What is an author bio?
Author bios tell about a writer, his work, his professional experience and/or personal background. Author bios can be short or long. One of the shortest is the author blurb, the two or three descriptive lines at the end of a published work. Blurbs run from twenty-five to fifty words. Writing a short blurb can be challenging. Authors create characters who are fascinating but find themselves dull in comparison.
How do you do describe yourself in fifty or so words? Start with some dry info:
~ what genre/s you write
~ where you’ve been published
~ your expertise in a professional area
~ your educational experience
~ your personal or professional connection to the piece
~ your motivation for writing this piece
~ your awards, honors, grants
~ your ethnic background
~ your home area, now and in the past
~ anything unusual about you or where you live
~ the number of cats you own
Some of those are more important than others. If you have no publishing credits, say nothing or announce it’s your first piece in print. If you have an impressive honor or award in your resume, that’s smart to include. If you write in different genres, that’s noteworthy, too.
Let’s say I’ve written a short story set in south Louisiana. Let’s say it’s an historical story. I’ve sold it to a magazine. Yay me! But how do I know what to include in my blurb?
1. For an historical magazine, I’d focus on my connection to the history included in the piece:
Ramona Long’s Acadian ancestors were expelled from Canada in the 1600s but went on to thrive in south Louisiana, where she grew up. Today, she lives in Delaware, but much of her fiction is rooted in the oral tradition of her Cajun upbringing.
2. For a literary journal, where I’d want to show evolution as a writer:
Ramona Long’s fiction has appeared in national and regional magazines. A native of south Louisiana, she earned an MFA at the University of Her Choosing, but her exploration of her ancestry through story has been supported by grants from the (names of agencies).
3. For a juvenile or general interest magazine, where I’d want to look unique:
Ramona Long grew up on a Louisiana cattle ranch surrounded by sugar cane fields and rumors of voodoo, so naturally she grew up to write spooky stories set in the past.
Each of the above examples had a particular tone and purpose. To decide on the best approach for a blurb for a particular publication, first play copycat: How did other authors handle their blurbs? The publisher may prefer a particular style.
Next, decide what it is you’d like your audience to know about you, in terms of this piece of writing. Do you want to impress or amuse? Tease, or touch on a serious topic?
Third, what do you do if you don’t have a connection to the story, an interesting cultural background, a list of awards, or any prior publications? Talk about yourself.
~ Susan Myers-Magee’s first story was published in her middle school newsletter and she’s been hooked on writing ever since.
~ Susan Myers-Magee’s second career as an author did not begin until she retired from the San Antonio school district after thirty years as a second grade teacher. Now instead of chasing children at recess, she chases fictional bad guys.
~ Susan Myers-Magee has been fascinated with space exploration since she and her brother climbed to the roof of their house in Florida to watch rockets launch. Now she lives in New England but still looks to the night sky for inspiration.
~ Susan Myers-Magee writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. This is her first story for XYZ magazine. She and her husband live on three acres of land in southern Maryland, in a log cabin they built from scratch.
~ Susan Myers-Magee served two tours in Afghanistan (or two terms in the Montana State Senate, or two years on the local school board, or two decades as a Texas Ranger) before turning to fiction for fun.
~Susan Myers-Magee holds advanced degrees in psychology and has worked as a dog therapist. She is a popular speaker and lecturer.
Here’s an exercise. Pretend you’ve written a short story or article. Pretend it holds a connection to your personal background. Now, try writing different blurbs for it. Make one humorous. Make one scholarly. Make one all-purpose. Keep practicing until it no longer feels like each one requires drawing blood. It gets easier with practice, I promise!
By the way, there is no Susan Myers-Magee. It’s a shame. She certainly has a lot of fodder for a bio.