Authors and readers will have come across references to author bio but what is it and what function does it serve? Bio of course, stands for biography which is defined as ‘The story of a person’s life.’ (Oxford English Dictionary). In essence an author bio, in the context being discussed here, is where an author may establish who they are and why a reader should choose their works.
A bio is one of several available opportunities through which an author may establish a connection with their readers. It is in fact an important one because they appear in many varied locations. These bios are especially important when it comes to new readers who have not encountered the author or their books before. It can have a significant impact upon sales, reputation, validity, followers, social media connections, etc.
It is generally accepted many authors are shy introverts who do not like writing about themselves, pushing their books, or public exposure. Nonetheless, unless they really do not care if no one reads their books, they need to provide readers with at least some limited background. A bio is where an author may determine how they wish to be perceived and how they want to brand themselves.
Having established the value of an author bio, what to include and how to include it needs to be considered.
This will be easier for authors of non-fiction however, if a fiction author has some, it is worth mentioning them. The following are recognised as credentials:
The primary aim is to help readers understand what makes the author an expert on the topics they write about and why they should listen to them. Naturally, as already mentioned, non-fiction authors will find this easier nevertheless, fiction authors may have credentials proving their ‘expertise’ in subject topics encountered in their books.
Where an author has received multiple awards they would be wise not to try and list them all. Beside boring for the reader, it may come across as arrogant and may turn potential readers off.
If the author holds no formal credentials they should skip this section. Bios must be factual and honest. Any attempt to manipulate with untruths or distortions will be noticed with consequent results.
Here matters are balanced out for the author without formal credentials. Obviously that does not exclude non-fiction authors but this is certainly an area where the fiction author may establish their right to write the books they have. Things that could be included:
- What the author has achieved in their life. (Not restricted to authoring.)
- Any unusual traits or experiences.
It is very important not to go overboard or brag. Again the point is to let readers know why the author is in a position to write what they do. As far as possible, though it does not have to be exclusive, authors should align what is shared with the content of their books.
If an author considers there are well known authors whose books align with their own, they may wish to refer to them. However, they must ensure what they say is factual and true and is shared in a positive light. To do this may appear inappropriate or manipulative but name dropping is seen by many as a valid promotional tool. The individual must decide for themselves whether to employ the tactic or not.
When writing a bio authors need to remember it is not for them but for their readers. The bio is where they:
- explain who they are;
- what they write;
- why readers should trust them;
- how they stand out from other authors;
- what makes them unique.
The primary motive should be to determine what it is the reader wants to know and to share the relevant information.
Further, consistent advise is to write bios in the third person, which is seen as providing a more professional presentation. In most instances that stands true nevertheless, this writer considers there are times when first person would be suitable. Most authors tend to utilise one bio everywhere however, it may be more sensible to take into account the individual aspects of sites and format bios accordingly. The only danger with first person, is not to make the bio overtly a ‘Me’ ‘Me’ product. Throughout, the fact a bio is for the reader not the author should be held in mind.
Frequent suggestion is for authors to display their personality in the bio. That makes sense considering this is where they intend letting readers know who they are. However, they are advised to be circumspect. Some will go so far as to state, personalisation should only be employed if it adheres with the content of their books. In other words, if, for example, they write horror tension, thrillers, or the like, then a jovial, carefree, personalisation may not be appropriate.
As a bio is intended to form a connection with readers it makes sense to include links to where the reader may discover more. For example:
- Retail pages.
- Landing pages.
- Social Media accounts.
- Contact forms.
One person recommends viewing author bios as a business card. Certainly makes sense provided the author remembers this is where they are trying to form a personal connection with their readers. Too formal a business style could prove counterproductive.
Suggestions vary but in general most agree a bio should be between one-hundred-and-fifty and three-hundred words. Many consider the shorter the better. There are a couple of matters that effect:
- where the bio is to be published; and
- whether a site limits the number of words or characters.
To provide for variations there is advice for authors to create three bios of:
- One-hundred-and-fifty words;
- One-hundred words; and
- Fifty words.
Bearing in mind the suggestions of what to include these short lengths may be seen as challenging. Indeed they are. Nevertheless, most people have, little time, short attention spans, or general impatience and will skip anything that appears lengthy. Beside it does authors good to encapsulate information into single sentences. This helps their general writing by teaching them not to ramble.
To keep it relevant and appropriate, authors are advised to update their bios regularly. This not only enables them to share changes in their personal lives but to also include details of their latest publications or offers. One point frequently made is not to include a date. It does not look good if, when there has not been anything new to add, a bio is dated some years prior to someone reading it. Outdated information can put people off by implying there is nothing of relevance in it for them.
Author bios are an important tool. These are where an author may display their authority for writing upon the topics in their books. It is where they initially attempt a connection with potential readers. An author bio may break or enhance their reputation and readability.
Several sites provide templates to assist authors in the writing of a bio. No such attempt has been made here because there are many possibilities of what to include, or not. It would be difficult to cover all of them in one template. It is hoped the advice provided above will assist authors in drafting their own individual, unique, bio.