When you’re an as-yet-unpublished writer, one of the most intimidating things you’ll face is your own author biography.
You’ve read countless bios of successful authors, with their lists of titles and bestselling charts and accolades. Then, there’s you, manuscript in hand, wondering how you can possibly get the attention of your dream agent when you don’t have what the others have.
You already know that the hook and blurb is vital to getting an agent to finish reading your query…so how do you keep their attention long enough to hit “reply”? What if they see your empty, unenthusiastic bio? Won’t they pass because no one wants to take a chance on an unaccomplished unknown?
Stop that right this instant. You’ll defeat yourself before you even get started.
You do have a bio inside you, even if you’re querying your first book. You are an accomplished writer who obviously has what it takes to go pro—because the act of querying is proof that you are ready to make this manuscript into a product. You are seeking a career. You are worthy of
You simply need to find the bio that’s waiting to be written.
Building a Bio
“This is my first novel.” Clean and simple. This statement is not a death wish. It’s simply the truth. Think of all the successful debut novels you’ve seen over the years. They were all first books. If you have nothing else to add, just leave it at that. Agents appreciate brevity. (And... just in case you have a trunk full of unsold manuscripts: nobody needs to know you have a pile of gone-nowhere projects. Just say it's your first novel.)
“I belong to a writer’s group.” This shows that you are already networking with other professionals and shows you have commitment to the craft. Join a local writers group at the public library. Join a state-wide group like Pennwriters (who have members worldwide). Join a national group, such as Romance Writers of America if you write romance.
“I have a platform.” Platform is such a lofty word, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Platform doesn’t mean pedestal. Platform is simply the legs on which you stand. What experience do you have in real life that has inspired or supports your book? Writing about animals because you’re a vet or work for animal rescue? Bam—platform. Writing about Greek gods in contemporary settings because you’re a curator in a museum or have travelled to ancient archeologic attractions? Bam—platform. Writing a vampire love story because you are the Slayer and have been fighting the forces of the undead since you were a high school freshman and honestly believe that Slayers need love, too? Bam, bam, stake through the heart and bam—platform (as long as you can prove it.) Which brings up the warning—don’t make stuff up. Save that for your novels.
“I have previous work published.” Novels aren’t the only things that get published. So do poetry, short stories, and articles. Do you contribute to an established blog with wide readership? Have you been featured in ezines or print journals? If not, don’t despair—because those are things that you can start doing right now. You’re a writer. Publishing in smaller venues gets your name out there and builds a readership. And if there is one thing that agents love, it’s a writer that comes with an established audience.
“I’ve won a writing contest.” This is another thing you can start doing right now. Contests are perpetually being held, from local to online to national to worldwide. Just do a quick search and start picking which ones you’re eligible to enter. Since many contests charge fees, you’ll have to be choosy. Winning a contest or simply making finals is great for publicity and often a nifty prize. Personally, I value the blurb more than anything else. Calling my first book BLEEDING HEARTS a “Six-Time RWA Chapter Contest Finalist” is a huge deal for me…and that blurb went a long way to sell that book.
Chances are you already have an impressive bio inside you, just waiting to be written. If a job, an experience, an association, an accomplishment, or a skill is pertinent to you as an author or to your book, it may be bio fodder. Just be sure to state it succinctly and professionally—you don’t want to blow your honed-to-perfection hook with an inflated, irrelevant bio.
And remember…if you’re in doubt, just go with the clean and simple “This is my first novel”. If you’ve hooked the agent with your story, that’s all they need to know.