Whether you’re new to making writing submissions or have some publishing credits under your belt, your author bio is an essential part of your cover or query letter. However, the letter experts at Writer’s Relief know writing a well-crafted author bio can be tricky. This will be your “first impression” introduction to literary agents and editors. What information should you include, and just as important—what details should you leave out? How long should your bio be, and how personal should you get? What should you do if you don’t have any publishing credits? It’s important to avoid making embarrassing author bio mistakes that might reflect poorly on your writing submission.
The 6 Most Embarrassing Author Bio Mistakes (And How To Avoid Making Them)
Being too casual: Remember, you want to appear professional. An overly casual tone (Hey, check me out!) may seem disrespectful to the reader. And you don’t want to overshare or include details that fall into the TMI category: No one wants to know the results of your latest colonoscopy or that your neighbors throw noisy, all-night parties. Stick to information about your writing life and publishing credits. Which leads us to…
Coming across as too formal and bland: Yeah, yeah, we know what we just said: Appear professional! But that doesn’t mean your letter has to be dry and yawn-inducing. It’s actually a good idea to give a little personal info in your bio. You can share a line or two about your interests and hobbies, especially if they show you have expertise on your topic.
Mentioning too many (or questionable) publishing credits: Don’t include publishing credits that may peg you as an amateur, such as shady poetry contests or Who’s Who listings. You can mention that you’re a doctor or that your blueberry pie recipe is famous, because a few personal details can make you more memorable to the reader—but keep in mind that this is your author bio, not your medical CV or a record of all your country fair blue ribbons.
Also, if your list of publication credits is extensive, consider editing it down to a manageable size by focusing on five to ten of the most noteworthy credits. No editor or agent wants to be faced with a 300-word litany of journal names.
Making your bio too wordy: An author bio should be only one paragraph—not multiple paragraphs. Editors and agents want a brief overview, not a day-by-day review of your life story.
Using obvious clichés: Avoid cringeworthy statements like I’ve always loved writing or I’ve been writing since I was five years old. Hear that? That’s the sound of a zillion eye rolls. Any editor or literary agent reading your author bio already knows you’re a writer and that you love to write! There’s no need to include the backstory of how you came to writing or how you’ve loved it since you were sitting in your high chair composing sonnets.
Leaving out publishers or publication dates for your books: If you have published books included in your list of writing credits (yay, you!), it’s important to include the publisher and publication date in parentheses after the title of the book.
Creating the best author bio for your cover or query letter requires careful thought and attention so you make the right choices. Avoiding embarrassing gaffes in this vital paragraph will help you to appear professional, successful, and friendly—the type of writer every literary agent and editor loves to work with!
Question: What do you think is the biggest author bio mistake?