Writing a great book is only half of the hard work. Writing a biographical sketch that works, (not to mention good marketing copy and a press release) are just as important in the long run.
The author bio is one of the areas where I find authors often struggle knowing what and how much to include.
First, how much should you share?
The back cover author bio should only be about 100 words. It's short, sweet and to the point. Remember the back cover of a book is prime real estate. So use most of it to share copy about the book rather than about you.
Inside the book on one of the last pages is where you can include a longer bio. That is where you can broaden it out past your book writing credentials and share some more well-rounded information. Try to keep that to 400 words max. (see the last example included below which would be too much for a back cover but great for inside the book on the back page.)
Now the question of what to include. My friend Sandra Beckwith, president of Build Book Buzz, wrote a great article recently regarding the author bio that I wanted to share with you. Keep these in mind and you won't go wrong.
1. Writing in the first person.
Nothing says "I don't read books" - never a good thing for a writer - like a bio that includes "I."
Always write your bio in the third person. One of the best ways to do that is to pretend you're a reporter writing about someone else. Taking that step away from yourself - getting that distance - helps you become more objective about what is and isn't relevant for your bio and how to express it.
2. Including irrelevant information.
Including information that has no relevance to the book or the author's credentials to write the book is probably the most common mistake.
Here's an example, with identifying details removed, from the self-published author of a supernatural thriller set in a farming community.
"*****was born in ******* in 1948. He lived in Fremont, Nebraska from the age of five until he left home to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. After college ****** taught business courses at Nebraska Technical College for two years prior to moving to Los Angeles, California to pursue an acting career. During his eight years in Los Angeles, he not only acted, but gained extensive experience as a waiter. He moved to San Diego, California in 1981 to attend law school at the University of San Diego and has practiced law there since graduation."
There isn't a lot here that's relevant to his book. Does where and when he was born matter? Or that he supported himself as a waiter while launching a short-lived acting career? What would you have expected to read in the bio of an author of a mystery incorporating supernatural elements that takes place in a rural location?
3. Omitting relevant details.
Conversely, many authors leave out specifics that bring their bio to life in the case of fiction, or establish their credentials for nonfiction.
The author bio featured above might have told us, instead, that the idea for the book came from a story he heard growing up, or that he was inspired by his grandmother's talk of her experiences as a medium, or that he has purchased and read so many mysteries that his wife made him rent a storage unit for them.
In other words, there's not much in his bio that connects his story to the story he wrote.
4. Not studying bios in your genre.
Bios for novelists are more personal than those for nonfiction authors, which focus more on subject knowledge and credentials. Search for the best sellers in your genre on Amazon and read the author bios. You'll see that romance novels, for example, are highly personal:
"Lucy Score was born in rural Pennsylvania, land of chicken and waffles. Obsessed with books since kindergarten, Lucy began penning her own fiction in the second grade when the teacher assigned "My Life on the Mayflower" essays. She enjoys cooking, yoga, and napping. Lucy devotes hours to crafting steamy romance stores so hot her family can't look her in the eye."
This fitness book author, on the other hand, stresses his qualifications to write on the subject: man-stretching-outdoors.jpg
"Jim Stoppani, PhD, received his doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut. After graduation, he served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the prestigious John B. Pierce Laboratory and department of cellular and molecular physiology at Yale University School of Medicine, where he investigated the effects of exercise and diet on gene regulation in muscle tissue. For his groundbreaking research he was awarded the Gatorade Beginning Investigator in Exercise Science Award in 2002 by the American Physiological Society.
"From 2002 to 2013 Stoppani was senior science editor for Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers, and Flex magazines. He is currently the owner of the JYM Supplement Science and jimstoppani.com.
"Stoppani has written thousands of articles on exercise, nutrition, and health. He is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle (Rodale, 2010) as well as Stronger Arms & Upper Body (Human Kinetics, 2009) and PrayFit (Regal 2010). He is also coauthor of the chapter "Nutritional Needs of Strength/Power Athletes" in the textbook Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements (Humana Press, 2008).
"Dr. Stoppani is the creator of the popular training and nutrition programs Shortcut to Size and Shortcut to Shred, as seen on bodybuilding.com. Dr. Stoppani has been the personal nutrition and health consultant for numerous celebrity clients, such as LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Mario Lopez, and Chris Pine."
(Many thanks to Sandra for these great tips. See more by CLICKING HERE)
So as you craft your author bio remember, the main thing is that you take the time to do it well. Do your research, then write a bio that reads like those of the top-selling authors in your field and qualifies you.