The Dreaded Author Bio
Dear Rachelle, an agent I’m interested in querying requires “a brief bio or résumé.” For published authors, this has got to be a leg-up, and I completely understand why an agent would want this, but for those of us with no prior publishing experience it’s a nightmare. How do we stay professional and still market ourselves effectively? I could write something like, “John Smith is a high school English teacher. He lives in Independence, Oregon. He’s never been published before, possibly because he can’t write a flattering bio.” Please rescue me from myself. Signed, A Teacher, But Who Cares?
I care, I care! I love teachers. Teachers are the bedrock of society. Anyone who teaches high school English should be sainted and of course, really, really rich. Where would we be without teachers? You, sir, are my hero… and if you can teach my teenagers to write anything besides “omg” or “brb” then you’re also a major over-achiever and I salute you.
Ahem. So where were we?
Right, the author bio. A bit of a challenge isn’t it, if you’ve been living life all these years, just raisin’ your kids and goin’ to work and payin’ your taxes, and then boom, suddenly someone wants your life story in two sentences and it had better be brilliant or your publishing dreams are over.
Here’s the thing, Teach. Stop stressing about it. Your bio in a query should be brief. You don’t have to include the time you won Most Valuable Player in Little League or the fact that you got all A’s in Freshman composition. If you’re a novelist, then the relevant things are:
…if you’ve ever published fiction in any form
…if you have any awards or accolades related to novel-writing
…if you have a job related to writing
…if you have a unique job or life experience directly related to the topic of your novel
If so, include the info in a general way, still keeping your bio to a paragraph. If you have none of the above, then a simple one- to two-sentence bio covering the basics will do. Career, family, where you live, etc. Maybe an interesting fact. If you can inject a bit of humor and/or personality into the brief bio, so much the better… but it’s not crucial.
Non-fiction writers, it’s different for you! Depending on the topic of your book, your bio may be just as important as the pitch because it will establish you as the exact right person to write this book. Maybe you’re an expert or an authority, or you have a giant platform, or you’ve been knighted by the Queen or whatever. You still have to keep your bio relatively brief (one to two paragraphs) but you’ll need to sell yourself as the author.
Back to my novelist friends… you’ve got nothing to prove in that bio. Hear me? Nothing. If you’re unpublished, then everything we care about comes between “Chapter 1” and “The End.”
So don’t sweat the bio.
Writer friends, what’s your query bio say?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent