QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Author Bio

Today we're going to discuss the bio. That's right, your bio. The one you put in your query letter. The one you might put on your blog or website. The words that tell all about you. I know some of you have the fear of all that's holy in your heart right now. I can practically hear some of you saying, "But, but, there's nothing special about me. What am I supposed to say?"

Believe me, I've felt this terror. It started last year when the five of us got together and started writing on this blog. I had to come up with something to say about myself. It was one of those deer in the headlights moments.

But never fear. You can write an amazing bio by considering these few simple points.

For queries:
1. Be briefest. If you don't have any publishing credits, don't despair! You can still put a sentence about yourself. Here's what I put in mine: I am an elementary school teacher by day and a contributing author of the QueryTracker blog by night.

Sounds good, right? It's quick and easy. Now, you might be thinking, "Yeah, but you have this wicked QT blog credit."

And that's true. But I didn't always have this. Before I started writing for The Blog, I simply said: I am an elementary school teacher by day and an avid writer by night. Just give them something brief, personal and sincere.

2. If you have publishing credentials, list them! Publisher and date, along with title is all you need.

3. Mention education/experience that qualifies you as the perfect author to write your book. For example, if you've earned an MFA degree in creative writing, write for a newspaper, etc. you can use that in your bio.

For websites/blogs:
1. Be brief. People want to read a little bit about you, but not your life story starting with the third grade. My bio on my website is quite a bit longer than what I put in my query. In fact, it's longer than what's on my blog. Or on Facebook. Or anywhere really. In fact, your website is the best place to put the most comprehensive bio. For everywhere else: Pare it down to the bare essentials so that when someone clicks on your blog or Facebook page, they can see who you are in a few short sentences.

My bio on Facebook: I teach, I parent, I cook, I drive too fast and I watch a lot of reality TV. After that, I write YA novels.

I am represented by Michelle Andelman of Lynn C. Franklin Associates, Ltd.

And yes, I sleep. Sometimes.


And on Twitter: YA author, repped by Michelle Andelman


2. Read other bios. I think the best way to learn about bios is to read them. A lot. Try it. Go to your favorite author's website and read their bio. Open the back covers of your favorite books and read the bios (those are s-h-o-r-t). See what you can apply to your own bio.

In general:
1. Lead with your strongest quality. I was recently asked to speak at a conference, and they asked me to submit a bio. I didn't have an agent at the time, and that paralyzing fear I spoke of at the beginning of this post? Yeah, that gripped me. And the conference organizer said, "Just lead with your best stuff," and she helped me put my credits in the proper order.

2. Use your "voice." Your author voice. The one you write your blog posts or Facebook statuses with. Show some personality.


I think the author bio is important. I don't think it's a secret that I frequent a lot of blogs. When I go to a blog I've never read before, the very first thing I look for is a bio box. I want to see who that person is. What they write. I want a quick glimpse at who they are. That can all be accomplished with a well-written bio.

Thoughts? Questions? Throw 'em my way at elanajohnson (at) querytracker.net or leave a comment.

If you're so inclined:
Elana's bio on her website
Elana's bio on her blog
Elana's bio on that conference she was talking about (it scrolls through the speakers. She thinks she's seventh or something like that)
Click here to see the QT bloggers and our brief bios


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28 comments:

Kristi said...

Elana - I just read your website bio and I love how your sense of humor shines in everything you write. I've struggled w/ this issue in my query letter -- which I'm sending your way soon BTW :) -- because I feel I have nothing to say. Thanks for a great post!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That was super helpful, Elana. Thanks!

brimfire said...

Oh, this is so timely! I just received a request from an agent who wants a separate bio with my partial. Begin freakout.

But I feel a bit better now. I should probably send her the bio I'd put on my website, right?

*off to read favorite authors' bios*

Scott said...

So, since I wrote about a group of people that meet for drinks . . . should I mention I do the same thing, and derived much of my inspiration from the world of Mexican restaurants and bars? Or, that I've cleverly wrapped fiction around fact? Hmmmm . . .

S

Valerie Geary said...

Great tips! Thanks Elana!

Carolyn V. said...

I never thought about checking out the bio to see what kind of writer the author is. I'm going to have to start doing that (oh, and maybe rework my own bio.)

mand said...

