In the world of submitting to literary magazines, a short third-person biography is required. What if like me, you’re starting out with few, if any, qualifications to your authorly name? What if, like me, you’re unsure of how to promote yourself? Let me help.
Alyssa Bushell is a flash fiction addict and mystery novelist from Southern Ontario. She has spent hours trawling the internet for tips on and examples of author bios. Her own short bio appears in such literary publications as Ellipsis Zine, Leon Literary Review, and Reckon Review. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her near water with her nose in a book, a coffee in hand, and some sort of pastry nearby. Connect with her @WritesAly
The above is an example of a 75-word biography that, while admittedly tongue-in-cheek, accomplishes the two fundamental goals:
- It tells you who I am.
- It tells you why you’ll be interested in what I have to say.
That is precisely the point of your author bio. Give your readers a sense of who you are, lend credibility to your writing, and arouse interest in your work.
I’ve curated a few suggestions that I found most helpful.
Start with a punchy byline.
Open with one interesting sentence that quickly summarizes your profile. It could include your profession, the title of your book, or something else that will catch the reader’s attention.
Introduce your background.
Mention your location, culture, work history, or anything noteworthy and applicable. What makes you uniquely capable of telling this story?
Don’t be humble.
This is your moment to call attention to your achievements. If you’ve won an award or been published somewhere relevant, include it. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, why would your reader?
Don’t list every accomplishment.
A few pertinent achievements are enough. Your bio should not read like a list of lit mags.
Include something personal.
Your bio is your calling card. Make it relatable and friendly. Breed familiarity by including some personal tidbits like a hobby or interest, especially if these details complement the theme of your writing or mesh with your target reader.
Link to your socials.
Finish off with a link to your website or Twitter account to give readers a prompt to connect with you further.
Most publications require a bio that is 100 words or less—some prefer as few as 50 words. In editing the bio above, I removed a frivolous adverb and the modifier “cozy” from “mystery novelist” to pare it down to 75 words. Keep the frills to a minimum, and trim unnecessary verbiage and long, unwieldy sentences.
Ask several author friends to critique your bio, but don’t stop there. Get feedback from some of your ideal readers as well.
Let it rest.
As with any piece of writing, give it time to breathe after you’ve drafted it. This piece might be small, but it is mighty, and it can benefit from some distance before you revise it.
Get in the habit of reading other authors’ bios any time you read a literary magazine or novel. This can help you to hone your own bio.
And now, for my real, official author bio as it stands right now:
Alyssa Bushell lives and writes at the shore of Lake Huron in southern Ontario. Alyssa’s work is upcoming in Blank Spaces Magazine and is featured in Ellipsis Zine, Reckon Review, and Leon Literary Review, among others. She writes flash fiction and poetry and is currently working on her debut cozy mystery novel, though she can often be found baking up new ways to procrastinate. Find her at: @WritesAly or AlyWrites.ca.