How do I write an author bio?

Posted on June 9, 2008

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I am ready to submit my children’s book manuscript to a publishing company. The guidelines say submissions should include an author bio. I haven’t had anything published yet so I don’t have a clue how I should go about this. How do I write an author bio?

First of all, bravo to you for looking up the publisher’s submission guidelines and following them.

Your author bio can be as short as one paragraph included in your cover letter or enclosed on a separate page. But keep it to no more than one page, if possible, which usually isn’t difficult for beginning writers. Compose it in the 3nd person, as if you are a publicist writing about you. My bio begins, Peggy Tibbetts has been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators since 1977.  

In order of importance you should include:
1. SCBWI membership
2. Publishing credits
3. Awards and/or recognition for your work
4. Writing-related job experience
5. Education

This list should give you a starting point. You can begin your bio by choosing which of the above you can include. It’s important to include SCBWI membership first because with some editors, it can make the difference between having your manuscript read or returned unread. 

In her article, Writing An Author Bio That Will Knock The Editor’s Socks Off!, Dorothy Thompson recommends that you include writing groups and organizations that you belong to. Ami Hendrickson advises in her article, Building a Better Biography: “Identify areas in which you specialize, or that you know more about than the average person.” For more information and a sample Author Biography go to Preditors & Editors.

Okay, that covers the nitty-gritty of How to Write an Author Bio. So let’s talk. Are you sure you don’t have any publishing credits? Do you have a blog? If so, include your blog in your bio. If not, start one. Do you write book reviews? Have you ever written a newsletter for an organization? Did you work for a school newspaper? Publishing credits are not necessarily paid published work. When I began my career, I sought out publishing credits by volunteering to do the newsletter for the local food co-op. I wrote a weekly column in the local newspaper for $20. What I’m saying is, if you don’t have any publishing credits, go out and get some.

It’s the same with job experience. I looked for jobs that were related to writing. I worked in a bookstore for 8 months, so I included that in my author bio until I had more experience to report. Then I worked for a tourism research publication, an educational film company, a children’s magazine, and so on.

If you work in a profession other than communications and/or journalism, work on getting something published in a professional publication. For example, if you’re a teacher, work on getting an article published in a teachers’ magazine, or become the editor for the school newsletter. If the school doesn’t have a newsletter, start one. If you work as a secretary, offer to start an office newsletter. It counts as a publishing credit. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, start a neighborhood newsletter or volunteer to do a newsletter for your local school, church, or library, or any other organization dear to your heart.

Don’t wait around for publishing credits, go out there and find opportunities to build them. 

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