Your author bio(s) are the most important parts of your PR kit. You need to get them right, because you'll refer to them again and again in all sorts of circumstances
This is Part 2 of a 10-part series on creating your author media kit:
Part 1 - The Ultimate Guide to Creating an Author Media Kit
Part 2 - [You Are Here] - Writing Your Author Bios
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WHAT'S AN AUTHOR BIO?
When the media needs your biography, they’re not looking for your life story. They want a brief explanation of who you are as an author, what you write, and what differentiates you from other authors.
They may be looking for bios of different lengths. It might be for a simple blurb, it might be for an introduction to an article, or it may be for your credit at the end of an article.
You also want bios of different lengths for your own promotional purposes. These would include your social media profiles, copy for your book covers, and to repurpose for other pieces in your author media kit.
You want these three bios to continue to be relevant next week, next month, in six months, or in a year. They should explain...
- WHO ARE AS AN AUTHOR: Are you a teacher, expert, or storyteller? Lead with the kind of author you are.
- WHAT YOU WRITE: What's your specific category or genre? Help us understand in as few words as possible exactly the kind of writing you do.
- WHY YOU WRITE IT: Explain why you of all people write what you write. This can be because of work experience, or life experience, or it can be as simple as you're a fan who reads a lot of books in this category--and that’s what makes you an expert.
TYPES OF AUTHOR BIOS
Somebody else teaching this topic might tell you there’s a fourth type of bio. However, that’s different enough from the other three that I call it a “feature article.” There will be a separate entry about that in this blog series.
#1 - SHORT BIO
A graduate of the Chef & Truck Driver Academy, Sam Shoe is a food truck driver who loves sharing his recipes with anyone who listens. (1 sentence)
Your short bio should be one sentence that’s the most focused, most dynamic, most targeted, description of who you are as an author. It's pared down to the essential facts. If a complete stranger reads just one sentence about you, you want it to be this one.
This sentence shouldn’t include any irrelevant personal information. Don't mention where you went to school or about your pets or hobbies if it isn't related to what you write.
Now, if you studied a relevant topic in school or won an award related to your topic, you can bring it up. But if you’re a doctor and you went to a cooking school or won an award for squaredancing—and that's just a fun fact—it doesn't belong in this sentence.
#2 - MEDIUM BIO
A graduate of the Chef & Truck Driver Academy, Sam Shoe is a food truck driver and freelance writer in the greater Metro Nashville area. He loves sharing his recipes with anyone who listens. His books include Make Your Own Sandwich and Get Your Own Soda. (3 sentences)
Your medium bio is about fifty words, or two-to-three sentences. Still focus on what’s relevant. This length description might work on your book jacket, or your social media profile.
These fifty words are still focused on relevant details. Don’t share where you went to college, or about your pets, unless those details explain why you write in your genre or category. What are your qualifications to write this? Or what draws you to this genre or category? As with the short bio, if you earned a certain degree that’s related to your expertise—education, awards, if you were published somewhere—all those things go up front.
#3 - LONG BIO
Sam Shoe drives a food truck and cooks for hungry eaters in the greater Metro Nashville area. He has been published in several regional and national publications, including Food Truck Nation, Sandwich Recipe Review, Chef & Truck Driver Magazine, and more. He loves sharing his recipes with anyone who listens. His books include Make Your Own Sandwich and Get Your Own Soda. A graduate of the Chef & Truck Driver Academy, he lives in Belle Meade, Tenn., with his family. (80 words)
The long bio is about a hundred words. You have some room for personal details, but it’s not an essay.
It still needs to be compact, with all the relevant information up front. You can share about yourself or your family, but you still make sure that by the time I get to that point, I understand this is what you write this is why you write it.
If you really have to tell me about your cat that’s a reincarnation of Julius Caesar, OK, you can bring that up at the end. But only after you’ve shared all the relevant stuff.
- Write your author bios in the third person. These aren’t from you, they’re about you. They should read as if somebody else wrote them.
- Stack the relevant information up front. How does this information reinforce why you of all people write this category? Explain to a complete stranger why you chose this category (or why this category chose you) and why you’re an authority in this field.
