How to Write an Author Bio by Beth Barany
It’s about that time now… Your book is done, or you’re thinking about marketing yourself as an author, even though your book isn’t done yet.
How do you talk about yourself? You just got done writing hundreds of pages: your story or a topic you care deeply about. Now it’s time to write about yourself.
How do you write an Author Bio?
It’s short, it’s pithy, and believe me, it often doesn’t feel like you. But you need one anyway, and one that you can use again and again. I do recommend you write your bio in third person. Have one in first person if that matches your book, voice and brand.
First of all, know that what I’ll teach you in this article can be adapted for several uses. You can use this Author Bio for:
— The back of a book (or the About The Author page),
— The bottom of an article or a blog post,
— Social media, and
— Speaker/Workshop sheet.
THE PURPOSE OF AN AUTHOR BIO
Your Author bio has 3 main purposes:
#1: To show your credibility for the specific thing you are writing. Note: Yes, that means you can have (and should have) different bios for different kinds of writing. Perhaps a non-fiction bio, fiction bio and, if you write under different author names, you will need separate bios for those aliases, too.
#2: To demonstrate your humanity. Readers like to know that authors are human beings.
#3: To share your mission, which is reflected in the Clear Message.
LET’S BREAK IT DOWN
Use Your Author Bio to illustrate your brand. Of course, your bio can be expanded and contracted depending on where you want to put it. Let’s take the above elements in reverse order. Note: You do want to have a nice author photo that looks professionally taken, i.e., done in good lighting and reflects your brand.
Here’s an example of my fiction author on my site: author.bethbarany.com: http://author.bethbarany.com/bio-beth-barany/.
Clear Message is an exercise I often teach at my Branding & Marketing workshops for novelists and to my clients to help authors express who they are, what they write, for whom and why, all in one awesome handy sentence. Yep, one sentence!
I’ve already written about how to create your Clear Message. For the entire article, instructions and examples, you can read the entire article on my blog on the Writer’s Fun zone here: “Your Clear Message: Get Your Potential Readers Curious Now” (http://www.writersfunzone.com/blog/2011/01/04/your-clear-message-get-your-potential-readers-curious-now/) for summary and examples on how to write your clear message. If you haven’t already written your Clear Message I recommend you do so first, before completing your author bio.
My Clear Message as a fiction author has been: I write YA fantasy to empower teen girls and women to be the hero of their own lives.
Now that I also am published in romance here’s my new one I’m playing with to include both the romance and the fantasy: I write magical tales of romance and adventure for women and girls to transport them to new worlds where anything is possible.
On my site, I’ll post my new one, but in person, depending on who I’m talking to I’ll choose to use the first or the second.
The next piece of the Author Bio to get clear on is expressing your humanity. How do you express your personality in your bio? Readers like to know authors are real people, just like them. This aspect of your bio helps your readers get to know you a little bit. You’ll want this piece to be aligned with your mission and brand.
For this section of your bio, I suggest a brainstorming exercise. In the space of a few minutes, list your hobbies, interests, and quirks that you feel comfortable sharing. List also things you love and qualities you like about yourself.
For example, in my bio for book 1 of my YA fantasy, I wrote:—I’m the author of the award winning YA fantasy novel, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, the first of a five book series—I share that I love fairy tales and have been reading and writing since I was a little girl. I added: In my off hours I do kick boxing, gardening and watch movies with my husband, who is also an author.
With this, I’ve said a few things about myself that are personal and relate to my mission of empowering readers. I’ve also shared a few things that I am comfortable sharing when combined are interesting and fun. Sometimes in my non-fiction bio attached to a workshop I’ll be giving, I’ll add that I have two cats and a thousand books and thankfully my books don’t need feeding. I’ve inserted a little humor and shown how much I love books. I want to inset lightness to the serious work of writing. Humor and lightness is part of my brand overall.
Your turn: Take a moment to list things about your personality, and then pick out two or three that you feel are representative of who you are and meshes well with what you expressed in your Clear Message.
What makes you credible as an author? As a novelist, your credibility can stem from on your interest and passion for the topic, especially if you’re a first time author.
When I first released Henrietta The Dragon Slayer I couldn’t say, “Beth Barany is the author of this many other novels” because I didn’t have any. I didn’t want to mention my nonfiction titles because they had nothing to do with my fiction. Instead I share in my bio about my passion for fairy tales and for empowering women and girls. When I share about kick boxing and gardening, which is part of my humanity, it can enhance my credibility in the reader’s mind.
If you have been writing fiction for a while, of course, use your previous books as long as they’re in line with the book that this bio will be attached to. If you write under different names and you don’t want the two pseudonyms to reflect one back to the other, of course you won’t mention those other titles.
For example, we helped one of our clients draft her bio for her first book published, an erotica retelling of Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s Sexual Discovery in a Wonderful Land (Fairy Tale Erotica). We emphasized her education and her hobbies to show an element of credibility. We also included a sense of humor, since that also adds to her brand.
