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Thread: Advice on writing an author's bio

  1. #1
    I find ur lack of faith disturbing mellymel's Avatar
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    Advice on writing an author's bio

    Hey guys! Not sure if this is the right place to post this. Couldn't figure out the most appropriate forum, so Mods, if this is the wrong location, feel free to transfer me elsewhere!

    So, I'm in the querying process and in my research I have noticed that a few agents ask for an author's bio (whether or not you have actual writing credentials). I have a partial out right now and if I should be asked for more pages or a full (hey, gotta stay hopeful and prepared), it says on the site that at that point, they would also ask for a synopsis (check) and a bio (uh...). So, as a new, unpublished writer, what do you think are the necessary bits of info to include? I'd like to write something a bit witty (if I can be clever enough to do so), but I'm not really sure what they are looking for other than writing credentials which it seems obvious I don't have, or I would have included them in the query.

    Thoughts? Threads or posts you can point me to? I tried to find threads on bio writing, but nothing seemed to come up.

    Thanks!

    Mel
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  2. #2
    Vive la révolution littéraire! A.V. Hollingshead's Avatar
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    If you don't have any writing credits, then I would keep it short and to the point. If you have anything relevant to say (such as an English degree, or a history degree if you write historical fiction, or anything of that sort), throw in a sentence about it. Otherwise, simple. "I am Alexandra Hollingshead, a young woman from Vancouver. I studied medieval history at the University of British Columbia. I have long been a fan of Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, and other Weird fiction authors, and I am influenced heavily by their works." An on-the-spot example, but if you don't have anything else to say, that's probably all they'd really like to hear.
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  3. #3
    needed a good laugh today Anaquana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiucha View Post
    If you don't have any writing credits, then I would keep it short and to the point. If you have anything relevant to say (such as an English degree, or a history degree if you write historical fiction, or anything of that sort), throw in a sentence about it. Otherwise, simple. "I am Alexandra Hollingshead, a young woman from Vancouver. I studied medieval history at the University of British Columbia. I have long been a fan of Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, and other Weird fiction authors, and I am influenced heavily by their works." An on-the-spot example, but if you don't have anything else to say, that's probably all they'd really like to hear.
    I wouldn't even do this. In fact, I didn't even do this. Agents don't really care what authors you love, where you're from, or anything else that doesn't help them sell your books.

    If you don't have any writing credits, then the author bio isn't necessary. When I was querying agents, my query went like this:

    Dear esteemed agent,

    Two paragraph description of story.

    Title of my novel is complete at X # of words.

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Ana

    Also, if the agent specifically asks you for a bio, you can simply tell them that this is your first novel and you have no writing credits to your name. They don't want witty or anything like that. It'll just make them roll their eyes and sigh.
    Last edited by Anaquana; 04-09-2011 at 07:10 AM.
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  4. #4
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    If you don't have writing credits, leave that part out.

    If you have qualifications that make you qualified to write that story (say, you're an ex-FBI agent and you're writing about FBI), then mention it. Otherwise, yeah, leave it out.

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  5. #5
    She blinded me--with magic! third person's Avatar
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    SGG Agency states they require a bio. I have nothing to put. I shiver in my cheap K-mart boots.
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  6. #6
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    I'd say the bio in a query should be brief and to the point: publications, highly relevant education (either related to your subject matter or to creative writing, as in an MFA), and highly relevant education (my novel is about Marines in Baghdad, and I was a Marine in Baghdad.)

    Some agents do like to get a better idea of who the writer is. You can usually glean this preference by close reading of their guidelines. The request for a bio separate from the query letter is a hint to be more expansive.

    My "expansive" bio is around half a page long, and adds to the above place of birth, post-secondary education, work experience, interests, writing ambitions. I try to keep the tone light but sincere.

    I disagree that agents have no interest in your literary tastes. I've subbed to a number of agents who've specifically asked for such things as the last ten books I read, my favorite authors and books, my genre preferences. Not frivolous requests -- to a certain extent, you can get an idea of a writer's bent by what he reads. So a line or two about your reading in a more expansive bio would hardly be amiss.
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  7. #7
    Searching for Wonderland jallenecs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiucha View Post
    If you don't have any writing credits, then I would keep it short and to the point. If you have anything relevant to say (such as an English degree, or a history degree if you write historical fiction, or anything of that sort), throw in a sentence about it. Otherwise, simple. "I am Alexandra Hollingshead, a young woman from Vancouver. I studied medieval history at the University of British Columbia. I have long been a fan of Mervyn Peake, China Miéville, and other Weird fiction authors, and I am influenced heavily by their works." An on-the-spot example, but if you don't have anything else to say, that's probably all they'd really like to hear.
    This is a question that has troubled me for a long time, because my bio would be even thinner than your example. I don't have a college degree, and my last publishing credit was at least a decade ago. "My name is Junely Jallenecs and I am a full time mother of four teenagers," while simple, would seem to actually hurt my chances, not help them.
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  8. #8
    needed a good laugh today Anaquana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    I'd say the bio in a query should be brief and to the point: publications, highly relevant education (either related to your subject matter or to creative writing, as in an MFA), and highly relevant education (my novel is about Marines in Baghdad, and I was a Marine in Baghdad.)

    Some agents do like to get a better idea of who the writer is. You can usually glean this preference by close reading of their guidelines. The request for a bio separate from the query letter is a hint to be more expansive.

    My "expansive" bio is around half a page long, and adds to the above place of birth, post-secondary education, work experience, interests, writing ambitions. I try to keep the tone light but sincere.

