Now that you’ve slaved for hours over writing the perfect manuscript, synopsis and query letter you can take it easy, right? The biography is just personal commentary that lets readers meet the real you. It’s time for you to take a bow and talk about how many dogs and cats you have at home. Not quite. It is true that author biographies do introduce you to your readers; however, it is still a business-oriented feature, and one that you should give serious thought to before you submit. Be aware that not all publishers even want to see a biography. They will have plenty to read with your proposal, synopsis and sample chapters. Some will request it, and you can rest assured that if they do, they want you to focus on relevant experience and education.
Obviously, if you possess special experience or knowledge on the subject that you are writing it would be a big mistake not to mention it! Additional qualifications may include previously published books or short stories (in major publications) and any college degrees. Some authors may get away with including personal information in their bio, though it usually written as an aspect of marketing. For instance, if you’re writing a book about a serial killer, it’s always a good idea to include a reminder saying that you’re a happily married family man or woman. Best selling authors obviously can put more personal detail into their biographies, since readers know who they are and enjoy reading new little details.
As for new writers? It’s great to write your own personal biography, but put it on your website! The only information you will be providing will be anything that directly relates to the theme of the book. If you work in publishing and are writing a book on common grammatical errors, then you might include that piece of information in your biography. If you are writing about mental illness and have a job working in a clinic, then this situation might also demand a biography mention. Listing general college degrees or non-graduate experience might not be such a great idea unless they directly apply to the subject at hand.
When you are citing publishing experience, give references and names that are Internet-searchable. Obviously, making up imaginary companies won’t do anyone a bit of good. Some amateur writers may confuse any and all literary achievements with professional experience. A self-published book is only impressive if you have garnered an exceptional number of sales. A short story published in an online magazine is not always a prestigious accomplishment. Writing web content is not the same thing as writing a detective novel. These are some logical points to keep in mind when writing a biography.
What should you do if you don’t have any past accomplishments to speak of? Then just don’t include anything. Most editors won’t even ask for a biography if they understand they are working with a new author. Every detail in publishing is related to marketing. Keep that perspective in mind as you work your way up in the ranks of this industry.
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