Unless you’re a “household-name” author (Steven King, JK Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, I’m looking at you), most literary agents and editors won’t know who you are. So how will they learn about you?
This blog post will explain how to write an author bio for your book proposal, and why it’s important.
Your author bio is never too extensive or weighty. I’ve been supplied with two-page resumes when I’ve asked for an author biography, including full details of school exam results and college subjects studied. Not what I want. What I want here is a few paragraphs that give me a sense of who you are as a writer and why you are the best person to write this book.
Your author bio should sum up your writing credentials, plus any relevant background about your work and life. Don’t talk about how much you love books and writing. That’s got to be a given. If it’s not, maybe you should rethink this whole book-writing thing …
It should be one page at the absolute max. This is not the CV you send out when you’re applying for a job, it is brief, snappy, and alluring.
Your author bio is where you get to say why you are the best person in the world to write this book—but with a little restraint and humility. If you’ve worked on oil tankers or in remote indigenous communities or as a private detective, say that. If you’re an enormously successful blogger or columnist, say that. (This is part of what we call “author platform.”) If you regularly speak at conferences or events on this subject or you have a radio show, say that too.
It may also not be the same as the “About Me” page on your website. The difference is sometimes subtle, but keep in mind that THIS bio is about you as an author. Not you as a business founder, or personal coach, or academic.
Again, think of the “About the Author” paragraph that you read on the back of a book. Your biography for your book proposal might contain a little more background detail than that—it might cover writing courses and prizes, for example. It’s got to build confidence, or confront, or amuse—whatever is appropriate for the kind of book you’ve written. It needs to convince the publisher that you’re a confident, competent, canny, saleable author.
If you have been published previously, what are the titles, dates, and approximate overall sales of your previous books? Do you write a column or are you a respected authority in your field? If you’re best known for your blog or your podcast, give me audience numbers. Publishers like numbers.
Here’s the author biography I used for one successful book proposal. It’s brief because I was the co-author—the “lead” author’s bio was longer. This is a template that I tweak depending on the emphasis that seems right for each project.
Sally Collings is a bestselling author and former publisher, with an outstanding track record of creating bestsellers and award-winning titles for the world's leading publishing houses. Over the past two decades, she has produced books for Chronicle Books, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and St. Martin’s Press. She has been the writing force behind recent successes such as Shay-Carl Butler’s Fat Dad, Fat Kid; Michael O’Brien’s Shift, a bestselling business memoir; Never Say Die, a surgeon's award-winning memoir; and Dr. Robert C. Hamilton, M.D.’s 7 Secrets of the Newborn. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two children, and one calico cat. Find out more about Sally and her published works at http://sallycollings.com/
Whatever else you do in your author description, keep it upbeat, confident, and professional. This is not the time to be apologetic, self-critical, or pleading.
If you're ready to find out more about working with me, email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming in 2022: my new online course on writing book proposals! In the meantime, check out my course on building your author platform:
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