What Does Your Author Bio Say about You?

by Jami Gold on August 16, 2011

in Writing Stuff

Hand offering a blank business card

I’ll be going on the road for some upcoming blog posts while I endure enjoy time with extended family.  Wish me luck.

One of my guest blog hosts also asked me to provide my “author bio.”  Uh-oh.  I thought I wouldn’t need that until I was published.

But if we think about it, we have to describe ourselves all the time.  Everything from our blog’s “about” section to our Twitter profile provides opportunities for others to form an opinion about us.  That impression others have of us is our brand.

In other words, now might be the right time to start working on our author bio.  Are all our “about” and “info” blurbs working together to create a coherent image?  And is that the image we want?

Targeted Information versus Consistency

The details we include in an author bio depend on our target audience.  Who will be reading this information?  The bio we include in a query letter is different from what we list on Twitter.

Agents want to know about our qualifications: contest wins, writing organization memberships, previous publishing credits, etc.  Our Twitter followers don’t.

In addition, our Twitter profile doesn’t have to match our Google+ profile, which doesn’t have to match our Facebook profile, etc., but consistency helps build our online brand.  So our voice, our personality, must be consistent across all platforms.  If our voice remains the same, we’ll always sound like us and the specific words won’t matter as much.

Author Bio Resources

Some resources I used this past weekend while developing my author bio were:

After reading those, I knew I wanted to boost my voice in my non-query-letter bios.  After all, when it comes to readers, Keli said:

“They want to know one thing. Can I tell an interesting story? … Our bios are our opportunities to sell ourselves as writers of stories readers want to read.”

Does this mean our bios are the ultimate form of “show, don’t tell”?  Does showing readers that we can write a good story mean our bios should be a story?

How Crazy Is Too Crazy?

My friend Suzi McGowen struggled with this question recently on her blog when she compared a personality-filled-yet-traditionally-structured bio and an I’m-telling-you-a-story-right-now bio.  I like them both, so I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer here.

I even went to Twitter (always a source of sanity *cough*) to ask the question.  In addition to Suzi weighing in with her examples, I heard from my author friend Susan Bischoff, a fellow Harry Potter fan, and my Tech Guy.  In other words, a very diverse group.

Their consensus was that most author bios are boring.  Do we really want potential readers’ impression of us to be that we’re dry and boring?

Susan shared an example of an author bio that stuck in her head because it was so fresh and interesting.  Check out Claire Legrand’s About page and her Hello paragraph.  Seriously, go check.  I’ll wait.

Back now?  I bet some of us now love this woman just because of her fantastic voice.  *raises hand*

As a reader, I don’t care about the level of professionalism in her bio because she’s shown us she can write a story, and that’s what’s important to me.  Readers don’t care about memberships, they barely care about even major contest wins, and they care about previous publications only if they want to buy everything we’ve ever written.

Should the Tone of Our Bio Match Our Story?

Claire’s bio is also interesting because she talks about her books being dark, and yet she has a funny bio.  I’ve seen advice that if we write dark, serious stories, the tone of our bio should match.  And yes, if we’re writing about something completely dark and serious, this tip makes sense, but most of our stories probably have their lighter moments too.

Claire’s tagline at the top of the page (“writer of dark pretty bloody magic things”) warns readers that her stories will have a dark tone overall.  So I think her bio works to show her voice and convince us that she can write an entertaining story.  And isn’t that what we really want our bio to accomplish?

Recipe for non-Query-Letter Bios

If we look at author bios from a reader’s perspective, the “what to include” recipe is:

  • Start with an indication of type of writer (genre, tone, etc.)
  • Stir in something to sound relatable (habits, where live, pets, family, etc.)
  • Sprinkle with contact information for blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. (this also helps with being relatable)
  • Add humor and/or voice
  • Prepare in a way to show we can tell a story

Additional things we can include when applicable:

  • If we’re agented, mention our agent information.
  • If we’re debuting, mention our book and release date.
  • If we’re multi-published, mention some of our books.

