1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

What should I include in a hundred-word bio?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Feo Takahari, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    604
    113
    I'm publishing a story in an anthology, and the publisher asked for a hundred-word bio. I can find examples of this for businessmen, but I haven't found an example for a writer. What sorts of things should it include?
     
  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    2,103
    1,303
    163
    Flip to the backs of your favorite books, or Goodreads is also a great place to look, these days. They usually contain author bios. One of my absolute favorite bios belongs to Tanya Huff. The quote from hers that always gets me giggling is -

    Basically, just talk about yourself in a creative, entertaining manner. You're a writer and you want your readers to think, "hmm, cool." Personally I would avoid things like "Feo enjoys spending time with his family," or "Feo enjoys spending time deglazing hamsters and snorting latex paint," mostly because one is (hopefully) a given and therefore boring, and the other is both disturbing and deeply personal. You want to shoot for professional and truthful (because these things can live forever and come back to haunt you in ways that the resume you fudged can't), while remaining, as I said, entertaining.

    In other words, get a little creative, writer-boy! ;) This is where you get to, ever so briefly, speak in your own voice, rather than your character's. So talk to the reader.
     
    teacup and Feo Takahari like this.
  3. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    520
    81
    28
    Usually it's written in the third person. Authors generally say where they're from or where they're currently based and then list publications their work has been in. Sometimes they mention why they write, what their hobbies are, an interesting experience they once had, their formal education, or something about their household (like spouse or pets).

    I'd browse stories at mags like Abyss & Apex, Strange Horizons, Ideomancer, or any of your own favorites and scroll to the bottom of the stories to see what other authors write. Some authors are more factual, some use a cutesy or humorous tone. If it's possible to see older volumes for the anthology, I'd check those for reference.
     
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    654
    113
    To expand on what AE said: do NOT say you enjoy spending time with loved ones. It's a given. If you need to say it, people wonder why. It's like those houses for sale that have "not haunted" tacked onto the for sale sign - kind of suspicious. You can say you have a spouse and four dogs, but to say you enjoy spending time with them is a little odd.

    Just say a few things about yourself that most people you know on a casual basis would know, in an entertaining or personal manner, and that'll do nicely.
     
  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    2,103
    1,303
    163
    I've sometimes wondered why author bios are written in 3rd person. Is it because they were originally not written by the authors, but rather by editors/publicists, do you guys think? That would make sense to me. I can't think it's because publication makes us all spontaneously all speak like rock stars.

    On the other hand, that would be funny. Just in chat. Just for about 5 minutes one day.

    Lowan said so. ;)
     
  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    431
    83
    I've heard some arguments for the 1st person, and it's probably the best mode for a web page bio, but in the book the tradition of 3rd is better.

    Agreed, mostly you want to look at what's out there and learn from them.

    The Tanya Huff approach of weirdness-first can work, but the more "distinctive" you get the more you risk coming off as too wild to be professional-- especially, I think a bio like Tanya's that doesn't even imply something about writing counts as more indulgence than not. But, look at what material you come up with and decide on the tone that works with that.

    Think of "your brand," what kind of strength you want people to see about your writing and you. Some writers do need to use jokes there; some build on their love of horror by quoting their favorites or giving a philosophy of how to scare people.

    One place to start is: what's the most tangible thing you've done in real life that has anything to do with what you write about? Worked in a morgue, met Stephen King for two seconds in Odd Place X? (More horror examples.) That's a foundation other writers can't claim, and maybe you can build the rest around it.
     
    A. E. Lowan and Chilari like this.
  7. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    654
    113
    That's a good way of looking at it.
     
  8. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

    628
    227
    43
    To be honest, I hate bios that mention where an author is from. How does this help a reader understand who the writer is or why they might like their work?

    To me a good bio shows the personality of the author - are they playful, serious, creative, intense, etc. A really good bio will give an insight into them as a a person. And hopefully let people know what they can expect from their writing. This is a lot to do in just 100 words...let me show you mine and explain the thought process behind it:

    The things I was trying to get across in this bio:
    * A long history of being driven to write (started at eight - has written more than twenty novels)
    * Giving a person an idea of my style (listing authors who influenced me)
    * A little "story from my past" (not only is it true, but it is humerous)
    * Provide credibility (number of published works, a lot of foreign translations, and leveraging accomplishments of past works)
     
    A. E. Lowan, wordwalker and Chilari like this.
  9. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

    628
    227
    43
    I think it depends on where the bio is. If it is in an article or book - then yes, third-person makes it look like a publicist, publisher, or the one writing the interview/article wrote up the introduction. For a website, I think first person should be utilized as it is more personal.
     
  10. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

    628
    227
    43
    Very good points. I read Blake Crouch's bio (horror writer) and was bored to tears. He went to school at X, grew up at Y, lives in Z with his wife and blah, blah, blah. Later in an interview I read that when he was very young his parents were called into his school because the stories Little Blake was writing creeped out his teacher. To me THIS was a great way of showing his love for the genre - and it was a real pity he didn't incorporate it.
     
    Chilari likes this.
  11. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    654
    113
    Thanks Michael, that's all great advice. Definitely going to give me something to think about when the time comes to write my own bio. Not sure what I could say about myself. Something about castles and swords, probably.
     
  12. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    164
    43
    You bio should include your main credits, where you live, whether you're working on something larger (especially if it's something in the world of your anthologized story, which may perhaps be a chapter) and some means to follow you via social media.

    Re main credits: to show you're a professional. If this is your first publication, note that so others can be jealous.

    Re residence: to let local bookstores and libraries know so they can carry/buy the book in support of a local author and, if your contribution to the anthology is major, possibly to support an event.

    Re other works: to let editors trolling the credits for potential authors know that you're not a one-off and you have something they might be interested in.

    Re social media: to build a following and to give the editors above a means by which to contact you.

    Don't think of your bio as your bio, and here I disagree with Michael. Who cares if you own a cat or love your kids? Unless your job is ridiculously interesting or obviously informs your work (ex. the story about's codebreaking and the author works for the NSA), it's irrelevant. All that has to be interesting is your story. Your bio is your business card. And if you only have hundred words, make them count.

    I would add, I'm torn on including colleges in bios for stories and pitch letters. While that might create a connection with potential editors, I find it pretentious if someone went to a top-tier school and unimpressive if they didn't, however proud a person might be to have attended. If an alma mater plays a role in a story, it would make sense to note it unless it makes one of your characters seem like a stand-in for yourself. As a compromise, I would save alma maters for submissions to a specific person who went there him or herself. Same's true for fraternity or sorority affiliations. If this were a book, though, I would include school affiliations because then you might be able to get it in the school store and get mentioned in the alumni magazine.
     
  13. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

    628
    227
    43
    Agreed

    I really don't think someone is going to do a local author event based on seeing you are from the area.

    The problem with this is it dates the bio and what if time goes by and that work doesn't come out...either because you didn't get a contract, or you didn't like the way it turned out? Editors have no shortage of authors and I don't think they troll credits in anthologies to pick someone up.

    Again I don't think editors are going to be hunting you down, and if they are - they don't need the bio to find you.

    I wasn't condoning talking bout your pets or your kids. I mentioned to relate something about yourself and writing - something showing your passion. But I do disagree in that I think the bio should be geared toward the readers whereas you seem to be advocating gearing it for others in the industry. I do agree that you need to make it interesting and choose your words carefully.

    Again I don't think mentions in an alumni magazine will sell you more books nor do I think a school store will carry your books just because you went there. This "might" work for non-fiction work - but I really don't see it for fiction.

    These are just my opinions and it may be that I'm 100% wrong and stephen's approach would work better. Maybe we just have different intended audiences -- for me it's the reader.
     
  14. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    654
    113
    Actually, I think it depends. In my town, the local library and nearby bookshops, as well as small independant cafes and so on, are really supportive of local authors. In fact last month I went to a talk at the local library, organised jointly with the independant bookshop the next town over, from a local author about his book on Iceland. It included excerpts from the book, discussion of the Northern Lights and puffins and stuff like that, coffee and biscuits at the interval and all sorts, and it was great, and they did that because he's local (the library in a town 20 miles away did one too). Now, this might be because it's Shropshire and there's a definite "support local" feel to things here, because we're all small towns, lots of history, no big cities, most people in the area have been in the area all their lives and so have their parents and grandparents and so on back to the Roman invasion.

    Now, it might not be that saying where you're from is important, but the "it won't help you get local events" line isn't the reason. An in fact I think there are reasons beyond that which mean mentioning your location can be beneficial. For example, the short story I wrote for Myths Inscribed - Ailith's Gift - is partly inspired by the landscape of Shropshire. The "Old Hill" I mention in the story as the home of the dragon is based on the Wrekin, the southern end of which is all craggy dark volcanic rock, perfect for a dragon to perch upon. The town of "Uricon", half abandoned and falling apart, is inspired by Wroxeter Roman City (which at one point, in some sources, was known as Uricon) and which was abandoned at about the time I set the story. If I were to republish that story, I'd mention I'm from Shropshire in the bio, and explain that the landscape and history of my county is part of the inspiration behind the story - giving readers the chance, should they desire, to read up about the Wrekin and Wroxeter. In this example, I'm tying in something personal about my life with my writing - which is exactly what you've suggested as being a good idea - and it happens that my location is part of that too.
     
  15. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

    149
    55
    28
    I think the real issue is not whether you list where you're from, your credentials, your pets, etc. - it's that A) it looks professional and not cutesy or overly clever; and B) that it presents you in a way you want people to think of you. I would give your writing background (even if it's just "This is X's first published story") and something that makes you not sound like everybody else in the anthology. I've been answering a boatload of Q&A's over the last month, and most people want to hear about why I wrote what I wrote, not biographical or personal info.

