Words that I hate to hear – “We need a short bio with that.” Now, I have bios written – long and short. Different bios reflect different parts of my life. It doesn’t matter – I hate to write about myself! So … where do we begin with these lovely bios? We do need them to be done well, reflective of who we are, and interesting to the reader. We need to come across as knowledgeable and accomplished, because we want our readers to have trust in us, and in our work.
Even if you don’t have work ready to go to an editor at the moment, take the time to write a bio - actually two or three. A long version (for editors), and short version (for bylines), and a version (long or short) for your Internet site (yes, you should have an Internet site!). You can fine tune them as you go along, until it reads as well as your written work. It is also a good idea to have a professional photo taken to go with your bio’s.
The first thing to consider when writing your bio is the correct tense. To avoid the appearance of talking about yourself, write in the third person, using your name, rather than saying “I”.
Keep the short version to under 300 words. You want the style to read like that of a book jacket, something that will peak people’s interest. List where you live, perhaps any organizations you are associated with, any previous work that you have published, and something that sets you apart, something that makes you unique. You have one paragraph here to create a vibrant you!
If you are creating a bio to be included in a query letter, the rules change a bit. Write in the first person, stick to the facts (leave out the personal history that makes you unique), and list only significant professional credits.
Things that you might want to consider adding into a longer bio include work history, schooling, life experiences, hobbies, writing credentials, contests or prizes that you have won, and your online presence.
Still at a stalemate? Look at other author’s bios. What do you like about them? What don’t you like about them. What makes you relate to specific author’s? How do they inject humor into their bio’s so that they seem more human and approachable? What is their “voice”? (Above all, you want your bio to carry the same “voice” as your work. You need to essentially “brand” yourself so that your readers have something to follow.)
Remember, your bio is your chance to let people get to know you. State the facts, but remain humble. Choose you best, most relevant publications/achievements to list in your bio. For me, writing my bio’s is an ongoing process. They evolve as I evolve. You may find that this holds true for you as well.