Given all that, I think I’ve come up with a author bio to use for social media and blogs.  Don’t believe the rumors though.  Contrary to tweets, I did not travel extensively with my circus family, I was not found in a spacecraft, I don’t do lab experiments on reality show participants, and researching a cure for human stupidity is way outside my pay grade.

But I owe a big shout out of thanks to Suzi, Susan, Tech Guy, and wRockRevelation for helping me get into the brainstorming spirit with their crazy suggestions on Twitter last week.  *grin*  Over the next week, I’ll link to my guest posts so you can see what I did come up with for my bio.

Have you written an author bio yet?  Do you use the same one for everything, or do you customize for the audience?  Do you have a straight-forward bio, a crazy bio, or something in between?  What do you want your bio to say about you?  Do you think your current bio does that well?

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67 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Roni Loren August 16, 2011 at 5:50 am

Great post! And thanks for the link love. :)

I think you can’t go wrong putting some humor in your bio even if what you write is darker. Humor makes a person relatable and likable. My stories can be pretty dark (even though I do weave in some humor), but if I wrote a bio with a matching tone, it wouldn’t be me. My books may be dark, but I’m not. Well, not totally at least. :)

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Tracy Ward August 16, 2011 at 6:46 am

My favourite author bio is the one Terry Pratchet used in the back of “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents”. I found it very humourous. I struggle with how much information to give and how to construct it without looking like I am full of myself. Thanks for the tips.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:35 am

Hi Tracy,

I haven’t seen that bio yet. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the comment! :)

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:29 am

Hi Roni,

Exactly! My stories are often dark, but I’m not, so if I tried to make my bio match my story tone, it wouldn’t match MY tone anymore. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Keli Gwyn August 16, 2011 at 6:04 am

I read your “About Jami” page and think you have a great bio there, one that showcases your voice and is fun to read. :-)

Thanks for the mention of my post.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:32 am

Hi Keli,

Thank you for the great post to learn from! And that “about” page is my old bio. :) I haven’t decided if I’ll keep it, or switch it out for the new one once I see how people like it on my guest posts. I might try to figure out a way to have both. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Susan Sipal August 16, 2011 at 7:01 am

Just what I needed, another item on my to-do list for today! Now I need to go re-write my bio. Your resources are fabulous and your suggestions great, so I do really want to do this.

But with WriteOnCon & Pottermore, how will I find the time?!!!

Thanks, Jami, for some great thoughts and links to get me going on this!

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:36 am

Hi Susan,

LOL! Well, I suppose this could wait until tomorrow. ;) Good luck figuring something out and thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy August 16, 2011 at 7:15 am

Thanks for the mention Jami. As we know, when it comes to you, the truth is out there, way out there. *cue X-Files music*

Great post and have a wonderful time.

-TG
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:37 am

Hi Tech Guy,

Yep, WAY out there. LOL! Thanks again for the brainstorming boost and the comment!

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Cherie August 16, 2011 at 7:17 am

Excellent post, Jami! I’ve never even thought about author bio. For me, I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with that yet, seeing as I’m neither agented or published. But maybe it’s time to polish up the ole About Me page. ;)

Btw, yes, Claire’s voice is exceptional. It shows, it shines, and most importantly, it is warm and inviting. Great example!

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

Hi Cherie,

Yes, when we think about “author bio,” we usually think about that back-of-the-book paragraph. But some description of ourselves is needed in lots of places. Thanks for the comment!

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Shain Brown August 16, 2011 at 7:24 am

No kidding, Susan.

But honestly, Thanks, Jami. This is something I put down for later not because I should, but because I was avoiding it. It is something I need to do.

Thanks again.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 7:40 am

Hi Shain,

LOL! Um, sorry? Good luck working on yours and thanks for the comment!

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Murphy August 16, 2011 at 8:16 am

My bio?

