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Your Writing Bio: Doing The Publishing Credits Shuffle

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At some point, writers who are dedicated and diligent encounter a fantastic problem of the writing life: What is the best way to organize the publication credits in a professional writing bio? While each writer will have to make his or her own decisions based on personal preferences and goals, we at Writer’s Relief can offer some answers to common questions about publishing credits.

Hey, writers! Show off your writing bio by posting it in our comments section! Just click LEAVE A COMMENT above!

What is the best order for publishing credits?

There are two schools of thought here. You can order your list of published works in alphabetical order. Or you can list them in order of reputation (so your most prestigious credentials come first). You can also choose a mix of these two notions as well, leading off with The New Yorker and The Writer, and then moving on to list others in alphabetical order.

There’s really no wrong answer here; it’s a personal choice. Some writers prefer the orderly and organized approach to listing credits. Others like their most important credits listed first.

Does it help to list “smaller” publishing credentials in a cover or query letter?

While some writers opt to leave their “smaller” publishing credits out of their query and cover letters, we recommend that writers consider the ramifications carefully before making such omissions.

While it’s true that tiny, obscure literary journals may not do very much for creative writers who have publications in big-time magazines like Tin House or The Paris Review, most writers tend to have a mix of mid-range journals in their publishing bio. When that’s the case, listing those “smaller” publications can help for a number of reasons.

The community of editors and volunteers who run most of the literary journals in the United States tends to be very close-knit. If an editor at Journal A sees that a friend who recently started the small but promising Journal B published your work, that editor may be more inclined to give your work a little extra TLC.

Once you’ve had your work published in highly significant journals or with major publishers, then you might consider leaving off some of those smaller credits. However, remember that listing your many publishing credits—and the range of journals that you’ve been published in—demonstrates that you are more than just a hobbyist. If a credit is reputable, it certainly won’t hurt you. It could even help you—but not if you leave it out.

One final note: Sometimes writers are uncertain about whether or not to include a particular credit in their bio. Be careful that you’re not listing disreputable poetry contests in your bio. Also, learn more about when to include your self-publishing and/or fan fiction credits in your cover and query letters.

Wish you had better publishing credits in your bio? This will help: No Publishing Credits? Get Publishing Credentials: How To Build Up Your Writing Bio Super Fast.

Submit to Review Board

What is the cutoff for listing publishing credits? How many is too many?

Because so many of our clients are great writers who have been submitting regularly for years, some writers we work with have well over a hundred publication credits. At a certain point, it becomes necessary to trim credits from your query and cover letters.

Every writer will have a different idea about what constitutes too many credits and what constitutes too few. Our Review Board has seen some bios that list only a credit or two (even though it seems the writer probably has many more). And other bios list everything, all the way down to the very first poem that a writer had published in a middle school literary magazine.

Our authors who are extremely well-published will sometimes write: “My work has appeared in dozens of literary journals and magazines,” and then they will list those journals that they are particularly fond of, are highly reputable, or garnered some kind of award.

If there are no rules for what is too little or too much, how will I know if my bio is strong?

The key is finding the right number for you, a number that makes you look accomplished but not egotistical. At Writer’s Relief, we guide our clients to make good choices about what to include in their bios and what to leave out. Here is a working mission statement for a professional writing bio:

To demonstrate dedication to craft, as well as success, without going overboard or offering too little information.

Quiet confidence and accuracy—with no reaching or inflating—make for a strong bio. Read more: Your Professional Bio: Query Letter And Cover Letter Tips For Writers.

Writer QuestionsNOTE: OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, limited-time only. Our Review Board is reading now! Send your poems, stories, essays, and book projects for consideration (writers join our Full Service by invitation only). If your writing is strong, we can ease your burden of tedious research and submissions to literary agents and editors!

25 Responses to Your Writing Bio: Doing The Publishing Credits Shuffle

  1. OK then:

    Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer, no longer lives for Art, but still thinks about it a lot. Since 2008 her poems and photos have appeared in many journals. She was featured poet in the final issue of Unshod Quills, August 2013. “Real Poem” received Honorable Mention in the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Competition. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song, a collection of prose poems, and Eggs Satori (in press).

  2. Residing in New Bern, North Carolina, Jan Parys writes educational and general interest materials. Her historical articles have appeared in the Pines Perspective newspaper and her interview of Jesse Florea, editor of Clubhouse Magazine was in Children Book Insider in April, 2009. In February, 2010 she wrote a CBI article about Nancy I. Sanders, author of America’s Black Founders and Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books. She has been a teacher, home schooling mother and adjunct professor supervising of student teachers. She has taken classes in the past two years at Craven Community College on novel writing, creative writing and memoir writing. Volunteering at the local elementary schools has ignited her desire to write even more. Her projects about a horse named Lightening and Visions in a Crystal Ball are in search of a publisher. Her blog is janparys.blogspot.com.

