by Carly Berg
This article first appeared at The Writer’s Forum (9/2013).
Coming up with an author bio can seem overwhelming. But really, it’s easy, and soon becomes second nature.
I include my author bio with each submission unless they say not to. I mention that because sometimes publications don’t say everything in their guidelines.
I’ve never heard of the bio being a deciding factor in a story being accepted or not. So just getting a serviceable one down is good enough.
A bio is about two to five sentences and gives the reader a peek into your life. Why? Well, because people are nosy. I enjoy reading a bit about the author along with the story. Don’t you?
Please don’t think you won’t have enough to say. There’s always enough to say. Also, you don’t have to give out any information you don’t feel like giving out. If you don’t want the world to know it would be your first published story, don’t mention it. If you use a pseudonym and worry that giving too many details will ‘out’ you, then don’t. You need a bio you’re comfortable with.
Some common things to include are: where you live, what your education or job is, and who you live with, including pets.
You can also include what your interests are, especially if they relate to the story. Or, any tidbits that relate to the story. If you have any publishing credits, about three can easily be added, as can, ‘this is his first published story.’ If you’ve won a contest, belong to a writer group, or have taken a writing course, that works, too. You can include a link to your writer site or blog, if you have one (if you don’t have one yet, don’t worry).
A few tips:
* The bio is always written in third person. Write something like ‘Here is my bio,’ in the cover letter, then insert your bio.
* Some publications have serious bios alongside silly ones. Others have a definite preference. If possible, look at the publication. If the other bios list things like education, career, accomplishments, publications, do the same. If you don’t have many, that’s okay. Just don’t pull out your funniest lines, like, ‘Carly Berg likes to beg the neighbors for sandwiches.’ Or, ‘Carly Berg is a gigantic third-grader.’
* If the bios for that publication tend toward crazy fun, don’t be stuffy, right? If you can’t check them out, stick to one that is more middle of the road.
* I like to include something in my bio that goes along with whatever I’ve submitted. Sometimes it’s silly. Other times it’s something about the impetus for writing the story or other fact of interest. However, first I check the publication to see where the bios are listed. If they’re listed with the story, great. But, if the bios are in the back of the volume or on a separate part of the website, chances are it is going to look strange to say, ‘Her friend Jackie is still spoiled.’ That would make sense in a bio placed with the story about my friend Jackie. Put elsewhere, however, it doesn’t make any sense. If I can’t check the publication to see where the bios are located, I avoid mentioning anything that is specific to the story.
*The best way to get bio ideas is to read other bios.
*Don’t make it too long. It tends to annoy editors.
* Don’t brag. Listing a few qualifications is great. Claiming that you plan to write the next best seller isn’t. Neither is stating that you are the toughest cat on the south side. Well, you get the idea.
* Don’t overshare or put yourself down. It’s kind of cringey to read. Making fun of yourself in a funny way with the silly bios is okay though. Mostly.
* Don’t say that you’ve been ‘writing since you were six.’ This comes across as empty bragging. It suggests you consider yourself to have been quite the child genius. Alternately, it looks like you believe childs’ play equates to professional level storytelling. We’ve all been writing since we were six. They made us do it in school. Come on.
* Vary your bio sentences. The first sentence usually starts with your name or pen name. Don’t begin the other sentences with the same pronoun. In other words:
…‘She lives with her husband. Her work has been published in Stupefying Stories.’
…‘She lives with her husband. She has a story published in Stupefying Stories.’
It’s not a huge deal, but beginning both sentences with the same pronoun sounds a bit clunky.
Here are a few sample bios.
All-purpose, basic bios
Carly Berg lives in Texas with her husband, son and two cats. Her best story ideas come to her while washing the dishes.
Carly Berg is grateful to get to stay home and write. Her degree is in English. She is working on a book of stories.
Now, those may not make anyone swoon. But they’ll do.
With some progress, you’ll have more to say.
All-purpose, more advanced bios
Carly Berg lives with four males, two of whom are cats. Her stories appear in several dozen journals and anthologies, including PANK, Word Riot, and Bartleby Snopes. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well. Here’s her website: http://carlyberg.weebly.com/
Later, or now, if you’re up for it, you can jazz it up.
Bios having to do with the particular story
Carly Berg is a heart-shaped box with a couple of chocolates gone. She is a member of Absolute Write writer’s forum. This is her first published story. (For a he-done-me-wrong story).
Carly Berg lives near Houston. She’s had a story accepted by a publication beginning with every letter of the alphabet. This story came to her when they bulldozed the woods behind her house, and wild animals roamed through the neighborhood.
…she always minds her mother (in a story about one who did not).
…is a firm believer in coming in out of the rain (in a story about one who did not).
…she is always properly attired when she goes out (in a story about one who was not).
Carly Berg lives with a sweet baboo, an Easter peep, and a visiting lightning bolt who wants you to know he’s an adult and a guest. Her stories appear in some fine places. And some middling to low places, too…
Carly Berg is a decorative couch pillow who doesn’t want to be judged….
Carly Berg gets her three hots and a cot near Galveston…
… She wonders if a fruitbat bounced off her head or if she just imagined it.
If you get stuck, use the suggestions above to jot one down, and move on to the next thing.
Carly Berg is done talking about bios.
Carly Berg‘s work has been accepted by publications beginning with every letter of the alphabet except for “K,” the absence of which keeps her up at night. “The Care and Feeding of Non-Writers” is from her book in progress, The 100 Credits Club. She can be found at http://carlyberg.weebly.com/.