*scratches head and then borrows a holy quote from a orating bush*

‘I am what I am.’

*Now steals a pat answer for the finish*

“Sue me.”
Great Post!
M. :D

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 9:24 am

Hi Murphy,

LOL! *dons author-bio-interpretation hat* Um, you want to be seen as a god? ;) Thanks for the comment!

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Claire Legrand August 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hi Jami!

Thanks so much for the blog shoutout! I’m tickled that you enjoy my bio, as it was something I agonized about for a long time (“But what if it’s not GOOD/COOL/FUNNY/CLEVER/WHATEVER enough??”) before finally sitting down to write it. And once I started, it was easy. As the Genie says in Aladdin: “Remember — BEEEEEE yourself!” That’s the most important thing.

Great post! If only readers knew how much angst and hand-wringing goes into author bios… ;)

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

Hi Claire,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, so much of what we do is about trying to make our writing seem effortless and smooth, when it’s really like sausage-making. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Lisa Gail Green August 16, 2011 at 9:00 am

I just want to say that I wish I’d thought of this: “researching a cure for human stupidity is way outside my pay grade.”

I occasionally get a comment from a new follower about allergies, and it takes me a moment to realize they are referring to my bio. But I like it. :D I think it portrays me well. Cuz I’m kooky.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 9:33 am

Hi Lisa,

Yes, those were the rejected suggestions, just wait ’til you see the ones I kept. ;) #KookyIndeed Thanks for the comment!

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Patrick Thunstrom August 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

The one on my blog is very straight forward, though I keep thinking about how to fix it up. Will do it eventually.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

Hi Patrick,

If it feels like “you,” then straight-forward can work. Like most things in writing, it’s all about the voice. :) Thanks for the comment!

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Anne R. Allen August 16, 2011 at 9:32 am

Great piece–and great links. Author bios are so important and I see them neglected too often. Some writer-bloggers don’t even have an “about me” page, which is just dumb. No bio looks like you’re hiding something. Also, I suggest putting a short bio and contact info on Gravatar and About.me as well as Google. Make yourself as accessible as possible.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

Hi Anne,

Great suggestions! *adds Gravatar to list of ones to update* And I haven’t checked into About.me before. Thanks for the tips and the comment!

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Sarah Pearson August 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

A bio. I haven’t even THOUGHT about this yet. I suppose I should :)

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

Hi Sarah,

I can tell you that I ask for bios from people who guest post for me, and I know I’m not the only one. So yes, I’m afraid to say that we need this way before we think we do. :) Plus, like I mentioned, our “about” profile paragraphs fall into this same category. Sorry. :) Thanks for the comment and good luck!

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David August 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

This is a great post with really good advice. I think humor is essential in a bio – but then, I value humor very, very highly. The world should have more of it. I normally read author bios on the backs of books and things, because I legitimately am interested in who they are. Sure, some of them are boring and I wasted my time, but I still learned something about who wrote the book. And while I think humor is important, I think a level of professionalism should be shown when it comes to major published works (for those in that situation). Because that shows the author cares about his/her work, takes it seriously, and wants to show a reliable, adult side of them to their readers.

Now in other places, such as blogs, Twitter, etc.; it may be necessary to really truncate. Take Twitter for example: that’s not a lot of space to really say something about yourself. It’s possible, yes, but some people take that opportunity to really be witty and original – and I appreciate that. Twitter is not a place to be taken so seriously that your “about” needs to be “srs bzns face”. I’ve cracked up laughing at some people’s Twitter bios.

But the About Me really allows you to make a statement, and to do so loudly and proudly. It really should reflect who you are as a person – not necessarily as an author (like what you’ve done, what awards you have) – because honestly the only people who care about that are agents and publishers. The readers want to be able to rely on the author to write a story that they can invest in. So as long as you convey that – humor or no, professionalism or no – I suppose it’s all okay.

^^whew, that was a lot. You always spark such good conversation, Jami!