  3. My bio:

    JAMES SCHWARTZ is a poet and slam performer striving for the simplicity of Cavafy mixed with modern gay wordplay and elements; Schwartz’s poetry / slam material dialogues of GLBTQ issues and affirmations of gay (night) life and love.
    James Schwartz was born 2.19.78 and raised in the Old Order Amish community in SW MI.
    Schwartz is the author of several poetry chapbooks including The Scarlet Band and Other Poems (2005).

    Schwartz’s poetry has been published by Poetry Life and Times, The Rainbow Gazzette, OutSide the Lines (Australia), The Poet’s Haven, Babel: The multilingual, multicultural online journal and community of arts and ideas , The New Verse News, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s International Poetry Blog for Peace, Perry Brass.com, Queer Magazine Online,Caper Journal, LGBT Asylum News, Poem2Day, Poets for Living Waters, Love’s Chance Magazine (Summer 2010 issue), All Poetry is Prayer anthology (This is Fire! 2010) and Men Shall Know Nothing of This: A Space to Think
    (UK).

    As a slam performer Schwartz has read at The Meta Cafe, This is Fire! The Zoo Bar and the St. Joseph County MI. Democrats’ Inauguration Day party of President Barack Obama.

    The Literary Party by James Schwartz (inGroup Press) COMING SOON!

    Twitter: @queeraspoetry

  4. Darlene Foster is a writer of children’s stories, contemporary short stories, creative nonfiction as well as travel articles. She is also an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, reading, shoes, cooking, sewing, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She has since visited many interesting countries which inspired her to write the Amanda adventure/travel series. She lives in Tsawwassen, BC, Canada with her husband and their two black cats, Pumpkin and Monkey. She believes that dreams can come true and encourages young people to dream big. Her publications include:

    Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, ireadiwrite Publishing, 2010
    Amanda in Spain – The Girl in the Painting, ireadiwrite Publishing. 2011
    The Day Dief Came to Town, short story in Country Roads, Memoirs from Rural Canada, Nimbus Publishing, 2010

  5. Terry, It always helps to have fresh credits, but as long as your credits are with reputable publications, they should have a long shelf-life. Also, keep in mind that very few literary magazines pay their writers, so many of your credits may be for unpaid pieces, and that’s perfectly fine.

  6. Cynthia, If you were employed with some of the “bigger” newspapers, it couldn’t hurt to drop their names!

  7. Carol Wiley is a technical writer/editor (1990) turned massage therapist (1997) turned freelance writer (2003, part-time; 2009, full-time). In addition to writing for her Massage and Healthy Living site, Carol has written content for sites such as tree.com, dublin-massage-therapy.com, and diy-home-tips.com. Her ebook, Self-Care: Living a Healthy Life through Massage, Somatics, Exercise, Stress Management, & More, is available for Kindle on Amazon.

    She is also the editor of three published anthologies of essays: Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching (North Atlantic Books), Journeys to Self-Acceptance: Fat Women Speak (The Crossing Press), and Women in the Martial Arts (North Atlantic Books). Her print publication credits include The Small Business Gazette, Self-Employed America, and AntiqueWeek. You can learn more about Carol and her writing services at .

  8. I am a former newspaper reporter and worked at three different papers in the Pacific Northwest before my kids took over my life. Now that I am writing novels, I have been advised by various agents to mention the reporting, but not the papers themselves in queries.

  9. While writing fiction at Bennington College, Lisa Heiserman Perkins studied the Romantic poets and went on to earn a PhD in British literature from the University of Chicago. She taught at Tufts, Harvard, and Emerson College, but left academia in 1993 to write screenplays and to make documentary films. She is the writer, producer, and director of a film now in post-production called Secret Intelligence: Decoding Hedy Lamarr.

    In 2009, the Vermont Studio Center granted Lisa a fellowship, and her stories appeared in Dislocate, Quiddity, Under the Sun, and Front Range Review. She also has a story, and an interview, forthcoming in The Fourth River, and one that was featured as “Piece of the Week” in the Painted Bride Quarterly, Issue #82 (http://pbq.drexel.edu/). It will appear in print this fall. Lisa currently working on a short story collection and a novel.

