Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What’s in a Bio?

Got your killer query all set to go? Have your synopsis and sample chapters all prepped? But wait…the agent you’re submitting to wants a bio too?

A bio or cover letter frequently comes up when submitting to agents and editors, but crafting it can be a little tricky. Basically, it’s your chance to tell all about yourself in a single page, both identifying why you’re the perfect author to tell the story you’ve written and also to flash the spotlight on any previously published works of yours. Needless to say, I certainly find it challenging to boil my life down into a few paragraphs while making it pertinent to the agent at hand.

So how have you crafted your bios in the past? What formatting do you use on your cover letters? What should you definitely put in and what should you absolutely leave out? 


  1. Huh, funny you mention this. I was recently asked to write a brief bio about myself for my short story for GoWesty.com. It's a website that sells Westphalias and they were collecting stories about the adventures we've had with our vehicles. I wrote about learning to drive in one.

    I don't have a lot of experience with writing bios or anything, but what I did was open with some information about me as a driver, then carried it over to what I do when not driving, like the school I attend, the classes I take, and topics I talk about too much. I also included a link to my blog and mentioned my book.

  2. I haven't drafted my bio, yet, either. Should be fun to try.

  3. I keep it really short (don't really have that much to say). And it should be relevant. I don't think most agents want to know about your kids or that you hate your day job enough to quit and write full time if only you could get published. :P

  4. I just read on Rachel C's blog (I can't remember her last name but she's an agent) That you should never say things like "I've been writing since I could hold a pen." becasue that is relevant to why they should consider your work. She said she will skip over it every time. I've never done a bio before but from that post I would say keep it what makes your writing good (have you published?) and what makes your book good. Anyway just a thought :)

  5. I haven't had to do this yet, and honestly hadn't thought about it. One more thing I can freak out about when the time comes LOL.

    Love the cartoon! :)

  6. I have one I use for queries or guest blog posts. It's really short - stating my degree, what I did before writing fiction and why I write the genre I do. That's about it.

    For queries I also like to mention applicable writers conferences I've been to and what writer organizations (like RWA) I belong to.

  7. I haven't had to do this yet - I have no idea how I would fill a whole page :-)

  8. I actually didn't write a bio for my query letter. Most of the agents I wanted to query (back when I thought I was ready) wanted more of the query to be about the book unless it was a non-fiction proposal. Since it was fiction my bio really didn't matter. Best thing I ever did was sit down and read all the Bio's of authors in that genre. The formula jumps out at you after the ninth one.

    That said for every other bio I sneak in my favorite tag line because it makes people laugh ( my giraffe earrings of good luck juju).

  9. Mine was like my query synopsis - really short! Even now, it's not that long.

  10. An entire page for a bio sounds so intimidating when it's your first fiction manuscript you're shopping. For nonfiction writers, a bio of that length can be more a requirement, but from what I've read, a short paragraph as part of the overall query letter is just about right for first-time fiction writers. At least I hope so. :)

  11. McKenzie – That’s pretty cool they had you write a short-story! Kind of a neat way to ply your writing skills on the net, very cool:)

    Shannon – No reason to eek…I hope? ;)

    Miranda – Yup, it’s not quite as trying as crafting queries and synopses.

    L.G. – Short and to the point seems the way to go on just about everything from queries to bios. Most stuff can get left out too, just writing, publishing, and whatever else may be pertinent to you writing your story.

    J.A. – That’s good advice. They probably get sick of hearing clichés. I suppose the key is to stand out…in a good way:)

    Julie – Glad you like the cartoon:) Most of the time I don’t writers usually think about their bio, mostly just crafting their actual story.

    Stacy – Once again, short seems to be an all-around good idea. Cool that you’re part of the RWA, do you feel it’s helped you in your career?

    Sarah – Lol. I suppose you don’t need to fill an entire page. 3 well written paragraphs should do it.

    Steph – I only provide a bio when requested, but it’s surprising just how many agents seem to want one. Good idea to check out other peoples’ bios…and yes, giraffe earrings are a nice touch;)

    Alex – Agreed, sounds like a good way to go.

    Michelle – I think you’re mostly right…in other words, you only need the bio if it’s specifically requested by an agent in addition to your query, synopsis, and sample. It all depends upon the situation, but I find it’s a chance to show why you’re qualified to write this tale and why your experiences bring a unique aspect to the story you’ve written.

  12. Ugh. Writing a bio is sort of uncomfortable. I've had to do it a few times (each situation calling for different lengths, varying degrees of information). I think the key is keeping the information relevant. I mean, does anyone really care where I went to high school? Probably not. : )

  13. OMG Mark, your post is making me feel guilty. An agent I badly wanted to Query has asked for an Author Bio, which I am yet to write. The poor agent has been shoved down my list. I keep wondering why is the bio required as in the last paragraph of the Query letter I have mentioned my previous publishing credentials. But, I feel we should keep an author bio ready.

  14. I haven't been doing bios long, but I keep mine short. Here is an example of my bio:

    Draven Ames graduated High School in 1996, joining the army shortly thereafter. Having worked in the telecommunication field, he also has a strong background in multitasking and effectively communicating.

    Draven Ames has written one story for Shroud Magazine, soon to be available at Barnes and Nobles. Four of his stories were published by SNM Horror Magazine, where he won their annual Author Showcase and the lead story in their upcoming anthology. He was also a guest submissions editor for SNM Horror Magazine, doubling their views in one month. In addition, he has written a screenplay and finished two novellas.

    Good or bad, I welcome critiques.

  15. Cynthia – It can indeed be uncomfortable, but once it’s done, it’s done at least:)

    Rachna – No intention to make you feel guilty:) A bio’s definitely a good thing to have on hand.

    Draven – Nice and short and to the point, well done:) Thanks for the example.

  16. I find for queries, only relevant experience is necessary for bios (including relevant for book subject matter). I'm about to go on submission and my agent wants a more in-depth bio. This is still hard for me. What do editors care if I worked in advertising for 10 years???