When you’re trying to get your creative writing published, you’ll want to show off your publishing history in the best possible light. But knowing which accolades are most impressive and which ones fall flat isn’t always simple. While writing your cover or query letter, it’s important that you brag about the right things in your author bio.
The cover and query letter experts at Writer’s Relief know what to include and—just as important—what to leave out of your letter. Follow these tips!
Author Accolades To Include In The Author Bio Of Your Query Or Cover Letter
Book publications. Whether you self-published, nabbed a book deal with a major publisher, or saw your book project picked up by a small independent press, you should definitely mention book publications in your author bio. Be sure to follow publishing industry standards and include not only your book’s title, but the publisher and year that it was released.
Reputable magazines that have published your writing. Agents love to see that a writer has been published in literary journals and magazines because it suggests there’s interest in a writer’s work. Here are six surprising real-life stories of things that happened to writers who published in literary magazines.
Creative writing awards. While scholarships, fellowships, and graduate awards can be impressive, national contests with reputable, well-known judges are the gold standard for creative writing contests. List your nominations, short lists, honorable mentions, and contest placements the same way they appear on the contest’s website. Agents and editors might not recognize your badge of honor if it’s listed incorrectly. Mislabeling a writing contest that you won doesn’t send a strong message of professionalism, and it’s a more common mistake than you might think.
HELPFUL HINT: Think you could never win a writing contest? Think again! It’s just a matter of finding the right one. Click here to learn more: It’s Easier To Win A Creative Writing Contest Than You Think.
College or graduate degrees. Whether your background is in art, science, or interpretive dance, you may want to mention your degrees (if any), as well as any related accolades. Decide if listing your course of study is worth the “text real estate” that the words will take up in your bio.
Writers you’ve studied with. If, in your educational travels, you’ve had the privilege of studying with a renowned writer or writers, you may want to mention the connection (especially if there’s any chance of those writers giving you a quote or endorsement for a book later on).
Writing-related activities or volunteering. If you participate in a local critique group, hold a chair position in a writing trade group, or volunteer to read to kids at the library, let it be known. Not only do your activities give a glimpse into the kind of person you are, but they also demonstrate your social networking capabilities—even if you haven’t published anything yet.
Job history or current job. What you do for a living might be relevant in your author bio. If your day job gives you bragging rights that relate to your writing career, be sure to share! But even if your profession doesn’t connect to your writing life, you might want to mention it anyway, especially if you’re pitching a book. Who you are when you’re not writing can offer insight into your interests and lifestyle. And if you’re writing about a topic that your profession makes you an expert in, so much the better!
Self-publishing numbers or critical acclaim. Positive quotes about your writing, four- and five-star reviews, and sales figures can all indicate that a self-published book is of high quality. (Of course, not having any accolades doesn’t mean a book is bad—only that it’s undiscovered!) Learn more about the kinds of self-publishing facts, figures, and statistics that tend to impress literary agents and editors.
Quotes and endorsements. Often, writers who have worked with a mentor or who have studied with an established author via a writing conference or MFA program can garner general review-style quotes that are worth their weight in gold. Include them in your author bio!
Personal information that gives insight. Generic information may not carry much weight in an author bio, but personal tidbits that give real, memorable insight into a writer’s personality can go a long way toward forging relationships in the publishing industry. As a writer, who you are off the paper can matter as much as your writing voice—especially in an age of personal branding.
Your author URL. Yes, your author website is something to brag about—and you may be surprised by just how many literary agents or editors will look you up online if your writing is even the least bit interesting to them. Want to have a website that shows you in your best light as a writer? Consider Web Design Relief!
Social media numbers/activity level. Although social media activity doesn’t necessarily matter to literary magazine editors, agents love to see writers who are enthusiastic and well-connected on social media. Remember, the number of your followers doesn’t matter as much as the quality of your interactions. So go ahead and invite agents to join you on Facebook or Twitter so they can peek at the following you’re already starting to build.
What You Might Want To Leave Out Of Your Author Bio
Some accomplishments might seem like important milestones—but in fact, they aren’t worth listing in a cover or query letter.
Author mill publications or contest wins. An author mill is essentially a publisher that makes money by pumping out as many books or anthologies as possible—or by hosting as many contests as possible in order to nab entry fees. Author mills make their money by selling things to the authors they publish. In the larger publishing industry, author mills are not especially well regarded for publishing quality work. Click here if you aren’t sure if you’ve been published by an author mill.
Publishing credits from college or high school. Unless you’re a fresh new graduate, your publishing credits from college and high school may not carry much weight in the adult, professional publishing world. That said, if you hold an advanced degree in writing (especially from a competitive school), any awards or acclaim you might have received will carry much more weight.
Reviews from friends or family. If they’re not famous authors, it’s best not to mention that your mother and cousin are your #1 fans. Literary agents and editors value only expert opinions in an author bio. Leave grandma out of it unless she is noteworthy in the literary world.
How old you were when you started writing/your reason for being a writer. Some writers who feel their author bio is too sparse will pad it with stories of how they fell in love with the written word. But every writer has a version of that story. So unless your personal story has special human interest, literary agents and editors may not be enthralled by your writer origin story. Try to steer clear of author bio TMI.
What If Your Author Bio Doesn’t Have A Lot To Say?
If you’re panicking because you have few to none of the elements suggested above—don’t worry. Most literary agents and editors at literary magazines will tell you that the most influential element of any submission is the writing. Having a great bio can certainly help your chances—but not having a great bio won’t hurt them.
Keep it simple. Talk about what you’ve done with your life and include any effort you’ve made to study writing craft. Then, let your work speak for itself. Literary agents and editors will listen.
Read more: Does Your Author Bio Really Matter?
Your Author Bio: More Than Just Information
Want to take your author bio to the next level?
Your author bio can be more than static data about your publishing history; it’s an opportunity to foster interactions. It can help you build a readership or it can open up networking possibilities. If you have a book for sale, a smart author bio can sell more books.
Learn more about how to write an author bio that builds connections.
Writing your own query letter may seem daunting, but the experts at Writer’s Relief can help! For our Full Service clients, our professional letter writing team creates effective query letters that are skillfully crafted to entice literary agents and build interest in their books. If you’re a DIY-type, you’ll find an easy-to-follow, step-by-step blueprint for writing a successful query letter using proven marketing techniques in our book, The Ultimate Query Letter Tool Kit by Writer’s Relief.
Question: Do you have any questions about writing an author bio? Reach out and leave your question in our comments section!