Scratch that title.
How to sell yourself.
That's a more fitting title, I think. That's what an author bio is all about, after all. Selling yourself. Making your writing background sound professional yet intriguing. It's a harder task than it seems, especially coming from a debut author who doesn't have a publishing credit that shines like the harvest moon.
When I sat down at my blank word doc, cursor blinking irritatingly and all, I thought to myself, "An editor is going to get to the part where it reads 'no publishing experience' and pass on the manuscript. I know it."
Well in a world where I know everything, that may be how strict the industry standards are. (And in a world where I know everything I would make bucku-bucks betting at the Kentucky Derby.) But you have to stay positive and work with what you have. It's hard to remember that every published author once sat in my position, staring at the blank screen, wondering what on earth to put in their bio.
I researched. A lot. There are loads of resources if you simply google "writing" and "author bio". Here's some things to keep in mind:
~Keep the bio about one page in length
~Stay professional, omit the personal
~Include degrees earned (shows English/writing background)
~Include conferences and workshops attended (where, when, and who presented)
~Include writing group memberships (shows dedication to perfecting craft)
~Include blog or website info. (shows "followers" or "future sales")
~Include publication credits, if any
Sounds easy-cheesy when it's spelled out like that, doesn't it? When you look over the list how many things could you expand on? Have you been to RT, RWA Natonal or RomCon? Have you taken writing workshops like Donald Maass' "The Fire in Fiction"? Do you hold membership in RWA, SFWA, or MWA? Do you attend regular meetings with branches of those groups? Do you know any published authors from these meetings who might be kind enough to give you a blurb for your debut novel? And finally, how many hits do you receive on your blog? How many followers do you have? In other words, how many sales are you bringing to the table when it's time for your agent and editor to negotiate?
You see, there are loads of ways to expand on an author's bio if you're not yet an author. But, and it's a mighty bold but, you have to show you're working toward branding an author name. You have to show you're perfecting your craft and dedicated to writing.
In my research I often came upon author bio's that included personal information. The rules clearly state no personal information, so what's the reason for the discrepancy? Take a look at the first few lines of Karen Marie Moning's two bio's:
The bio on her website reads, "Karen Marie Moning was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of four children. She graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Society and Law." Her "official" author bio on the other hand reads, "Karen Marie Moning, a New York Times bestselling author, graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor's degree in Society & Law."
Catch the difference? When a reader enjoys her book and finds her website, he or she might feel connected to know how many siblings she has or where she grew up. But no editor, when deciding whether to represent or pass on her manuscript, cares about that info. They care about her professional capacity and how that will relate to future sales.
So this is what I did (not saying it's right or wrong because I have yet to sell Enemy, Beloved), but I kept it professional and expanded on areas I could expand. I didn't say I was unpublished...I just left it out and focused on my stengths. Before I knew it I had a full page in length.
Know that WHEN you get an agent, they're going to need your author bio up front. Start bulking it up now and it'll be that much easier later.