  10. Having spent twenty-eight years as a Naval Flight Officer my writing credits fall in the classified area and can’t be spoken of. My blog lists my bio:

    Edwin D Ferretti III is a writer, a tinkerer in electronics, a trumpet player and an armature archeologist with a passion for ancient Egypt. He was born in Chicago, Illinois; and has lived in: Maryland, Virginia, Texas, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, American Samoa, Italy and the United Kingdom. In 1969, he graduated from the then Southwest State Teachers College, San Marcos Texas with a BA in History and a minor in both Geology and Anthropology. He also holds a MA from the US Airforce Academy in Foreign Affairs. Mr. Ferretti writes YA, Science Fiction and Fantasy commercial fiction books. Currently he is working on his DARKSIDE OF THE MEDALLION trilogy. The first novel, titled MYSTERIOUS GIFT is complete. The second book, titled QUEST, is his current WIP and nearing the seventy-five percent mark. The final book, untitled, is in outline form. Another trilogy titled THE GREEN ARROW and a YA novel titled THE LUCKIEST BOY IN THE UNIVERSE will soon follow. Mr. Ferretti retired from a successful career as a Naval Flight Officer and currently resides in Nebraska amid hundreds of acres of farmer’s fields with his rescued horses, dogs and cats.

  11. Some of my credits are very old; I wrote sports articles weekly for our small town weekly. Later, for that same newspaper, I wrote occasional seasonal columns on town events (and that was over ten years ago) During that same time, I wrote a semi-annual column for a national honor society publication for a three year term, and wrote by invitation for an additional three years. After a decade of time, I am retiring this summer and ready to begin again. How old is too old for credits?

  12. This challenge couldn’t have come at a better time — as we speak, I’m revising our International Proofreading Consortium business brochure to appeal to political candidates, to be handed out at a seminar next week. Here’s the current draft of my bio for that; I’ll let my colleagues decide whether to post theirs as well. Since this is tailored for a specific purpose, I’ve left out the names of publications.

    Karen M. Campbell has a B.A. from Muhlenberg College (where she majored in Political Science), and attended University of San Diego School of Law; she wrote/edited/proofread for the newspapers at both schools. She studied Creative Writing at BOCES Institute for Gifted and Talented Youth and has won a number of awards for her writing, most recently taking 3d place in a love letter contest.

    She has been published in innumerable newspapers and magazines (and now on the internet) since the 1970s, and has participated in political campaigns even longer, assisting relatives as a child. Eventually, she worked her way up to researching and writing position papers for a Congressional campaign.

    Karen has written, proofread and edited hundreds of thousands of pages of legal briefs, newsletters, and other documents.

    She is an experienced speech writer, won awards for public speaking, and both coached and judged competitive speech/debate.

    Karen is our multi-award-winning professional desktop publisher, and can design brochures, flyers or anything else for you.

    If you want a special touch for a high-end fundraiser, let Karen hand-calligraphy the envelopes and name tags.

    She also translates both German and French.

  13. I didn’t break out the most prominent magazine/newspaper credits by name; not sure if that’s good or bad—?

    Tom Bentley has run a writing and editing business out of his house for more than ten years. He has published many freelance pieces—ranging from first-person essays to travel pieces to more journalistic subjects—in newspapers, magazines, and online. He is a published fiction writer, and was the 1999 winner of the National Steinbeck Center’s short story contest; he has also won some nonfiction writing awards. His short-story collection, Flowering, will be published by AuthorMike Ink in 2011. He maintains a writing-related blog at http://www.tombentley.com.

  14. At present, this is the bio paragraph I include in cover letters and query letters:

    I am a senior Creative Writing and History dual major at Bloomsburg University. My writing has received the 2009 and 2011 Bloomsburg University English Department Award for Creative Non-Fiction, the 2009 Fuller Fiction Award, and the 2011 Richard Savage Poetry Award. I have had work appear or forthcoming in Inside Pennsylvania magazine and The Stillwater Review.

  15. I don’t have any publication credits…yet. I’m going to bookmark this article so I’ll know what to do with ‘em when I get ‘em.

  16. Kristin, Great question! High school credits shouldn’t be mentioned. College publishing credits can sometimes be helpful, depending on the situation.

    If your college is publishing a reputable lit mag that gets some level of national acclaim, then absolutely mention a publishing credit in that mag in order to demonstrate your writing’s maturity.

    But if your college lit mag is a “students-only” publication for a small group of undergrad readers, then you may want to leave it off.

    The key is not to appear like you’re reaching. This article may help: http://dev.writersrelief.com/2009/04/no-publishing-credits-get-publishing-credentials-how-to-build-up-your-writing-bio-super-fast/.

  17. My only publishing credits are my high school and college literary magazines – would it be worthwhile to mention those in my bio? I want to show that my work has been read and accepted somewhere, but I don’t want to point out the fact that I haven’t been published outside of that realm…

  18. I am a multiple NYT-bestselling author in three different genres…kidding! But who knows? It could happen!

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