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WHO ARE YOU? THE SHORT AUTHOR BIO
Column by Aeryn Rudel
November 12, 2020
Many publishers ask you to include a brief author bio with your cover letter, and almost all will ask for a bio upon acceptance. There are lots of opinions on what you should include in such a bio, and in this article I’ll give you mine.
Author bios, like all things in submission land, demand we follow the guidelines all the way and exactly as requested. With most publishers, the only guidelines will be length, and that the bio be written in third-person. I’ve found a 50-word bio is fairly standard, so I’ll be constructing the example with that assumption.
I think a good short author bio should be constructed with the following components, and in this order.
- Basic details
- Where to go/buy
Now let’s take a look at each of these components in detail.
This is the necessary who, what, and where. You don’t need more than your name, what you do, and maybe where you’re from. Keep any potentially sensitive data as far away from your bio as possible.
Here are my basic details:
Aeryn Rudel is an author from Seattle, Washington.
You might balk at listing the city you live in, and I get that, so you could vague it up and say:
Aeryn Rudel is a writer from the great state of Washington.
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to omit your geographical location altogether.
Of course, if you’re just starting out, you might not be comfortable calling yourself an author (I’m still not). So, you can do a couple of things. You can call yourself an “aspiring author.” Nothing wrong with that. Or you could tell folks what you do for a living. If I were writing this bio ten years ago, I might have said:
Aeryn Rudel is a writer and editor for a tabletop gaming company in Seattle, Washington.
This info is bound to change as you move around, grow as an author, change jobs, and so on. Update as needed.
Time to let everyone know about your publication accomplishments. I don’t think you should list more than three things in any one accomplishment category. What might those categories be?
- Notable short-form publications: short stories and articles.
- Notable long-form publications: novellas and novels.
- Applicable literary awards. If you’ve won an award, you should absolutely mention it. In fact, you can even save some words and drop it into your basic details. For example: Aeryn Rudel is a Hugo-Award-winning author (in his dreams) from Seattle, Washington.
- Membership in professional writing organizations.
My accomplishments currently look like this:
He is the author of the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, On Spec, and Pseudopod.
I hit two categories there: my novels, and my short fiction. I went with the series title for the novels instead of listing them individually to save space. For short fiction, I tend to list at least one publication that can be found and read online for free, if someone is inclined to look. I belong to the SFWA and HWA, but I don’t generally list that in my short bio. I have, as of yet, won no awards.
What if you don’t have any accomplishments yet? Applicable education, like a degree in English, literature, or creative writing might be something to include. But, honestly, I think its okay to just omit this part of the bio and simply tell folks about the kind of fiction you enjoy writing. I might do the following with my bio if I didn’t have the publication credits to include.
Aeryn Rudel is an aspiring author from Seattle, Washington, who enjoys writing dialogue-heavy speculative fiction about vampires, contract killers, and demons that use a lot of foul language.
When you do have publication credits, go back and add them. Author bios are ever-evolving things; they grow and change as you do.
Where to Go/Buy
If someone reads your story, likes what they see, and actually bothers to read your bio, you want to give them a link or two to click. Your website, your blog, social media accounts, or your Amazon author page are all possibilities, just as long as they give an interested reader access to more of your work. I think you can include up to two links here, like your blog and your Twitter handle, for example.
My where to go/buy looks like this:
Learn more about Aeryn’s work at www.rejectomancy.com or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.
My blog is kind of a repository for all my writerly doings, and I announce most of my publications and frequently discuss writing-related things on Twitter. Between the two, anyone interested in my work should be able to track down most or all of it.
Like with publication accomplishments, if you’re just starting out, you may not have anything to put here, or you might not be uncomfortable directing folks to your personal social media accounts, which is completely understandable. What I’d put here instead, are fun or interesting personal details. You know, thinks you like, things you do, and so on. Like this:
Aeryn is a notorious dinosaur nerd, a baseball fanatic, and knows more about swords than is healthy or socially acceptable.
When you do have a website, or want to point people at your social media accounts, you can go back and add them in. Again, bios change all the time, so don’t be afraid to update yours.
Putting It All Together
Let’s take all the component pieces and put them together in a complete bio.
Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Seattle, Washington. He is the author of the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press, and his short fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, On Spec, and Pseudopod, among others. Learn more about Aeryn’s work at www.rejectomancy.com or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.
This gives all the important info, and it clocks in at 48 words. I can easily update this with more current info when needed without changing the format. If I’m not given a word count maximum, I’ll generally jazz up the language a little, but my bio rarely exceeds 55 words, unless I’m specifically asked for a longer one. Some publishers will ask for 75- or even 100-word bios.
Here’s the bio I might use if I was just starting out.
Aeryn Rudel is an aspiring author from Seattle, Washington, who enjoys writing dialogue-heavy speculative fiction about vampires, contract killers, and demons that use a lot of foul language. He is a notorious dinosaur nerd, a baseball fanatic, and knows more about swords than is healthy or socially acceptable.
This bio also comes in at 48 words, and, yeah, it’s silly, but I’m fine with that (silly can be memorable). Coincidentally, when asked for a bio longer than 50 words, I’ll generally insert details like this around the basic components to add flavor.
Check back next month for more advice on how and where to submit your work or head over to my blog Rejectomancy for oodles of overly analytical articles about the various and sundry parts of writing, submitting, and every author’s favorite subject, rejection.