Your Bio: what does it really say?

It is only three to five sentences at the end of a publication, but your author biography is your professional thumbprint. It should be unique; no one has taken the same writing path as you. So what all should it include? Publishing credits are valid, memberships, books, maybe your location, but what about your three-legged iguana that you insist is Poe’s muse reincarnate?

I won’t only admit to sometimes detailing strange things about my personal life in my bio (character is everything, right?), but I’m also a fan of the funny ones. They work well to get you noticed, because who doesn’t like funny people? Still, I don’t think they are always appropriate.

There is a place for comical biographies, and then, there are not such places for them. If I’m sending work to a pro-rate literary establishment who stresses professional MS formats, styles, themes, and other (often very specific) submission requirements, I’m not going to close my story with a bio that talks about the weird occurrences in my attic at night—with the exception that my story is about weird things occurring in my attic at night, in which case it might then be relevant to the material I’m submitting. To do otherwise, I think discredits the author’s professional experience and could even shadow the intent behind his/her craft.

But not everyone feels the same. Many of the editors of paying markets themselves have some of the craziest biographies I have ever read. Though entertaining, I have to wonder, who the hell is judging/considering my work? A purple cat or a qualified editor?

The opposite is also true. Some biographies are too dense, packed with publishing credits and/or irrelevant information, and come across b-o-r-i-n-g, or worse, pompous. Balance is probably the best approach. To achieve it, which I don’t always do, I usually rewrite my bio with every piece I submit, in hopes of complimenting each story to its fullest potential. All of which leads me to cover letters …

What is your take? Do you agree, disagree, or just hate biographies all together?

12 thoughts on “Your Bio: what does it really say?

  1. I think you are definitely correct about it being about balance. The Good Book says there is a time and place for everything under the sun. Perhaps it’s a case by case basis: sometimes serious and sometimes amusing. As for me, I reluctantly use bio’s. I guess I feel as if I have yet to do enough to warrant their use.
    Thanks for sharing, Erin. It’s always good to hear from you.

    -Jimmy

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  2. I keep my bio short and matter-of-fact (unless a certain pub requests specific info). I want readers to remember my fiction and poetry, not my list of previous publications or my chihuahua, Freckles (my imaginary dog). Yeah, it’s nice to learn personal tidbits about an author, but this info shouldn’t outshine the author’s creation. I’m a firm believer in “the work should speak for itself.”

    Btw, purple cat editors love horror stories. Just saying.

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    1. “…shouldn’t outshine the author’s creation.” That’s exactly what I wanted to say. You’ve always had the best bios, Angel.
      Now, let’s talk about Freckles ; )

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  3. You’re right about it being a balancing act; I try to keep mine short by telling who I am, what I do, where I’ve been published (3 markets, tops) and inviting folks to stop by my site. On occasion, I’ll throw in something slightly humorous. But I do wish I could be more pithy.

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    1. Three tops seems to be a general rule, so I’ve learned too.

      Pithy…in three to five sentences, it is a challenge. But I think for most serious writers, like yourself, they’re reaching it as best as can be done.

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    1. True, I think it takes a different kind of writing talent to pull it off. Somehow, the good ones seem to balance it well. Thanks for stopping by, Chris.

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  4. I hate bios, mostly because I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything to be pompous about and everything else seems juvenile when I meant to be witty. I give up and don’t care anymore.

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    1. You have a gazillion cool books to be pompous about, Laura. (I actually just downloaded “Deadly Intent,” and am looking forward to reading it soon) I feel the same about wittiness, not always a natural thing for me either.

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  5. I love bios. I always like funny ones, even in the most serious publications. Top marks to you, Erin, for creating a new bio for each publication. I should do that.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Deb. I love the funny ones too. Perhaps I’d like funny ones in serious publications if the writers also splashed in a bit of who they really are. And I doubt it’s necessary to write a bio for each publication – that’s probably just my strangeness.

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