View Full Version : Author Bio

12-01-2012, 02:11 AM
I'm starting to research agents who take fantasy novel submissions, and I noticed that a few seem to want something called an "author bio" included in the initial submission package (along with the query letter and any synopsis or pages they may or may want).

What exactly is this? I'm already racking my brains with trying to come up with a sentence or two for the part of the QL itself that's supposed to mention your relevant experience or past publication credits (I don't have any, though I'm trying to find homes for 2-3 short stories).

For the separate author bio, do I actually have to find a way to make my day job (college biology instructor) and hobbies sound relevant to the subject I'm writing about (they're really not, as my novel is a work of fantasy set in a made-up world).

Or is it supposed to be a bit quirkier the way some of the author bios on the back of book jackets sometimes are? Is this where I'm actually expected to mention that I was the only little girl in my elementary school who wanted a pet dragon and where I can talk about the difficulties and distractions of getting absorbed in writing while my three dogs beg for walkies?

And is it supposed to be in first or third person? I've googled "author bio" and have found a lot of conflicting stuff.

Siri Kirpal
12-01-2012, 04:10 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

If it's separate from the Q, then the bio is in 3rd person, though no one is likely to axe you, if it's in 1st. Bio in Q should be in 1st person.

As far as the rest of it, what skills do you have that might sell a book? Media or stage experience? Blog with lots of hits per month? You could mention your job, but I would leave out the family and the pets.

That is from the perspective of someone who writes nonfiction. Hope it helps.

12-01-2012, 04:42 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)


I teach biology at a college, have no media or stage or business experience. I published a few academic papers and gave a few talks on my research back when I was in grad school (and I teach, so I'm fairly comfortable with public speaking), but other than that, I can't think of any way my profession or life experience is germane to marketing or promoting a book--if that's what they're trying to suss out with an author bio. Wish they'd be a little more clear about what they actually want from a prospective fiction writer in this department.

I just wasn't sure if these things were supposed to be something like what you sometimes see on the back flap of books. Those seem to come in two flavors: 1) a list of all the books the author has published and awards he or she has received (you see these most often with authors who have published a lot of books and received a lot of awards), or 2) a sort of quirky personality sketch that discusses the author's education and or day job, hobbies and family/pets. I'll admit, I prefer the latter type as a reader, as I find it interesting to know what kind of things authors are interested in outside of writing.

I haven't seen many for fiction writers that discusses the author's qualifications to write the book, per say. I guess if I was clever, I'd have made my protagonist a community college professor dealing with something magical that crops up unexpectedly in a contemporary fantasy setting, but my first love is traditional fantasy, so none of my life experience is at all relevant to my setting.

12-01-2012, 04:50 AM
I prefer the second type, too. That's the only kind I'll ever read through to its end.

Maryn, who tailors them to the genre

12-01-2012, 06:04 PM
I teach biology at a college, have no media or stage or business experience.

I'd assume that your biology knowledge was helpful in creating the fantasy world of your novel and that as a teacher, speaking in front of a crowd won't reduce to a mute bundle of quivering nerves (which is what would happen to me).

So that's already two relevant things :)

12-02-2012, 05:48 AM
I'd go with the second setup as well. On one of my agent submissions for my second novel, I had to include an author bio. Since I am unpublished, I wrote the bio in a humorous vein, relating to the fact I am completely tone-deaf (the book is music-related) and also mentioning how I'd been writing since I was eleven. It must have worked, because I was asked for a full (but ultimately, the agent passed).

All I can say is weave your expertise into the bio and write it as engagingly as possible--use your "voice", so to speak.

Hope that helps.

12-02-2012, 11:51 AM
Well, my central character is an ex-mercenary and professional courtesan. I certainly didn't have any relevant experience to put in the bio! I would go for putting in any interesting or quirky hobbies, and personally I like the pet dragon line. Just don't go overboard on the 'I was a lonely, different, speshul snowflake orphan princess' thing. (I wrote some cringeworthy bios in my early days of submitting). Of course if you actually are an orphaned princess, I'd strongly suggest putting it in...;)

12-03-2012, 03:56 AM

agents like to know you've written a book if you have. and they like to know you're super-uniquely qualified, if you are.

if you have neither, I strongly believe you're better off just writing a strong book and query--they take new writers EVERY day. And I've seen a lot of bio-less queries land agents--the story and writing sell, a bio only stands to polish a bit.....or, done wrong, detract.

as a side note, my hobbies include growing mushroooms, making beer and wine, cooking, travel, fishing, and hunting. I have a PhD in biology, was nearly killed in a car accident once, and suffered from depression severe enough I once almost killed myself. I have 2 kids and a wife and live in the burbs. I would not, personally, include ANY of that in almost any query I can possibly envision. So this isn't an issue of "do as I say...", I strongly believe any bio not listing a publication or something terribly unique is at best wasted space, and at worst, may begin to count against you rather than for you. I wouldn't put anything myself, you are free to do as you like but I see so many "stretched" bios in QLH they automatically build negative impressions of the writer when I see them now. I don't know how many agents feel like I do, but I wouldn't want to make ANY I was pitching to feel that way.

Note the above was for the query, a separate bio is different and I'm in agreement with Maryn.....