Though I’m not an overtly experienced “author” I do know a thing or two, having been trained as a Copy Writer and taking my courses from a guy nicknamed “The Godfather of Copy”. He tought us how everything you write needs to be effective and above all how to sell a product or a service. When you are an author, let alone a self-publishing one, you are both a product and a service at once.
Not selling yourself would be a bad thing, selling yourself the wrong way would be THE worst thing you could do. (Thus: Better not sell yourself than poorly!)
One way you will have to sell yourself is by writing a writer’s bio(graphy).
So what is this bio? It’s essentially a very short piece of text, usually put on a very narrow strip on the inside (back) flap of your book, that tells the reader (your audience/customers) just a thing or two about you. See how it says “thing or two”? Yeah? Stick by that principle…
A writer’s bio is NOT the place to tell your life stories, or your hobbies, or what you have or haven’t done outside of writing. A writer’s bio is about “you as a writer” – it’s not about “you as a person”.
To put it bluntly, unless they are huge fans, no one will give a damn about “you as a person”! They want to know about what kind of writer you are, what you write and why you write.
Example #1: “Steve P. Ink used to be a college football player at a small homey town – scoring a winning goal in ’78. He is still an avid football fan and a youth coach” – WRONG! Unless Steve P. Ink’s book/works are about football, sports and coaching this is completely irrelevant to anything. What does this tell you about him as a writer? His writing style? His inspiration? Nothing. Unless, as I said, it was about the sport itself. And I wouldn’t recommend writing a book about football to be honest!
Example #2: “Sally B. Cover picked up a liking of theatre in college, directing several plays, finding inspiration writing stage plays and eventually novels.” – RIGHT! Sally’s bio tells you she has a creative background, has been making an effort and is inspired to write stage plays and now books. That’s interesting, right? Maybe her theatre work allows her to create great dialogue and very visual and engaging descriptions. This could work!
Example #3: “Robert O’Mance is a crazy, funny, guy who loves a drink at the pub and write books when he has time between his day job, his beautiful wife and two kids.” WRONG! Though Robert sounds like a great guy to have a drink with and maybe hang at a party it tells us nothing of his ability as a writer. It also tells us that “he loves to write books” AFTER he went to the pub, after getting home, maybe have a fight with his estranged wife and yelling the kids to bed… Awesome. You should always leave the impression that writing is your top priority, it’s admirable if you work two full-time jobs and participate in cross-country donkey racing simultaneously, but in the end we (your audience!) want to have the feeling that you care about your literary works and us the most. You may mention your beautiful wife and kids, if you feel you must or they threaten to strangle you in your sleep, but does it really add anything to your ability as a writer? Does it inform your audience of something they – need – to know?
Example #4: “Loretta Iterary-Agent was born and raised in a military family, after college she served in the Army for six years, earning several medals during Operation Desert Storm, before retiring with the rank of Captain. She served as an advisor to the Minnesota Democratic Party before concentrating on a career as a novelist of political- and military-thrillers. Her work is streamlined, realistic and engaging as expected from a retired military officer, she gives deep insight into matters otherwise left uncovered.” RIGHT! Wow! She sounds like a hard ass who has a heart for things! Not only did she serve her country, she also went into politics to share her knowledge with a party that has a heart for the middle-class too!
And it doesn’t end there, apparently she’s able to apply her military knowledge into her work – that’s exciting! I wonder if what she writes is based on real things? Maybe I should give it a shot and read some of her work. Let me see, how much for the eBook… $7,50… That sounds fair! *Click*
Now of course all of the examples above are a bit silly and a bit unlikely, but you might be surprised at all the things some people want to tell you in their short bio that you don’t want to or shouldn’t know about! Everything in your bio should circle back directly to your writing, it’s the only thing that matters. Keep it short!
Once you’ve set your mind to writing a short writer’s bio – edit it and make it shorter where possible. Everything “unnecessary” you add will be seen as chatty, page filling or even an ego-trip. Would you read a book written by a writer that was chatty, filled pages for the sake of it and went on an ego-trip every now and then? I wouldn’t.
Fans, readers, that are interested in reading about you, as a person, are more likely to be interested in an interview than anything else. Your bio is never an interview, it’s a very short introduction to you as a writer.
If you’d like to you can read my bio, it’s under “About”, you can see I told what was most necessary and a thing or two about myself. And for the sake of self-mockery I even managed to squeeze in a lame joke at the bottom in grey with a strike through for the observant web surfer to smirk or shake their head at.