Friday, September 07, 2012

Every Writer Needs a Bio

Fall conference season is here and writers everywhere are scrambling to get prepared. One thing many neglect is a writer's bio. Those who include it, often don’t give it the time and thought it deserves.

Every writer needs a bio, whether or not you're attending a conference.

In truth, you need three.
  • A small one, 25-50 words.
  • A medium length one, approximately two paragraphs.
  • A full page one, in depth. 
Many times this written bio is the first introduction someone in this business (think editor or event coordinator) or a consumer (reader or attendee) will have of you. This, with your message, can mean the difference between making the sale or not.

Your bio should reflect, through words, exactly who you are. It must be relevant and it must reflect your personality, as well as give you credibility.

Below are some of the instances where a bio will be necessary.
  • Cover Letter (to an editor, agent or event coordinator).
  • Book Proposal.
  • Query Letter.
  • Your website.
  • Inside your book or on the jacket.
  • Publicity for a personal appearance. 
  • In a publication (web or print) after an article. 
It’s important to remember a bio isn’t a resume. It’s not necessary to include information that isn’t relevant to what you’re writing. For example, if you’re not writing about a salesperson, it isn’t important to mention your job 15 years ago as an outside sales person. Again, think relevant when you’re composing your bio.

Here are some steps to help you write an engaging bio:

Step One—ask yourself a few questions.
  • What are some of my passions?
  • Why am I pursuing this craft of writing and/or speaking?
  • What value do I present my audience?
  • What are some of my strengths?
  • What impression do I leave with most people?
Don’t worry about sounding like an egomaniac when you answer, no one but you will see your rough draft. After answering those questions, try to come up with a one-sentence statement about yourself. Use active verbs and vivid adjectives.

Step Two—more questions.
  • What is my experience in this field?
  • What experience(s) in other fields are relevant to this field?
  • What aspects of my personality give me credibility?
  • What study(s) give me credibility?
  • What life experience gives me credibility?
Now begin to put the above information in chronological order. Basically what you are doing is outlining God’s road map that got you to the point you are today.

Step Three—flesh it out.
Build a word pool. From the questions above you’ll begin to see a trend. Use it. Amplify it by trading on words that bring your essence to mind.

Step Four—wrap it up.
Put it all together. It’s time to assemble the information you’ve gathered into your full-page bio. If you’re having problems pulling it together, this is the time to get some feedback from close friends.

Now that you have your full-page bio it’s time to sift through it and boil it down, first reduce it two paragraphs (try to keep it at no more than 200 words). Then cut it further to 25-50 words.

Writing a bio doesn't have to be a reason for a nervous breakdown, take it step-by-step and you'll have something to add value to your next meeting.

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the Social Media Coach at My Book Therapy.


Scribbler said...

Thanks, Edie. Your blog makes me realize I have not spent nearly enough time in writing a bio. I have tended to do it spur-of-the-moment. Obviously, I need to take the bio more seriously. The idea of having several is particularly helpful.
Ann Gaylia O'Barr

Marji Laine said...

Brilliant article, Edie! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise!

Renee DeAngelo said...

Great information for writers. I will be working on my bio using this knowledge. Thanks!