    I do think most people do want to know where someone lives or is from generally, though -- it's just a little bit of info that helps them connect and makes the author seem a bit more real. It's a shorthand way of conveying a certain set of information, because people have assumptions and stereotypes about places. You imagine a different person living in Spokane from one in Philadelphia or France. And for some people place of origin or residence really matters a lot to the story. Obviously, if you think there will be a lot of negative assumptions about you based on where you're from, don't list it.

    I would also not sweat it too much. It's the writing that matters.
     
  16. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    164
    43
    @Chilari I have to check out that story. And Shropshire.

    @Michael

    Unless, like Ginjer Buchanan, you have the well-earned luxury of a solid list of authors pumping out a book every few years, editors and, I should have added, agents are often hunting down authors. This is especially true of new editors and agents, those mostly likely to take a chance on a new author because they aren't getting submissions from more prominent ones, something Ginjer Buchanan said in an interview about her own editorial staff. I'm drawing on my own experience too. When I did fiction at Avon, I routinely trawled anthologies looking for potential authors, just as I routinely contact the authors of magazine pieces about doing books based on them.

    The first thing the editor or agent will want to do is contact you, and I always find it infuriating when an author leaves no clue how this mght be accomplished. The editor or agent will also check your social media presence to see if you are anyone before contacting you, hence building up a following of some sort in that area.

    And while a story in an anthology might not, you're right, impel an even--several authors within driving distance of a store could be bundled into one event, I suppose--the story could get your local bookstore to carry the anthology. That's why authors' towns are always noted prominently in catalogs. Stores want to support their locals authors because this brings in local buyers. Same's true for libraries. I overhead my local librarians meeting to make their monthly buying decisions. After a long discussion they decided to buy one copy of WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERS because, thanks to the most prominent rest stop on the Parkway, they knew Vince Lombardi was from our state of NJ (at which point I butted in to suggest they might want to take a few more of the surefire bestseller).

    As for alumni magazines, college affiliations, as well as any other associations, are part of every publisher's author questionairre because alumni magazines do want to tout their fellow grads' accomplishments. It makes the school and, by extension, the other grads look good and feel good. While the school bookstore might be less inclined to take a grad's book than a local author's or professor's--there's always a display of professors' books--why not give them a reason to take a chance on yours?

    As for a bio dating, so what? So someone contacts you and you say, That didn't work out, but here's what I'm working on now. Most books are returned and pulped long before a bio goes out of date.

    What's interesting is that your answers come from the place of one who's published a lot as ebooks first, correct? whereas I'm coming from a print first mindset. Do ebook readers want something else in a bio since they've already come to an online listing for a book and don't need to be introduced to a book by a store? In your experience as a hybrid author, should online and print bios differ and, if so, how and why?

    I have to say, despite all of the above, I do find your advice compelling because it's aimed at direct the bio at consumer whereas mine is directed at retailers, marketing intermediaries and others. And all copy should be directed that the end user, the "you" ultimately reading it. The question is, then, how to do both effectively?
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

    971
    408
    63
    Here is my latest 100 word bio:

    Adrian Deans is a lawyer, journalist and novelist who grew up in the bushy north of Sydney, which forms an occasional backdrop to his evil stories. He writes in a range of genres but has had his only real success in crime with Mr Cleansheets (April 2010) and Straight Jacket (September 2013). He would like to be known as a writer who produces deeply immersive novels which bounce along at a decent clip, but are textured enough to go on giving up their secrets over multiple readings.

    It doesn't say a lot about me really - it's mostly about my writing but it does give my 'credentials' to be taken seriously (profession and published works) and locates me within the landscape of my art.
     
  18. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    654
    113
    I'd suggest changing "but has had his only real success in crime with" to "and has published two crime novels," as it has a more positive tone.

    I'm not sure about the "He would like to be known..." bit. My initial reaction was "Oh, would he now? How nice for him" - sarcastically. Which probably isn't the reaction you'd want. If you want to include something about the way you write, try something like "His style is characterised by an immersive narrative and a pace that bounces along at a decent clip, but not so quickly there isn't space for layers and subtlety." (The textured;/secrets bit sounds a bit pretentious). Again, it's a more positive, active, confident way of conveying the information, which is attractive and disallows doubt in the reader.

    Do you have a blog or regular article gig you could include for credentials too? That's usually a good bet.
     
  19. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    164
    43
    I agree with Chilari.
     
  20. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

    971
    408
    63
    That one was specifically for my personal page on the Australian Crime Writers Association site, which explains the 'only real success bit' (although that is true).

    My conversational (even overly familiar) style though is me deliberately unleashing my true personality as I find the more reserved corporate style a bit of a façade. I want the readers to know something real about me...which some will like and others will find vaguely disturbing.

    There's more to this bio writing than I realised...
     
Loading...

Share This Page