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How To Write Your Author Bio

book publishing Apr 23, 2024
Holly Bellebuono holding a book

When you’re creating a book proposal or you’re preparing to market your self-published book, you’ll need an author bio so the potential reader can learn about you. In my experience, this is where many authors slip up. They get intimidated at the idea of writing about themselves and they begin to feel shy or uncomfortable promoting or selling themselves instead of selling their book.

But an author bio is very important. In my course Selle Your Book, I give lots of examples of authors who have played around with silly bios or have tried to be clever or quaint. It may work for really famous authors, but generally a reader wants your self-description to be straightforward and helpful.

Writing the Best Bio

You’ll want to explain why you’re the best person to write this book. What’s your history? Your experience? Generally readers want to learn about you as a person, so don’t write your bio as if it is a resume. Many people get hung up on listing degrees or credentials or awards, but this can backfire. My advice to authors is to draft a bio that would inspire a reader to ask you over for dinner. If they are intrigued by your bio and your story and they want to learn more, you’ve done your job.

Write as if you’re celebrating your accomplishments but also talking with an old friend. It’s a balancing act between citing your expertise and making a potential reader feel comfortable. It often takes several drafts before you’re happy with your bio. Be sure to include things that are special or unique to your journey, and not things that are common (such as majored in English). What did you do with that English degree? Did you travel to Zambia to teach a foreign language? Did you get a job as a US ambassador? Did you write romantasy novels? Highlight what’s most important and leave the reader with a sense of wonder and curiosity (while at the same time demonstrating that you are an expert in the book’s subject matter.)

The next step is to shorten it.

Craft a Bio of Various Lengths

Once you’ve written a full-page about yourself, it’s time to narrow it down to fit a variety of situations. Editors will want a certain length (say 125 words) while your op-ed bio for your favorite magazine might limit it to 50 words. This shortening process requires that you let go and hone your words to fit a given space, and it can be frustrating. But know that if you can create a brief bio that still compels someone to want to learn more, you’re on the right track.

I keep a Word document (it can also be a Google Doc) with various bios and bio lengths. Some are specific to writing, others highlight my experience in the natural products industry, and others focus on business coaching. Each type needs to have a long version, a medium version, and a very short version. Write them out in paragraphs and label each one with its word count so you can quickly access it when required. 

I find the medium bio is the easiest to write and read. Short ones are very basic and can be uninspiring and matter-of-fact. Page-long bios can ramble and include much more than you really need.

Your Bio Is Not Your Manuscript Style

Avoid the temptation to write your bio as if you’re a character in your book. If you’re writing Westerns, don’t pitch in a cute country accent because this attempt at humor will likely fall flat. Your bio is about you, not an extension of your characters. Keep it real and lively without presenting yourself as a fiction.

Also keep it 3rd person, meaning you’ll write “she” or “he,” not “I.” Your bio is about you, not from you. This creates a sense of professionalism and provides a certain distance between the author and the reader so that the reader can look at your “from the outside.” Once they like what they read, they’ll become insiders in no time.

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