It’s tough isn’t it, writing about yourself?!
Even talented writers, who naturally bestow the beautiful written word onto the world everyday without difficulty, seemingly have trouble writing a decent bio. Pinpointing what is interesting and enchanting about your self is not an easy thing to do.
But it’s soooooo important.
Your bio is the perfect place to sell yourself as an entertainer. You are a storyteller and your bio should reflect your personality and writing style. Even when written in the third person, most people are savvy enough to know that YOU wrote it. So use it as a pitch to show them what to expect from you, your “personality” and your writing. Here’s one of my favorite author bios from Ms. Talli Roland:
(Click to view at a bigger size)
Right away you can see Talli’s personality infused into her bio. Without boring us, she still manages to throw in some impressive accolades and her formal training, but with a sense of humor too. Her bio completely fits her style of writing, and speaks to her target reader.
See how a bio written this well can truly engage the reader, attract the RIGHT readers, and encourage a sale?
Here are 8 tips on how to write a great bio for you and YOUR style of writing. Please note that this is for your website, social media, Amazon etc – writing a bio for an agent is a different kettle of fish that we’ll touch upon another day, (maybe! ;))
8 Tips for writing an enchanting author bio:
1. Keep in mind that most people know that YOU wrote it. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes or breaks a bio for me. My main conclusion is that I am always aware, maybe even subconsciously, that in 90% of cases the author wrote the bio them self, or at least had some input in it. For that reason, a little humor and humility goes a long way.
Ex. –> Rather than saying “International best-selling author”, Talli says her novels “have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States”. See the difference?
2. Don’t write a resume, write your story – Avoiding listing out your life events in chronological order. “Jamie was born in X and went to school in Y where she majored in Z”. Snoreville. Talk about you and your story – what makes you interesting, unique, awesome? Quirky and memorable?
Ex. –> This bio taken from Amazon (details removed!) put me asleep around sentence 2 “NAME (born DATE, PLACE) is an author. From DATE to DATE he was a speechwriter. He now lives in PLACE.”
3. Write to your readers, not your peers – While you may want your peers to know about all of the organizations you are a part of and writing programs you have embarked on, your reader likely won’t care. Instead, give them a little of “you”
Ex. –> Talli’s example of loving coffee and wine makes her fun, human and relatable. Note that she also shows the reader that she is a capable writer by mentioning her training as a journalist and the awards she has won. Strike a balance between being relatable yet professional.
4. Keep it short. Short, short, short and sweet. 50-200 words is good. This is the Internet and we all need a quick-fix. This isn’t a bad thing – the faster a potential reader can read your bio, the more time they have to read your blog/ content or read about/buy your book.
5. Do you sound like a storyteller? People are relying on you to tell them a good story, to entertain them. So use these 50-200 words to live up to the challenge.
6. Avoid wicked cliches – One thing I see a lot is writers without accolades trying to “prove” that they are writers. No-one needs permission to call them self a writer, you just are. Telling us that you “have always wanted to be a writer”, “were born with a pen in your hand” or “have been writing since the fourth grade” is not adding to your credibility I assure you ;)
7. Let your personality shine – Your bio should be clean, yes, but it’s still ok to let your verbiage depict your personality a bit. Here’s another favorite bio of mine from Tilly Bagshawe that showcases her playful spirit. (Click to enlarge)
If you write a more serious subject matter, an entertaining bio like Tillys may not be appropriate, but that doesn’t mean your bio shouldn’t show some personality.
8. Be mindful of tenses – Keep it in the third person on Amazon.com, 1st person on social media, your choice on your website. While we know it’s you writing your bio (see #1), show that you are a professional and write it in the third person for Amazon.com anyway. The aim of social media is to connect with the reader directly, so 1st person works well here. For your author website or blog, it depends on the tone of your site and I have seen both work well.
What did I miss? Would love to see your favorite bio in the comments!
Laura Pepper Wu is the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She has worked with a variety of authors to successfully promote their books, including many Amazon best-sellers. Laura is the author of wedding non-fiction guides and book marketing guides 77 Ways to Find New Readers for Your Self-Published Book and Fire Up Amazon!
Laura also runs Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. When she's not working at the studio, you can find her walking her dog, "yoga-ing" or at a coffee shop in Seattle.