How to write an author bio they’ll remember

This is a guest post by Rachelle Gardner, an agent with Books and Such Literary Agency. Rachelle is also an experienced book editor, publishing coach and speaker. Here she lists her top tips for writing an author bio.

1. Write the author’s bio in third person for most purposes, including proposals, book jackets and article bylines.

2. Make it professional but you also need to convey the author’s personality and writing style. Don’t try too hard to be funny, but include something that makes them seem like a real person.

3. What gives them credibility? What makes them interesting? What helps people connect with them? (What kinds of posts seem to get the most comments on their Twitter, Facebook or blog?) These are things you can briefly include.

If the book centres on something specific — the Civil War, for example —are they a member of a Civil War society? Have they published any articles in historical journals? Include that.

Try not to include too much ‘resumé’ type information – education, job history, etc. because it tends to be boring. Only include what’s relevant to the book you’re pitching.

As you write a bio, consider carefully the purpose of the bio – who is the audience? The reader, media, etc.? Tailor it to this audience.

How to write a bio if the author have no publishing credits:

  • If they’re a member of a writers’ organization such as SCBWI, ACFW or ASJA, you can mention it.
  • You can mention if they’re a member of critique group or if they have a degree in literature or writing.
  • Don’t say something like ‘Jane has been writing stories since she was two years old’.
  • Keep it short and sweet, i.e. ‘Jane Smith is a fifth grade teacher in Bellingham, Washington, and is a member of RWA’.

Some tips for the process of writing a bio:

  • Read author bios in a dozen different books. Note what you like and don’t like.
  • Ask the author to make a list of things they MIGHT want it to say about them. As them to list 20 to 30 things — ask them not to self-edit, because you don’t want them to leave anything out. Later you can choose the best elements to include.
  • Write two or three bios of different lengths and keep them on file so that you have them ready when you need them.

A version of this post was originally published on Rachelle’s website.