One of the toughest obstacles for a writer – after a story has been accepted for publication but before payment – is to write an author’s biography. I, like many other writers, can have a hard time talking myself up, while also making it interesting and relevant so I thought I’d share some of the guidelines I use for my own bios:
It’s important for your author’s bio to sound professional and objective so you always want to write in third person — especially because this isn’t an autobiography.
Education and experience.
You should briefly describe your education and writing experience, if you have memberships in writing clubs or associations then you can mention those as well if they are applicable to writing. Here is one of my more standard bios:
P.L. McMillan is a Canadian expat living in the States, after having graduated with a Literature degree from the University of Winnipeg. She is a victim of a deep infatuation with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Algernon Blackwood. To her, every shadow is an entry way to a deeper look into the black heart of the world and every night she rides with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, bringing back dark stories to share with those brave enough to read them. Some of these chilling stories have been published before with Neat Magazine, Fundead Publications, and Sanitarium.
A lot of publishers and websites will have a word limit, so you must make every sentence count. Be efficient and keep your sentences short to retain clarity. If you’re lucky, the publisher will allow you to include a link that will lead readers to your website or social media accounts that can provide them with a more in-depth biography. Here is a bio I wrote that is only 59 words:
P.L. McMillan is a Canadian writer living in the United States, having taught English in Asia for 3 years. Armed only with gallons of tea and a black pen, she is forever chasing the dark thrill of shadowy threats and eldritch shivers. Some such chilling tales have been published in Sanitarium Magazine, Fundead Publications, Neat Magazine, and Hinnom Magazine.
This might be the most important thing – you’ll want to be memorable to your readers and you’ll want to stick out from everyone else. One way is to include something unique about yourself, or you can include a little humour. Here are the two bios I provided for Fundead Publications when two of my stories were published in their anthologies – I used alliteration to tie both together, as well as calling out the fact I was previously published by Fundead before:
P.L. McMillan is an avid fan of all literature horrid, horrible, and horrifying – that’s why she does her part to bring a little horror into the world one story at a time. She has previously published two creepy tales in Sanitarium and Neat Magazine.
P.L. McMillan is a creator of fiction featuring the murderous, the macabre, and the monstrous. She is dedicated to exploring the very darkest corners of her imagination, and is compelled to share these journeys with the world. She has been previously published in Sanitarium and Neat Magazine, as well as in Fundead’s first anthology: Shadows in Salem.
All my bios are short and sweet (some tiny really.) I call out my previous publications and always include something unique about myself – whether it be something humourous, some alliteration, or a callout about my experience in Asia or being an expat.
Before you submit your bio to the publishers, make sure to read it out loud to yourself. It’s the easiest way to detect awkward wording and simple mistakes. Also make sure you take a professional headshot. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formal, with a neutral background and professional outfit, but it should be respectable.
Anything you think is missing from this list? Let me know in the comments below!
See you next Sunday!
x P.L. McMillan