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 11:12 am

Hi David,

Yay! Conversation and thinking about things is always my goal. :)

Good point about how we want our bios to be just serious enough to show that we take our work seriously. As with everything in writing, it’s a balancing act. Funny and approachable vs. business appropriate. Thanks for the comment!

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Cameron Mathews August 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Wow – I really need to rewrite my bio. Thanks for the tips, only now I have about 500 links to go follow and read for examples. Appreciate the info!

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Hi Cameron,

Yes, I’m assigning homework today. Weren’t you warned? :) Thanks for the comment and I hope it all helps!

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Melinda Collins August 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Wow! What a great post, Jami! And thank you for the links! This is something I need to work on before next week so this is going to help tremendously!!

The wheels in the brain are already turning – bad sign? – with ideas on how to make my bio fun….and quirky! :)

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi Melinda,

I’m happy to help! Keep those wheels turning. :) Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Roxanne Skelly August 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I really should get around to writing a bio for my blog, as I’m starting to get more traffic. Laziness gets the best of me sometimes.

I’m confident I can do a decent blog/back of the book bio. It’s the query bio that terrifies me, as I’ve basically no credentials. I studied engineering in school, I haven’t published yet, I’ve not joined a formal critique group…

And my real-life experience doesn’t involve much in the way of vampires and demons, at least not that I’m willing to talk about.

I’ll have to come up with something, I guess.

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Hi Roxanne,

The query in general drives me up a wall. The pressure instantly sucks out my voice. :) Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Suzi McGowen August 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Hi Jami!

Thanks for the link :) I’m still working on bios. Surely I can come up with something that isn’t formulaic and isn’t really out there, right? Well, considering it’s me, maybe not :)

I loved our Twitter brainstorming of your bio, too! That was fun. And @jaytechdad kept it up with some great #FF “bios”, too! I loved this post, so I can’t wait to see what you do with yours. I’m going to keep playing around with my bios until I come up with something worth keeping.

Good luck!

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Jami Gold August 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hi Suzi,

I love that Twitter brand of crazy. :) Good luck coming up with something and thanks for the comment!

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Jami's Tech Guy August 17, 2011 at 7:50 am

Hi Suzi,

Yes, after we brainstormed Jami’s bio, I needed to do more. As to your bio, my #FF for you is a ‘good’ start:

Truth be known, @suzimcgowen used her vast knowledge of how to kill a man w/o breaking a nail to prep Hellen Mirren for the movie “RED”

-TG
@jaytechdad

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

You all crack me up! :)

There you go, Suzi. Get to work. LOL!

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coleen patrick August 17, 2011 at 4:22 am

Great post Jami! I was so intimidated by the whole idea of writing about myself–I would much rather write fiction! I love reading other writer’s bios though! :)

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 7:02 am

Hi Coleen,

Maybe pretend that you are a character. That might help get the fictional distance to make it easier. :) Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp August 17, 2011 at 5:56 am

There is a big difference between a resume (contest wins, the “agent/editor” wants this) and a bio (I like squirrels…really, I do). Piper Bayard talks in one of her posts about sending a bio to Kristen Lamb who sent it back with the comment (paraphrase): “That’s nice. You know fiction writers create believable lies for a living, try it out.”

I use the same bio for all guest posts, although I’m constantly tweeking it. In general, that bio is an extension of my Twitter profile and I need to rewrite my About page (thanks for the reminder and prompt).

By the way, I totally believe that you do experiments on reality show participants. Have to get something valuable out of them after all *grins*

Great post Jami. Thanks :)

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 7:15 am

Hi Gene,

Yes, we use the same word, “bio,” for both the query and everything else, but as you said, they’re not the same. I don’t know if you noticed, but Keli Gwyn’s post in the link above credited Kristen Lamb for her education on what a bio paragraph should be too. :) By the way, are you kidding? They don’t make rubber gloves thick enough to convince me to get within 10 feet of most reality show participants – and my Hazmat suit is at the cleaners. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

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Gene Lempp August 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

Yes, I did notice and I’ll be applying some of those same principles when I “attempt” to rewrite mine.

