readers are looking for information that reassures them that you know what you’re doing. If you include every highlight of your life, you risk losing them by suggesting that you aren’t famiiar with “how it’s done.”
This bio for a self-published author of a supernatural thriller set in a farming community will help make this clear.
There isn’t a lot here that’s relevant to his book. Does where and when he was born matter? Or that he supported himself as a waiter while launching a short-lived acting career?
What would you have expected to read in the bio of an author of a mystery incorporating supernatural elements that takes place in a rural location?
The author bio featured above might have told us, instead, that the idea for the book came from a story he heard growing up. Perhaps he was inspired by his grandmother’s talk of her experiences as a medium. Or maybe he has read so many thrillers that his wife made him rent a storage unit for them.
In other words, there’s not much in his personal story that connects to the story he wrote. Focus on those specifics that will help us connect you to your story. And yes, show us your personality, too.
3. Features from bios of popular authors in your genre
Search for the best-selling, traditionally published books in your genre on Amazon, Bookshop, or BN.com and study their author bios.
Look for and note patterns. (I write them down when I do this.) They might relate to:
- Past writing successes, including best-sellers or awards
Then write yours so it reads like those of the top-selling authors in your field.
Author bio resources
You can also get a template and sample, along with several other author marketing templates and examples, in my Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates.
What counts is that you write an interesting, relevant author bio that’s in line with industry standards and norms. Think of it is a core marketing element that tells readers two things:
- I understand book publishing
- My book won’t disappoint you
Take your time with it. Show it to others. Then use it to help sell your book.
What’s the most important thing you need to communicate in your own author bio? Tell us in a comment!
(Editor’s note: This article was first published in December 2015. It has been updated and expanded.)
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