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Many writers find that writing a short story, poem, or novel is easier than writing their own author bio. And if you’re a writer with few publication credits (or none at all), crafting a compelling bio can be even more challenging. But don’t worry—you don’t need stellar credits to have a stellar bio! Here’s how to focus on your strengths and downplay your shortcomings:
Don’t pad your bio with irrelevant info. Most editors (and readers!) love the opportunity to discover new writers with unique voices. For this reason, it often doesn’t matter how many publication credits you have, as long as your writing is strong. Your bio can be as short as a few sentences (most editors prefer this) that mention where you live (no specifics, of course), your profession, etc. Don’t try to compensate for your lack of publication credits by cramming in irrelevant information. While your pottery collection may be interesting, going into detail about it doesn’t give the editor or literary agent information about you as a writer. Of course, if your story, poetry, or book is about pottery, then go ahead and mention your intimate knowledge of the subject.
Have a positive attitude. Editors and agents reject submissions for many different reasons, even from writers with multiple publication credits—it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of your writing! If you let rejections affect your outlook and color the tone of your query letter, you may turn off the very people who would otherwise love to read your work. Your author bio is where editors and agents get to know the real you, so make sure you don’t come across as a bitter person with an ax to grind. And remember, getting rejections can actually be a positive thing—here’s why!
Establish expertise on the subject matter. You may wonder, “How can my bio influence people to read my work?” If your main character has a trait or hobby that you happen to share, or the story takes place in a setting you know like the back of your hand, your expertise will lend your work authenticity. For example, if you write a book that takes place in a hospital, it would be a good idea to mention that you’ve worked in a hospital for years. Establishing yourself as an expert on your particular subject gives you credibility as an author, and will encourage people to read what you have to say.
Show that you take your writing seriously. Even though you may not have any publishing credits yet, you can show your dedication to the craft of writing by listing any writing groups or organizations you’re a member of in your author bio. If you don’t belong to any writing groups—now is a great time to join! Here’s a handy state-by-state listing of writing and literary organizations you can review to find one near you. And also include in your query or cover letter any writers or writing mentors you’ve studied with.
Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Most editors and agents don’t want to read a long-winded version of your life story—they’re mainly interested in the writing you’re submitting. Should you choose to include any other details about yourself or your writing, keep them specific and avoid clichés like “It’s always been my dream to be a writer” or “I’ve been writing since I was three years old.”
Writing an author bio can be daunting, regardless of how many publishing credits you may have. However, presenting yourself in a polite, professional way will make editors and agents more likely to read your submission—and help you earn more publication credits to add to your author bio!
QUESTION: What would you include in your cover letter if you had no previous publication credits?