Also, I’d bet a large metal claw with a 20 foot pole attached would work well for capturing the attention of a reality tv star, or just push them off the bridge.

There are many ways to experiment after all :)

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

Off a bridge? Ooo! I like the way you think. :)

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CMStewart August 17, 2011 at 9:05 am

I guess I’m going to have to re-work my “CMStewart will write for food” bio.

Thank you for the tips! :)

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

Hi CM,

LOL! Well, it all depends on the impression you want to create for others. As a humorous part of a longer bio, I think that would work well. :) Thanks for the comment!

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CMStewart August 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm

OK you talked me into it- “will write for food” stays, but embellished! :)

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm

LOL! Sounds good. :)

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Kate MacNicol August 17, 2011 at 10:11 am

I started blogging and Twitter a few weeks ago. I changed my wordpress bio several times and I’m still not happy. Thanks for the great tips and resources. This will really help me come up with a bio with zing.

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

Hi Kate,

Happy to help. :) Good luck and thanks for the comment!

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Tiffany A White August 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Great post Jami – I definitely change my author bio depending on what I’m using it for….twitter – fun, goofy, short; contests – professional; etc…

I’d love your opinion of my blog author bio page. I reworked it after I read Roni’s author bio post…

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Jami Gold August 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Hi Tiffany,

twitter – fun, goofy, short

LOL! Doesn’t that describe Twitter in general? :) Thanks for the comment and I’ll DM you.

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Jacquelyn Smith August 18, 2011 at 8:04 am

Thanks for making me think of my bio in a whole new way. Great tips! :)
*retreats in deep thought*

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Jami Gold August 18, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hi Jacquelyn,

LOL! I understand. Happy to help and good luck!

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B. Mac August 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

“I’m confident I can do a decent blog/back of the book bio. It’s the query bio that terrifies me, as I’ve basically no credentials. I studied engineering in school, I haven’t published yet, I’ve not joined a formal critique group…”

I have a similar problem (mostly irrelevant credentials). When I was doing my bio for a website about how to write superhero stories, I tried to make it sound wacky because my credentials are a bit wacky and hopefully it makes me sound less pretentious. What do you think?

“B. Mac is an English teacher with some experience in low-level editing and writing positions. ‘I know a bit about comic books, publishing, biology, football, hostage and non-hostage critical incidents, statistics, small arms and philosophy, so I’m able to make a fool of myself in any number of areas,’ he says. For example, he claims that Athens’ greatest contribution to Western civilization was killing Socrates.

B. Mac teaches in Korea, applied to the University of Munich, actually studied in Indiana, worked at the least badass job on Pennsylvania Avenue, and knows enough about the Strait of Malacca to feign familiarity. ‘I think you could say I’m pretty open-minded.’ Unless you’re Socrates.”

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Jami Gold August 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Hi B. Mac,

I remember reading your bio months ago – which means it stuck with me. :) The wackiness fits the blog well too, so I think you’ve done a great job!

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Shannon Bibby October 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Thanks for this post! As a new writer, I am constantly looking for information and great tips. The book I am writing deals with domestic violence. The main character hid from her childhood horrors for 20 years. She finally comes clean with her demons to her family. It will teach strength and hopefully give inspiration. So, with the brief synopsis what kind of bio should I write? I’ve been struggling with the task so any info/tips would be greatly appreciated!
PS: My blog contains all the info you would need to further explain my book. I wanted a catchy title so I chose, “Safe Under the Willow”

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Jami Gold October 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Hi Shannon,

With subject matter like that, you’re probably right to not be too flippant with your bio. :) But you don’t have to be super serious either. I’d go for open and friendly with lots of voice. Think of introducing yourself to a woman you know is going to become a great girlfriend, someone you really click with. Hope that helps and thanks for the comment!

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