By Beth Barany
To get the best use of this article, I recommend you draft your author branding statement first. I tell you how here: Attract Your Readers: 4 Steps to Your Author Branding Statement.
I also recommend you draft an author tagline. You can find that here: 5 Steps to Create the Tagline for Your Author Brand.
It’s about that time… Your final draft is done, or you’re thinking about marketing yourself as an author, even though your book isn’t complete yet.
How do you talk about yourself? You just finished writing hundreds of pages. Now it’s time to write about yourself: the author bio.
What is an Author Bio?
An author bio or biography is usually one to two paragraphs about the author. Readers expect to learn something about you. You may feel like any bio you write can’t encapsulate your entirety, but it’s not meant to.
The author bio is a piece of marketing and will be requested often. Everyone will be asking for it—from book bloggers to podcasters to speaker organizers—and you need one you can use again and again.
Recommendation: Write your bio in third person. Have one in first person if that matches your book, voice, and brand.
You can adapt your author bio for:
- The back of a book (or the About the Author page)
- The bottom of an article or a blog post
- Your social media profiles
- A speaker/workshop sheet
The Purpose of an Author Bio
An Author bio has three main purposes:
Credibility: 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 nonfiction bio, fiction bio and, if you write under different author names, you will need separate bios for those aliases, too.
Humanity: To demonstrate your humanity. Readers like to know that authors are human beings.
Mission: To share your mission, which is reflected in the author branding statement. I covered how to craft one in depth here.
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.
#1. Your Mission
I share how to express your mission via the Author Branding Statement here.
I recommend you use this statement or a version of it as the first sentence of your author bio.
Your turn: Craft your one sentence Author Branding Statement.
The next piece of the Author Bio to express your humanity, so that we can relate to you as a person. 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.
To get some ideas, brainstorm 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 first fiction author bio for my young adult fantasy novel, 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 love fairy tales and have been reading and writing since I was a little girl. In my off hours I do kick boxing, gardening, and watch movies with my husband, who is also an author.
Notice I’ve said a few things about myself that are personal and relate to my mission of empowering readers.
In my nonfiction bios attached to workshops I give, I sometimes add:
I have two cats and a thousand books and thankfully my books don’t need feeding.
I’ve inserted humor and shown how much I love books. I want the audience to know I bring levity to the serious work of writing, since as a writing teacher, play and fun is part of my brand.
Your turn: Draft a sentence with two or three things that are representative of who you are and meshes well with your Author Branding Statement.
This element answers the questions we always have about author: how did you get to be writing this and why should I listen to you?
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 released my first novel, 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 connect, of course you won’t mention those other titles.
For example, we helped one of our clients draft her bio for her first book, 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 is also part of 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 spouse on the coach to watch her favorite shows. (From https://www.lizadamsauthor.com/)
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 lose weight or how to learn the ten steps to happiness.
For your credibility be sure to emphasize what you have done. Be sure to include your experience, education, and/or passions.
When I write a nonfiction bio I include the books I have written and how many students I’ve helped. I also include my fiction because I want to show that I am a writer. That’s part of my credibility as a writing expert.
Another client, Dr. Sonjia, the author of the nonfiction book, Sex in South Beach: Let’s Talk about Sex, puts 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 experience connecting with the public, her book is for regular people, not doctors.
Another example: For Ezra Barany’s first novel, The Torah Codes, he included what inspired him to write his novel, and that he’s been writing fiction for a while. (Yes, Ezra is my husband.)
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. (From https://www.thetorahcodes.com/about/)
#4. Bonus: Call to Action
Optional in your bio is a Call to Action—especially appropriate if you’re a guest on someone’s blog, podcast, or stage. Keep it in the tone and voice of your bio and make it clear and concise. Have only one action for readers to take.
A Call to Action is what it says it is: you’re asking people to take a specific action. Usually comes at the end of your bio.
Example: I love hearing from my readers you could write me here… [insert your email address or website contact page]
Or: Want to hear about my upcoming releases? Then sign up for my newsletter here: [insert link]
Or: For more information about Jonathon and his books and services, visit his website at [insert the URL]. (Good for nonfiction.)
Or: To stay current of Jessica’s upcoming books and activities and appearances, go to her website and sign up for her newsletter. [insert link]
Wrap It All Together
Keep these four elements in mind when you write your author bio.
To review, the four elements of your author bio are:
- Your Author Branding Statement
- Your humanity
- Your credibility
- Your call to action
Advanced Tip: Write a few different versions of your author bio and keep them all in one document. Write a one-sentence bio of 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!