Here’s a sad fact about writing:
The skills you need to succeed as a writer are different from the skills you need to write a book.
Few places exist where this shows up more plainly than in an author’s bio. Whether that bio is on the back of a book, or in a query letter to a publisher, or on the author’s own website, it’s an important piece of a writer’s brand.
Here’s a sadder fact about writing:
More eyes will read that bio than will read your actual writing, and many of those eyes will skip your writing if your bio is lackluster.
Thing is, friends, writing a good book requires excellent skills as a literary writer. Writing a good bio requires excellent skills as a promotional writer. Few are the authors who excel at both.
So what can you do? Either you have the promotional chops or you don’t. If you have them, you’ve probably moved on to a different advice topic.
If you don’t, follow these 8 steps. You won’t write your bio like a professional promo specialist, but you’ll write it well enough to catch and hold a curious reader’s attention.
1. Choose Your Audience
Who are you writing for? A bio that impresses entrepreneurs and C-level executives needs to read differently from a bio that snags fantasy fans, or a bio for your series of humorous and ribald novellas. Understanding who you’re writing for will help you determine every aspect of your bio.
The good news is you’ve probably already thought about this as part of your market research, since that should also determine many aspects of your book. Apply everything you know from that background thought and research before you write a single word of your bio.
2. Choose the Tone
All bios accomplish two things: they show off your credentials, and they appeal personally to the potential reader. How you accomplish those two things requires different tones for different audiences.
The best way I’ve encountered to choose your tone is to read the top 10 or 20 bios from other authors who write what you write. They won’t be identical, but you’ll find common threads of word choice, credential selection, levels of formality, even sentence length.
Pick the ones you like best, that most match your own style and personality, and that’s the tone you’ll want to use.
3. Write Your Lede Line
In journalism, the start of an article is called the lede—it’s the catchy hook that explains exactly what you’re going to find out from reading further. The important information is contained here, hopefully in a way that entices you to keep reading.
The lede is critical—it has to hook your reader instantly. Remember: your bio is not a biography. It’s a three-paragraph—three short paragraph—summary of why you’re the best person ever to write this kind of book.
And it starts with a sentence that demands the reader stick around for the rest of the show.
That sentence must be punchy and informative, and give the top-level lowdown on why you are awesome. Some good examples:
- Hi There. I’m John Scalzi.
- Jason Brick speaks internationally to writers about business, and to businesses about writing.
- Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in….
- My name is Charles Duhigg, and I’m a reporter for the New York Times.
- If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard of me.
- Corey is a Bruce Springsteen fan who does content marketing, in that order.
There’s a huge variety of tone, length, and information there. Write what’s best for you, but try to write something people will remember as impressive, funny, or striking…and that people will read beyond.
4. Finish Paragraph One
Now, add two to four sentences about why you are personally the best person to write what you write. Mention your experiences, training, likes, dislikes, and relevant aspects of yourself and your personality. Do not mention the dry details of your accomplishments and qualifications. Keep this one warm and personal.
Some options include talking about why you wrote your books, discussing what inspires you to write, geeking out about things you and your readers likely love, and calling out a cause you’re trying to support. Make each sentence sharp and punchy, preferably accomplishing two or more things with each word you choose.
5. Write Paragraph Two
Here is where you throw in that list of accomplishments and qualifications. Who have you written for? What awards have you won? Do you have certifications of diplomas related to what you do? What learning experiences fed what you write?
List the top ones here in two to four sentences, and do everything you can to prevent it from becoming just a laundry list of credentials. Aim for names people will recognize, accomplishments people will envy, and sentences that will inspire. This is where you really brag.
But don’t lay it on too thick. Stick to two to four sentences, and make each one polish your best accomplishments until they positively shine.
6. Write the Final Line
Your final line is either the last sentence of the second paragraph, or a single sentence all by itself at the end. I prefer the second option, but it’s really a matter of choice and tone. Again, look at the bios for the writers you want to be when you grow up. Emulate them.
This last line should either be a call to action, or an endearing personal detail.
If it’s a call to action, you should invite the readers to contact you personally. Don’t just say “reach me at;” make the invitation sincere and evoke a desire to geek out with the reader about the topic you’re writing on.
If it’s a personal detail, aim for exactly the kind of details that would make a potential reader want to hang out with you. For a humorous blog, share a gonzo fact about yourself. With a book on martial arts, make the detail about what the training has done for you. If it’s a family essay, share about your family. You get the idea.
The purpose of this final line is to personalize you, to invite the reader to think of you as more than a random author but as a potential friend. You do this by inviting them to have a conversation, or by giving them a window into who you are.
7. Read it All Out Loud
In fact, do this with all of your writing. Read it out loud, preferably to an audience of people who will give you their honest opinions.
Change every sentence that feels weird as you read it. This will also help you catch typos, poor grammar, and other smaller details you missed while using your writing brain instead of your reading brain.
Do this over and over again until you stop catching things you want to change. If it takes less than three iterations, you’re not being hard enough on yourself.
8. Add the Awesome
Now, look at the first paragraph. Make two changes that turn it from great to awesome.
How you do that will be up to you. Maybe you’ll replace a so-so word with something more vibrant. Maybe you’ll find a way to get a legit belly laugh out of the reader. Maybe you’ll realize you can cut the whole thing by a sentence without losing content. Whatever it is, look until you find two things. Then do those two things.
Then do the same with the second paragraph. Find the elements of awesome that are missing, then add them.
Almost everybody skips this step. You should not. Because by doing more than what most people do, you set yourself up to be perceived as better than most people.
Which is sort of the point.
Create Your Amazon Author Profile
How that you know how to write your author bio, make sure you set up your Amazon Author Profile page.
If you haven’t already created your own special page on Amazon for your author biography, make sure you do that right now.
That will allow you to put these tips into practice right now, help your books stand out on Amazon, and help you attract more fans and readers.
Once your bio is solid, the next step is getting as many eyes as possible on that bio. Only a small percentage will move on from there to actually buying and reading your books, so you need to make the number who see it just huge.
But how to do that is another article altogether. In fact, it’s a couple of them…check them out below!
- 6 Reasons Authors Should Be Guest Blogging (and 3 Ways to Find Host Sites)
- How We Sold 50,000+ Books without a Marketing Budget
- Why Write Free: 4 Ways Free Content Can Boost Your Audience and Help Make More Sales