Perfecting the Author Bio
By Becky Tuch
When the hard work of perfecting a manuscript is done, it would seem that writing your author bio would be a piece of cake. Still, many writers get flummoxed over this process--and for good reason. If you have no publishing credits, should you say that? If you've published somewhere no one's ever heard of, should you mention the publication? What from your personal life is relevant? What should definitely, under no uncertain terms, be left out of the author bio?
Rob Redman, editor of Fiction Desk, has some wonderful advice for writers looking for answers to these questions. Click here to see his tips for writing the author bio, replete with helpful explanations and funny commentary. For writers on the go, please enjoy this abridged version:
If you have no publishing credits, say so! Every artist starts their career somewhere. Also, editors love discovering new voices.
Don't name every place you've ever published in your entire life. You might have published an article for your church's newsletter. Or maybe you placed a poem in a pamphlet that circulated through your elementary school. These are not necessary to mention. List only the most relevant, and most well-known publications.
Don't air your dirty laundry. If you have reservations about a particular journal, or a bad rejection experience, or if you have specific Diva-esque requirements, i.e. "I will only publish this story in the spring," or "I prefer Garamond sans serif for all my work," save it for your blog. Or better yet, save it for phone conversations with your mother. These letters and bios should be professional and polite, not overly personal or demanding.
If your bio has something relevant to your manuscript, do mention it. But keep it short! If your story or essay is about the military dictatorship in Chile, do say you lived in Chile for ten years. Do not, however, talk about the painful experience and subsequent PTSD and years of therapy you have undergone. Save it for your memoir.
In other words, be simple, brief, polite and unassuming. To see the example of a good cover letter, click here.
And of course, good luck!
Becky Tuch is the founding editor of The Review Review.