THINGS TO AVOID
- Don't think you have a “bio” when you really have a folksy, rambling, drawn-out letter. It's fine if you want to write a letter to readers. Just don’t confuse that with your official author bio.
- Avoid time-sensitive information. You want your bios to be accurate for several months to a year. It’s OK to share that you’re married or about your children or pets--just don't mention a specific number of years or specific ages. Don’t say your book is “new” or “upcoming,” because in a few weeks or months the reference will be dated.
- Avoid including too many personal details that don’t explain you as a writer. You want relevance before personality. Yes, you can share personal details—but get through the relevant stuff first.
HOW SUPERMAN BROUGHT MY WIFE AND ME TOGETHER
I’ve been a fan of comic books since I was a kid—especially Superman comics. (In fact, my mom used to have a photograph of me as a little boy dressed as a blond Superman for Halloween.)
Some years ago, through my job as editor of a pop culture magazine, I became acquainted with a comic book colorist. At the time he was working for DC Comics—and, in turn, introduced me (via email) to a woman in the production department at DC.
The point of the correspondence was to talk shop. We were comparing notes between my experience working in the magazine industry and her experience working in the comic book industry. However, the email conversation soon drifted, as the business correspondence turned into personal correspondence.
That fall, I flew to New York to meet her in person. Our first date was dinner with her parents and her sisters. A couple of weeks later, we were driving up so she could meet my parents and my sister and her family.
On the way, we stopped off in Metropolis, Ill., to visit the giant statue of Superman. She was happy to see it—after all, she worked at the company that published Superman comics, and we were both comic books fans.
Standing by the statue, I pulled a ring box out of my pocket. I dropped to one knee, and proposed to her.
In this photograph, we’ve been engaged for a matter of minutes. It wasn’t until later, looking at the photo, that we noticed we'd dressed in the same shades of red and blue as the Superman costume!
This past February, my wife and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. (And we still love comics.)
These events are important to me, but the anecdote doesn’t appear in any of my official author bios. There’s no professional reason to bring up the “I proposed to my wife in front of Superman” story in my author biography. If I only have 100 words or less to say, “This is what I write, this is why I know this topic, this is why this topic is important to me,” the Superman story doesn't answer any of those questions.
Sure, you have interesting anecdotes. They may turn up in interviews with you. But be careful about including them in your bios, because you want the focus to remain on your authority in your topic of expertise.
EXAMPLE AUTHOR BIOS
My nonfiction bios on Build Your Brand Academy
Short Bio: Chris Well is a media veteran who has worked more than 30 years in professional media. Also a published novelist, Chris has written suspense and mysteries for traditional publishers and as a self-published author.
Medium Bio: Chris Well is a media veteran who has worked more than 30 years in professional media. He’s been a magazine editor, columnist, journalist, broadcaster, and college instructor. Also a published novelist, Chris has written suspense and mysteries for traditional publishers and as a self-published author.
Long Bio: Chris Well is a media veteran who has worked more than 30 years in professional media. He’s been a magazine editor, columnist, journalist, broadcaster, and college instructor, with field experience covering music, publishing, human interest, and more. (There was even that time he was the editor of a bridal magazine.) Also a published novelist, Chris has written suspense and mysteries for traditional publishers and as a self-published author. He and his wife live in Tennessee.
My bio as a mystery writer
Chris Well writes laugh-out-loud crime and mystery fiction. His novels include Forgiving Solomon Long ("Action-packed prose," RT Book Reviews) and Tribulation House ("Well's clever dialogue will leave readers in stitches," Publishers Weekly). He and his wife live in Tennessee.
These three types of short, quick bios of yourself will come in handy for a variety of promotional needs. You can use them in your social media, press releases, as your bio if you do guest posts or freelance articles, and more.
If you write these three bios ahead of time, you’ll have a better chance of being in control over how the media refers to you. More often than not the media will use them verbatim. However, if you don’t create these before they’re needed, the media may come up with their own—and who knows what they’ll say about you...