And kept updating it through the years…
I have had real trouble over the years figuring out how to present myself as a writer in a professional capacity. Having an author bio is a necessity in both traditional publishing and the independent writing community. But do I know how to write one? Maybe? Kinda?
Not really. Just like I have trouble writing a book synopsis, when I have to look at and summarize my writing self in 3 or 4 sentences my brain does the
buzz buzz buzz flatline.
(Side note: I drew a comic strip in high school and one of the characters was a cat named Flatline. I need to bring back Flatline.)
All I know is when I re-read my author bio it felt stale. And cluttered with useless anecdotes about me as a person that didn’t really tell you anything about what I do or my writing.
At this moment, I’m re-organizing and “re-branding” my blog and my author bio along with it. So I thought I’d share my process and research with you.
Freelance Writing has a crisp, concise list of 6 rules that will help focus the content of your bio.
Scribe Writing focuses on the importance of the author bio in relation to marketing and also has 6 steps/rules for writing the bio. Also, a fancy template.
reedsyblog also has an author bio template and an approachable, conversational tone.
All three authors of these posts say pretty much the same things (use 3rd person, list your “credentials,” add a memorable personal detail) but the best advice I’ve heard for writing an author bio—and writing in general—is to look at your favorite authors and see how they do things.*
Two of my favorite authors are Janet Fitch and Chuck Wendig. Fitch’s bio is short and sweet; the first sentence talks about her most successful book, the second sentence talks about her 2nd most successful book, and the third sentence tells you where she lives. Wendig’s bio is a slightly longer paragraph. It mentions his blog and a laundry list of awards and publications, as well as where he lives and who his agent is.
Fitch’s bio does not employ the “personal touch” that Freelance Writing, Scribe Writing, and reedsyblog recommend. Wendig’s does a little bit at the end but it is more of an afterthought and a nod to his personality, and does not interfere with the informative content.
Back in the early 2010s my author bio also included a looooong laundry list of awards and magazine names that unfortunately no longer exist. Basically a long string of italicized letters that tried their best to put you to sleep. I also included “interesting” personal details like:
Daydreams about deep–sea fishing.
Only writes when the cats let her.
Likes to (do something) and (something else) while sounding clever and esoteric.
Is surprised when she uses the word “esoteric” correctly.
I also included my day jobs in my author bio because I thought it was important that you knew that I was a STRUGGLING writer who had to SACRIFICE her writing time to feed herself (and her cats).
All of which is not relevant to my actual writing. You can get me as a PERSON by reading my blog or scrolling through my instagram.
It feels like the advice out there today gives you the option to include extra bells and whistles on your bio to be as punchy and fetching as possible while conveying ALL THE INFORMATION in a small, tidy package.
I want to do things differently this time. I want to include details that are writing-supportive and stand the test of time. Because I really don’t want to write another bio next year. So here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas.
She writes poetry and contemporary fantasy and horror fiction.
Is there really anything else you need to know?
She wrote The Echo of Something Hitting for her MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College.
Is the phrase “horror fiction” redundant?
She will self-publish the first book in her paranormal werewolf series, The Slaughter Chronicles, sooner rather than later.
Okay, here’s the “final” draft:
Jessica Halsey writes poetry and genre fiction. She is the author of three chapbooks and The Slaughter Chronicles, a contemporary fantasy/horror series about werewolves. She wrote The Echo of Something Hitting for her MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard College. She was born in Arkansas, USA.
*Please don’t copy someone else’s bio and paste your name in it.