I have spent an hour this morning trying to write my bio. As a reader, when I pick up a book or magazine, I make a point of reading the author bio. I like to be able to place a writer, to get an essence of who they are, where they’re coming from and where they might want to take me as a reader. The bio is important. It’s like your business card.
I’ve written around 48 drafts of my own bio. Bios are hard to write, and hard to get right.
Here are some tips to nailing your bio:
- Identify the kind of publication you’re writing for. Know your audience. If the bio will be attached to a piece published in a conservative newspaper, you probably want to stay ‘safe’ and keep it clean. If it’s for a parenting site, don’t mention your love of tequila and table dancing.
- Know yourself. What are you comfortable with people knowing? Are you telling a complete story, or just the start? Sometimes I feel like I should have written a novel to be qualified to write about myself. But as soon as you start publishing (even on your own blog), you’re going to need your own bio. (See point 4)
- Give both concrete and abstract details. I like a little bit of geography (where you are, where you came from), a little bit of carbon dating (that roughly tells me how much life experience you have, or how much expertise), and something colourful to liven it up (like, you write essays with alphabetti noodles). If you stick to too many facts, your bio will fade into the background.
- If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself, do it in third person. Pretend you’re writing about your neighbour, your dog, your best friend, your aunt. Write it like a character treatment. Boil it down to some key details, then string them together. It doesn’t have to be your life story.
- Keep it short and light. If you can’t manage humour in 50 words (a tall order), go for colour. You don’t want to sound like every other writer, you want to sound like you. What gives you colour? (See Twitter for some good and bad examples of bios. Take note of the bios that pop, and the ones that flop.)
- Now, write the damn thing.
Do you find it hard to write about yourself? What has been your greatest challenge in perfecting your bio?