Now that you’re terrified of inadvertently lying, here’s what to put in your bio. You want your query as short as possible, so list important accolades briefly and stop there.
Short story publications –
- List the magazine. Don’t name stories.
- Publications in bigger mags–Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Glimmer Train, The New Yorker–are in your favor.
- Small, unknown mags neither hurt nor help.
- Don’t include credits in local or university publications, or scholarly credits.
- If the manuscript won a significant award (through a large writing organization, like DFW, RMFW, or your RWA chapter), you may say so.
- Nominations don’t mean anything. Some awards nominate 100 authors.
Traditionally published books –
- List the title and publisher.
- If you had an agent, give one respectful sentence why you’re not with them anymore. “We parted amicably” works fine. We don’t need to know whom.
Self-published books –
- List the title only.
- If it got within top 50 on an Amazon top-tier list, you may say so.
- Don’t include sales information, unless you sold (not free downloads) a significant number of copies over the course of a year or two.
- Don’t dredge up accolades: it looks desperate. Less is more.
- Remember: you’re selling your new manuscript, not your already-published books.
Writing career –
- If you’re a journalist, say so. What and for whom is unnecessary, unless you were a book reviewer or something pertinent.
- If you interned at a publishing house, freelanced as an editor, worked for an agency, etc., state your position and whom you worked for.
- Don’t include writing degrees. A degree doesn’t make a better writer.
Personal info –
- Don’t bother including if an author read your pages or liked your book: I can’t verify that. Do include if an author mentored you for a significant amount of time.
- Don’t mention professional editing.
- Don’t mention conferences or workshops, unless very prestigious. If you worked one-on-one with Donald Maass for a week, I want to know.
- Don’t explain why you write. Everyone has an important, personal story, but this isn’t the place for it.
- If your book has LGBTQ, interracial, multicultural, or other diverse influence and you’re part of that community, you may say so.
If you have no accolades, no awards, no writing-related career, that’s fine.
Either omit the bio or provide 1-2 short sentences such as: “During the day, I teach history and math at the local high school. I write horror, commercial, and women’s fiction.”
As always, you may break the rules if you do it right.
Photo by Jenni C.