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Getting Personal In Your Author Bio: How To Know When It’s TMI

Getting Personal In Your Author Bio: How To Know When It’s TMI

Sometimes it can be hard to know how much information is too much when you’re writing your author bio for your cover or query letter. Sharing a little bit of personal information in your author bio creates a better picture of who you are as a person and a writer. But how much is too much? When is it appropriate to include some personal information, and when does it just make a writer look silly?

Including Personal Information: A Best Case Scenario

In theory, the perfect author bio contains a brief overview of the author’s education (formal or informal), good publishing credits that are listed in the best order, and a sentence that adds a personal touch to an otherwise flat bio.

If you are submitting work to a literary journal, adding a personal element to your bio can be interesting to editors—but it’s not necessarily going to get your writing accepted.

For book authors querying literary agents, a little personal information can be especially helpful if it pertains to the book being submitted for consideration.

Example: I started writing my novel Journey Into The Jungle Of My Heart when I was on a fishing trip on the Amazon River and I met my future wife.

This sentence is a multitasker in many ways: First, it makes the author seem personable and real; second, it paints a picture of the moment that the story was born and shows real relevance to the author’s personal life (agents love that); third, it establishes that the writer is perfectly positioned to be the author of his or her unique book. It’s the story behind the story, and it resonates.

The key is not laying it on too thick. Here’s what you would NOT want to do:

Example: I guess you could say I started writing my novel Journey Into The Jungle Of My Heart, when I was a child and I decided that I would write a book someday. I had a feeling that my book was going to be inspired by one of my adventures, but I didn’t know when it would actually happen. That “someday” finally came when I was on a fishing trip on the Amazon River and I met my future wife.

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But What If I Can’t Tie My Bio To My Creative Writing?

Even if elements of your life don’t have direct connection to your writing, you can still include information about yourself in a writerly way. Here are some prompts:

Talk about the people you live with.

Example: I live with my husband and three children under the age of six—and I never lack inspiring stories, thanks to them!

Talk about hobbies.

Example:  When I’m not writing, I enjoy fly fishing, pottery, and hiking to help me stay inspired.

Talk about places where you have lived or traveled.

Example: I have lived in Japan, Nepal, and Spain, and my travels continue to inspire my writing.

Talk about your out-of-work interests:

Example: When I’m not writing, I like to volunteer at my local library by reading stories during children’s hour.

Don’t Some People Say That Adding A Personal Line To A Bio Is Not Very Helpful?

There are agents and editors who don’t care if you live with your dog or enjoy planting flowers. That said, we’ve learned that these people are the exceptions. Most editors and agents enjoy learning a little bit about you.

This isn’t necessarily philanthropy: Literary agents, in particular, like to see that an author has an interesting personality. In the age of social media, a writer must be able to carry a following with his or her online presence. Having an interesting personality can help with that.

Is a line about your personal life necessary in your bio? Not always. Does it hurt to include a personal element? We don’t think so. From where we stand, a personal touch in your cover or query letter can only help.

Photo by mr lynch

penQUESTION: What’s the most interesting tidbit about you that might work in your author bio?

7 Responses to Getting Personal In Your Author Bio: How To Know When It’s TMI

  1. Sarah,

    We often encourage writers to include any biographical information that will help them stand out, even if it isn’t directly related to their writing. An interested agent will want to get to know you. If they were to be put off by certain information about you, there’s a chance they wouldn’t a good fit for you in general.

  2. I have a question. I am about to try to get an agent for my second book, I have had quite a colourful life so far but I wonder if I reveal it to a literary agent it will catch their interest or if it might put them off. I worked as an exotic dancer and have lived in several countries around the world. Do you think it is worth mentioning as I feel it has influenced my understanding of people greatly and my experiences? Also is it worth mentioning a degree that is unrelated to writing?

  3. I asked a friend to come up with a sentence that he felt told about me.
    It is: She lives in Georgetown TX where she makes delicious tea for anyone lucky enough to drop by.
    My readers really liked the line.

  4. When I was recently asked for a bio, I was stumped. I wrote one, but believe it was probably too much and too little after reading your hints and advice. I’ll do better next time.

  5. Hello

    I enjoyed reading your article. I wrote my bio with the helpful tips from this website. In my bio, the small tidbit of personal info was the training I received as a medium in the Spiritual and Psychic Development course from the Spiritual Sciences Fellowship.

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