It’s easy to overlook the author’s bio. Often, they’re tucked into the back of a book or at the bottom of an article. Yet, a bio is necessary if you’re publishing a book and want to make writing a career.
If you have no bio, readers may be puzzled by its absence. If your bio is bad, then your readers may put down your book. If you put in the work to craft a solid author bio that stands out, it will pique the interest of potential readers, and it may even help you sell more copies.
Thankfully, an author bio is way easier than writing a book. However, even with that in mind, there are some guidelines to follow if you want your bio to stand out in a good way rather than being forgettable or bewildering. In this post, I go into the essentials of a good author’s bio that hooks readers and sells books.
The most important rule is to keep your bio brief. You will use your bio in several places (more on that later) and want your readers to read the entire paragraph without trailing off. Bio may be short for “biography,” but you should save the long-form essay for other places. The word count varies, but 100–150 words are a good ballpark for most places.
Another important convention is to write your bio in the 3rd person point-of-view, not in the 1st person “I” voice. While you want your writer’s voice to shine through, the 3rd person grants your bio an air of professionalism.
Bio openings vary, but a safe go-to is to put in the first sentence a) your name, b) your profession, and c) the name of the book you’re writing the bio for.
Just for fun, imagine if I’m writing a book based on this blog. By using the above template, my opener may be, “Elizabeth Javor is the sales and marketing director of Outskirts Press and the author of the book Elizabeth Speaks.” (That’s a working title.)
Within your bio, you should hint at the subject matter or themes in your writing. Ideally, you should be hinting at the unifying principle of your work. If you’re a novelist, mention the subgenre and the important themes you aim for in your stories. If you’re a nonfiction writer, focus on your niche.
Especially in nonfiction, you want your bio to show off your expertise. When your readers want to be informed or persuaded or at least believe in what you’re writing, showing them your credentials and accomplishments does the job. If you’re publishing an academic book, your educational history is a must-have. Even outside of academia, it’s nifty to show off any higher degree you have, such as an MFA. If you’re writing about how to run a business, your audience will want to know your companies and if they’re successful.
Even in fiction, mentioning your experience in your bio is useful. For example, if you’re writing a novel about running, readers will buy into your story more if you’re a runner yourself.
A common way to add a personal touch to the bio is to share your geography and your family. For this, avoid charting out your entire life story. Instead, stick to where you’re currently living unless a previous residence pertains to your book’s subject. With your family, only mention what you’re comfortable with. For example, some authors are happy to say they have a husband, a bunch of kids, and a cat. Other authors will omit that personal information altogether.
If you want to stand out, you can opt for something unusual about your life. For example, some readers may be interested if you’re a fire dancer or an exotic animal trainer, even if these identities don’t relate to your book. In these cases, do keep it to one sentence.
When ending your bio, a reliable closer states what else you’ve written. If you’ve already written books and you’re reading this article as a refresher, this is the opportunity to plug your previous titles. If this is your first book, you can state that you’re a debut author. Even if it’s your debut, you should bring up relevant publications you’ve contributed pieces to, such as journals and blogs.
Once you have your author bio, the fun starts! Your bio doesn’t just exist in the back of your book. You can take the same blurb and reuse it, with some tweaks, in your marketing.
Put your bio on the product page for your books and your author page on a storefront like Amazon. Then, you can put it on your website by extending it into a full “about” page. Next, trim it up for your social platforms, such as Instagram, and send it to your hosts for guest blog posts, podcast appearances, and book signings. You can even use it as an outline for a longer blog post or a Twitter thread pitching your book.
With all this advice in mind, start drafting your bio. If you’re stuck on how to write it, open some books in the genre you’re writing in and study how their authors structure their spiels. You can even look at the contributor bios on this very blog.
The author bio is rarely the one factor that sells your book. Nevertheless, it’s integral to pitching your book and getting your next reader.
Over to YOU: If you have an author’s bio, put it in the comments! If you don’t have one, create a draft and share it. Add any additional tips and advice for writing great author bios.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.