    I disagree that agents have no interest in your literary tastes. I've subbed to a number of agents who've specifically asked for such things as the last ten books I read, my favorite authors and books, my genre preferences. Not frivolous requests -- to a certain extent, you can get an idea of a writer's bent by what he reads. So a line or two about your reading in a more expansive bio would hardly be amiss.
    Interesting. I sent out more than 50 queries and researched another 50 or so agents and none of them asked for any of that.
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  9. #9
    Sheriff Bullwinkle the Poet says: RJK's Avatar
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    My interpretation of what agents are seeking when they ask for a bio, is: What in your history will help sell this manuscript? Anything else you add is superfluous.

  10. #10
    Prying Open My Third Eye Darren Frey's Avatar
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    I have no writing credentials so this is what I put.

    As for me, I graduated from Grundy High School in June of 2000 where I won several creative writing contests and was even featured in the school newspaper for a poem I wrote. Ever since I was able to write I have written short stories and poetry. I spent the next six years after graduating from high school writing poetry and songs, one of which was featured in an anthology printed by Poetry.com. It wasn’t until I started attending Blue Ridge Community College in 2007 that I wanted to take my writing to the next level. I am currently enrolled in the transfer program at my school where I hope to transfer to James Madison University and enroll in the creative writing program..

    Hope that helps.

  11. #11
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morningrise View Post
    I have no writing credentials so this is what I put.

    As for me, I graduated from Grundy High School in June of 2000 where I won several creative writing contests and was even featured in the school newspaper for a poem I wrote. Ever since I was able to write I have written short stories and poetry. I spent the next six years after graduating from high school writing poetry and songs, one of which was featured in an anthology printed by Poetry.com. It wasn’t until I started attending Blue Ridge Community College in 2007 that I wanted to take my writing to the next level. I am currently enrolled in the transfer program at my school where I hope to transfer to James Madison University and enroll in the creative writing program..

    Hope that helps.
    Leave that stuff out of the query if they are not real credits.

    In a query, the bio is the least important. It's only relevant if you have legit and good credits. For example, you've been published by a royalty-paying publisher, or if your background is crucial to the book you wrote. Otherwise, just leave that out.

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  12. #12
    Prying Open My Third Eye Darren Frey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maestrowork View Post
    Leave that stuff out of the query if they are not real credits.

    In a query, the bio is the least important. It's only relevant if you have legit and good credits. For example, you've been published by a royalty-paying publisher, or if your background is crucial to the book you wrote. Otherwise, just leave that out.
    thanks for the feedback.

  13. #13
    I find ur lack of faith disturbing mellymel's Avatar
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    thanks all for the replies thus far. as often happens, there seem to be contradictory opinions on the matter

    Just wanted to clarify that this is not for the query. A partial was requested (from my query and first 5 pages) and in the Agency's website, it says that if they are interested in seeing more, the next step would be to include however many pages the agent requests, along with a synop and bio. So, with no writing credentials to speak of and a degree and even Masters in a subject that has nothing to do with "writing," do I just ignore the guidelines and just send the requested pages and synop. I was actually reading in bewares and background on this particular agent, that someone was recently asked to send more pages and a bio. It just seems obvious to me that if I didn't include any credentials in the query, it's because I'm a new, unpublished author. Otherwise I'd totally be screaming out anything I have to help me.

    Thanks again!

    Mel
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  14. #14
    Fear the Death Ray maestrowork's Avatar
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    If it's a partial package and a bio is requested, then just be brief. You can be humorous, too. But the point is don't dwell on it or drag it out. If you have no credits or relevant experience, just state the basis and that this is your first novel.

    I didn't want to work. It was as simple as that. I distrusted work, disliked it. I thought it was a very bad thing that the human race had unfortunately invented for itself.
    -- Agatha Christie





    The Pacific Between • A Bunch of Stories
    (2006 IPPY Award)

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  15. #15
    Learning to read more, post less
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    At this stage, a bio is simply to find out whether you have anything worth saying, worth promoting, or that shows you have some expertise in the area the book covers.

    Writing credits are good. An MFA is good. Being a police officer is also good, if you're writing a police procedural. Same with a doctor writing a medical thriller, or a lawyer writing a courtroom drama.

    But if you have nothing to say, then say nothing. It just sounds bad.

    Such things are gravy. A good novel is the potatoes.

  16. #16
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mellymel View Post
    thanks all for the replies thus far. as often happens, there seem to be contradictory opinions on the matter

    Just wanted to clarify that this is not for the query. A partial was requested (from my query and first 5 pages) and in the Agency's website, it says that if they are interested in seeing more, the next step would be to include however many pages the agent requests, along with a synop and bio.
    If they ask for a bio, they want a bio. Again, about half a page should do. Apart from any credits, try to sound lively and promotable. Yes, the right touch of humor helps.

    The one time an agent requested full, synopsis and bio, and I left out the bio, he wrote back: "Received MS and synopsis. Now, could you tell me something about yourself?"

    Oops. There goes my Woman of Mystery ploy.
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  17. #17
    New kid, be gentle! PinkAmy's Avatar
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    Look at the author bios on books you've read recently and authors you enjoy. I briefly include academic writing, degrees. I include that I was dx with breast cancer sept 11, 2001 between the time the first and second towers fell (nothing to do with my MS, but it's interesting), then for a little levity I share a sentence about my cats (it's funny and shows my personality).

    In my longer bio for my proposal I elaborate a bit more and add a few other details that illustrate my writing.

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