I looked at all of your ideas for what we should talk about next and decided that it’s logical to tackle how to write your author bio for your proposal next, since we’ve just finished talking about how to write that pesky synopsis.
A bio is supposed to be short and to persuade the editor that you are the best person in the world to write your novel. This is tricky, because you need to get your qualifications across without bragging. And “qualifications” for writing a novel are not the same as qualifications for a job application.
Let’s face it–the main qualification for writing a novel is . . . the ability to write the novel. So what the editor is looking for is something–anything–that the marketing people can pick up on to help promote your book. If your novel has a main character who is mentally retarded and you happen to have a mentally retarded brother, that’s a strong qualification. The marketing people are going to say, “Yeah, we could put him on the radio talking about his brother.” Actually, the marketing people will want the brother on too. That’s how marketing people think.
So you want to highlight life experiences that can help in promoting your book. If there’s anything remotely controversial in your book (that’s a good thing, because controversy sells) then it would be great if you’ve got some sort of expertise. For example, if you’re writing a novel that involves the long and convoluted creation/evolution debate, a degree in biology would be nice.
OK, let’s look at a real-live example. Here are the bios that John Olson and I used for our novel OXYGEN:
About the Authors
Randall Ingermanson earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986. He spent two years doing postdoctoral research in superstring theory at The Ohio State University and has worked for the past eleven years as a computational physicist in private industry. He has written a number of scientific articles and reports in quantum field theory, superstring theory, and plasma physics, and is a member of the Mars Society. He is the author of Transgression, a time-travel novel, and Who Wrote the Bible Code?, a controversial book debunking the Bible code. He maintains an extensive web site promoting his books at www.rsingermanson.com. Dr. Ingermanson lives with his wife and three children in San Diego.
John Olson received a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1995. He did two years of postdoctoral work at the University of California at San Francisco and now works for a computational biochemistry company in the San Francisco Bay Area. John is a member of the Mars Society and is thrilled to return to Mars after so many years away. He spent a large part of his childhood there—flying with the Swifts, fencing with the Barsoomians, and fishing with the Hrassa. Now, when he’s not goofing off with his wife and two children, he’s creating wild adventure parties or working to establish a postmodern ministry in Dublin, California.
Let’s look at what my bio achieves:
1) Establishes scientific expertise. Good for a technothriller.
2) Member of Mars society. Good for a Mars novel.
3) Author of a novel. Good–that proves Randy can finish a book on deadline.
4) Author of a controversial book. This suggests Randy has done radio and can handle himself in public.
5) Has a web site. This shows Randy will do SOMETHING to promote his book.
6) Has a wife and 3 kids. Thank God he’s not a total geek!
7) A Californian. May God deliver us all.
And here’s what John’s bio does:
1) Shows he has scientific expertise too. A little scary. Two geeks on one book?
2) Also in the Mars Society. These people tend to find each other, don’t they?
3) Thinks he has been to Mars. Excellent. John is the fun one on this team.
4) Believes he has seen Swifts, Barsoomians, and Hrassa. Either mentally unbalanced or a novelist. Actually, those are the same thing.
5) Has wife and 2 kids. Not as fecund as Randy. Wonder what’s wrong with him? Clearly, these guys aren’t totally off the deep end, though, because there’s a woman willing to live with each of them.
6) Wild adventure parties. This proves it. John is definitely the fun guy on the team. We’ll put him in front of the camera and have Randy drool quietly in the corner.
7) Another Californian. Abandon hope!
All right, folks! Now it’s your turn. Who wants to post your bio for scrutiny? Go ahead, be brave. I’ll be nice, but I’ll also help you make it better.