Liz Adams, author of the erotic fairy tale “Alice’s Sexual Discovery in a Wonderful Land,” lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. Liz studied music and creative writing at UCLA and worked as a freelance model before making her writing her career. In her spare time she cuddles with her husband on the coach to watch her favorite shows.
DON’T DO THIS
This brings me to no-no number one: In your Author Bio, don’t say you’re a first time author.
Readers don’t care. They only care about the experience that they are going to get when they read your book. Or they care about the results that they’re going to get, like how to get thin or how to learn the ten steps to happiness.
MORE EXAMPLES: IMPORTANT TO NOTE
That said, in your credibility be sure to emphasize what you have done.
When I write a nonfiction bio I include the books I have written and the client’s I have helped become best sellers. I also include my fiction because I want to show that I am a writer. That’s part of my credibility. That helps me do what I do.
Another client, Dr. Sonjia, the author of the nonfiction book, Sex in South Beach: Let’s Talk about Sex, put in her bio that she is a family medicine professor and sex educator. Right away, we’re inclined to pay attention to her. She also includes that she has been writing for a local weekly paper in South Beach, Florida. This emphasizes her educational expertise in a more everyday kind of way because her book is written in everyday language. Her book is for regular people, not for doctors.
Another example: For Ezra Barany, my husband, and his first novel, The Torah Codes, he includes in his bio what inspired him to write his novel, and that he’s been writing fiction for awhile. On his site, he writes in third person, “He started writing suspense and thriller stories in college and got seriously interested in the Bible Codes while attending Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminar in Jerusalem.”
Be sure to include in your credibility your experience, your education and/or your passions.
BONUS: CALL TO ACTION
The fourth bonus piece in writing your Author Bio is a Call to Action. A Call to Action is what it says it is: you’re asking people to take action, a specific action. You use this where appropriate, so it is an optional piece to add to your bio.
Sometimes separated from the bio though often integrated in it, your Call to Action usually comes at the end. It can say something like: I love hearing from my readers you could write me here… Then insert your email address.
If you prefer to send people to your website where they can sign up for your newsletter that would be another call to action.
For a softer Call to Action, you could write: For more information about Jonathon and his books and services visit his website at… Then you would insert the URL. I’d recommend this type of Call to Action with non-fiction.
For fiction your Call to Action may simply be: To stay current of Jessica’s upcoming books and activities and appearances go to her website and sign up for her newsletter. Then add the website address.
When I first released Henrietta The Dragon Slayer I didn’t have a site yet dedicated to my fiction so I just invited people to write me. I said something like; Beth loves hearing from her readers. You can write her at … and I inserted my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s important to have a call to action if that’s appropriate. In some instances it may not be appropriate.
Use your best judgment. Of course keep it in the tone and voice of your bio.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, it is customary for the bio to be written in the third person. I write: Beth Barany is an author… Do write your bio in the first person if that’s part of your brand.
Some authors will do both, have their professional bio in the third person and then they will have a Note from the Author written in the first person. Experiment with both if you’re not sure.
For social media it is customary to have the author bio in the third person, but again if it’s part of your voice and tone of your brand then you write it in the first person. If you’re not sure I recommend you experiment both styles.
TO WRAP IT ALL TOGETHER
When you sit down to write your author bio you want to keep these four elements in mind. In fact you may want to brainstorm on each one separately and then put them all together. The four elements are:
— Your Clear Message, which expresses your genre, who you’re writing to, your mission and what the experience the reader will have;
— Your humanity, because readers like to know that authors are human too;
— Your credibility, something that answers the internal questions that we always have, which is who are you, how did you get to be writing this and why should I listen to you. We all have this internal question when we are looking at books and websites and presenters.
— Lastly the call to action. That is clear and concise and has only one call to action.
Tip: I recommend that all authors write a few different versions of their author bio and keep them all in one document. Write a one-sentence bio that’s no longer than about 10-15 words; a 25-word bio, a 50-word bio and a 100-word bio. Then you’ll be prepared to show yourself off in the best light in any situation!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Barany is the bestselling author of The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book; Overcome Writer’s Block: 10 Writing Sparks To Ignite Your Creativity; and, Twitter for Authors: Social Media Book Marketing Strategies for Shy Writers. Beth speaks to groups and conferences all over the San Francisco Bay Area and across the United States. Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, a young adult fantasy, and the first in her Five Kingdoms series. Book 2 will be due out Fall 2013. Her latest story out is “Touchstone of Love” in Gargoyle: Three Enchanting Romance Novellas. Based in Oakland, California, with her husband, bestselling thriller novelist, Ezra Barany, and their two cats, when not writing, Beth enjoys capoeira, exploring new cities, reading and watching movies.
c. 2013-2015 Beth Barany — May be reprinted with permission copyright and author citation.