Elana, you gave me a panicky moment with "... the very first thing I look for is a bio box." I had a look at my blog, trying to see it as a stranger would, and found no bio box!

Then i remembered (d'oh) i have a 'Who?' link at the top that takes visitors to my account of myself, if they want. Do you think a box on the front page is generally better?

ElanaJ said...

Kristi, thanks! And believe me, those bios were WORK. So I'm glad you like it.

Scott, whatever works for you, man. ;-P

brimfire, Stina and Valeri - glad you enjoyed.

Carolyn - I always check the bio first. I want to know if I have anything in common with the person right from the get-go.

ElanaJ said...

mand, hmmm, great question. For me, I'd rather stay on your main page, read your bio box, then your post and then comment. If I click on your "Who?" page, which I'm sure is fantastic (I'll go check it out!), then I'm navigating away from your main page. You know?

Something to think about, for sure.

mand said...

Now i want to do a poll, if i only had the readership to make it worth it! I wouldn't hesitate to add a bio box, except that my sidebar is so full. Hm. Revamp? ...

ElanaJ said...

mand, I'm not sure. I went to your site, and if you hadn't told me, I'm not sure I would've known the "Who?" was your bio at all...

And I totally understand full sidebars! Mine is packed and I want everything at the top!

~Jamie said...

I LOVED getting to change my bios to say who I was repped by. I did a total happy dance :)

Rebecca Knight said...

This was super helpful! :) I've always struggled with this, and your examples were great.

Thank you!

Jaime Theler said...

Great post! Even if you don't have a QueryTracker credit you do have something to offer, and don't be scared to showcase that, but briefly.

And that conference organizer gave some good advice, too. :)

Nisa said...

Excellent advice!

mand said...

Everything at the top – me too!

Seems i need to put 'blog makeover' a little nearer the top of my To Do list than it has been. ;0)

Thanx for your input, which is so valuable but so scarce.

ElanaJ said...

Jaime! I should've linked to you. I totally will. Jaime is the conference organizer, people! She rocks.

ali said...

Yeah but ... Yeah but ... Yeah but ...

You just critiqued my query and I didn't have a single bio line in there. Is that okay?

Kimberly Franklin said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure it will come in handy when I start querying...yikes : )

Stephanie said...

Great advice!!!

We have a writer in our writers group who brought his query to a meeting for critique. He had NO bio at all on it. He's published a non-fiction book!! I said "Why on earth do you not have that info on here???" He said becuase he's querying fiction now, didn't think the agents would care. My response- "YES THEY DO!"

Before I had any publshing credits, I was determined to get soemthing to add to my bio. I entered flash fiction contests and I placed in the top 10. I didn't so much even care that I didn't win....I had placed and that was soemthing I could add to my bio!

ElanaJ said...

Ali, if you're feeling apprehensive about the bio, like you don't have anything (and you DO!) it's okay to leave it out.

Stephanie, you're so right, Non-fiction is still a PUBLISHED BOOK. Congrats on your placements in the contest.

Paul West said...

Thanks Elana. Great advice. I've referenced your blog on my blog about the same subject.

Annarkie said...

Thanks Elena! I have a good bio on my blog and twitter, but the only thing I could come up with on this one is that I'm a member of the Idaho Writer's League. Worked so far since I just got a partial request. Will use your advice if I'm asked for more info.

Jemi Fraser said...

You're always so succinct Elana! Thanks for the great advice :)

lynnrush said...

Great advice. Bios are so hard! This was a great post.

Munk said...

Hello Elana... I wrote a YA thriller chock full of fast forward techy mumbo-jumbo. For example, high powered lasers, nano-crystals, DNA blending... you know, fun nerdy stuff. I have always been inclined to add to my query letter that I am a Chemical Engineer and work in a high-tech R&D facility... I figure it adds some credence to my sci-fi-tech creations, but I don't want to sound haughty... advice? Thnx

Mary Mary said...

I just wanted to let you know, um . . . eleven months later, that this was very helpful since I'm trying to construct a more in-depth bio of my credentials. Thank you!

aneducationinbooks said...

I've just downloaded your query e-book, and I think it's the best resource on query letters out there. Thanks!