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.
Christophe Desmecht says
There’s a Dublin in California?
Well, I’ll be buggered.
Vennessa has no tertiary qualifications and has spent the last 16 years raising children while juggling self employment. She lives in New Zealand with her husband and three children.
I dunno. Kinda looks boring and unconvincing to me.
What do you do if you have no brilliant qualifications to lean on?
Judith Robl says
Okay, Randy, here goes….
Originally trained as a teacher of English, Judith Robl has morphed through more than the requisite seven career changes. She’s worked in varied milieu from adult care facillites to petroleum production, with forays into printing, publishing, real estate and accounting.
She is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, having been the organizing regent of her local chapter. Her novel, Patience, evolved from her desire to be a fly on the wall in her ancestor’s household, when the menfolk were read out of Quaker meeting for their participation in the Amreican Revolution.
Judith and her husband have occupied the same home in central Kansas for the past 37 years.
Judith Robl says
Edit — Edit — Edit
Her novel, Patience, evolved from a desire to be a fly on the wall in her ancestor’s household, when the menfolk were read out of Quaker meeting for their participation in the American Revolution.
I really can spell.
Daan Van der Merwe says
Daan Van der Merwe obtained his Bachelor of Law degree in 1976 at the University of Pretoria when he joined the Department of Justice as a Public Prosecutor. In 1980 he resigned and joined a well established firm of attorneys as a Candidate Attorney. After two years of practical training he passed the Bar Exams. He and two of his former fellow students then opened their own law firm in downtown Pretoria where he is still practising today. Outside his office Daan has two passions: Rugby and religion. Being a Christian since birth, he has done extensive research on the religions of Islam and Judaism. He resents Christian zealots distorting Muslim and Jewish believes and principles. He has recently published an article on this topic in his congregation’s monthly bulletin, winning himself the admiration of half the parishioners and the wrath of the rest, some of them even expressing their desire to burn him at the stake. Daan has a son and a daughter who are already married. He lives with his wife and two unmarried children in the northern suburbs of Pretoria, South Africa.
Daan Van der Merwe says
Sorry! My story is about three teenage boys, each of the three different Abrahamic religions living in the Middle East during the 16th century.
I have a question. Two, actually.
1) How fun/teasing can your bio be? Like where you talk about how John’s gone to Mars. Is it possible that an editor would not take it in it’s funny intentions?
2) What kind of credentials can you have for fantasy? A degree is philosophy? A degree is Wicca? An ardent knowledge of many popular fantasy books? And if you are a lawyer or a doctor writing a fantasy book, is it taken as against you? Should you simply avoid mentioning it? Is there anything you MUST mention is your bio?
Ok…that was probably more than 2 questions. But hey, I like to learn.
Brett McLaughlin says
B. D. McLaughlin is a bestselling and award-winning non-fiction author. His books on computer programming, home theater, and analysis and design have sold in excess of 100,000 copies. He has been writing, editing, and producing technical books for nearly a decade, and is as comfortable in front of a word processor as he is behind a guitar, chasing his two sons around the house, or laughing at reruns of Arrested Development with his wife.
Aftermath is Brett’s first fiction novel, but his short stories and writing skills have been garnering lots of attention in 2007. He is a book reviewer for Infuze Magazine and a regular guest lecturer at Dallas’ First Baptist Academy, where he teaches creative writing. He’s been asked to teach a concentrated course in Professional Writing for students intending to major in writing-related degrees. His short story “Change of Heart” was published online at the Relief Writer’s Network, and is set for inclusion in the second issue of Coach’s Midnight Diner, a genre publication of Christian-influenced short stories.
(Obviously the longer version)
Pam Halter says
This is what I have in my query letter. My actual bio page is a little more detailed. I am most interested in what you think about my mentioning TLOTR and Elfstones of Shannara. Is that the kiss of death for my book?
The Fairyeater Trilogy is a middle grade fantasy series about a reluctant hero who lays down her life to save her friends. Book One, Rising, takes fifteen- year-old Akeela on a treacherous journey of self-discovery after she learns her true identity as the next Fairy Guardian.
Written in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings and The Elfstones of Shannara, Fairyeater is a fantasy sure to entertain and engage.
I am a former home-schooling mom and children’s author. My picture books, Beatrice Loses Her Doll and Beatrice’s New Clothes were publishing in 2001 by Concordia Publishing House. Several of my devotions can be found in The Secret Place, A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and For Better, For Worse.
I’m a member of the Greater Phila. Christian Writer’s Fellowship, The Writer’s View 1&2 (I’m a panelist on the View 2), SCBWI and a private critique group.
I write reviews for the Christian Library Journal and stay active with kids ages eight to seventeen as the music director of our local summer theatre.
In addition, I have taught writing workshops for the Philly conference, Montrose, the Delmarva Christian Writer’s Group, the NJ Society of Christian Writers and the Greater Phila. Christian Writer’s Fellowship, my local home-school group, public school and Christian school. I also provide editing services for board books, picture books and middle grade fiction.
ps. You got me stoked to read Oxygen again. I’ll be pulling it out this morning. 🙂
Karla Akins says
Karla Akins earned a doctorate of Christian Education at Kingsway Theological Seminary in Des Moines, Iowa. Her undergraduate work was in Music Theater and Communications and she has a bachelor’s degree in Theology. She has spent the past five years teaching in her cottage school where she specializes in teaching children with learning differences and special needs. She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a pastor’s wife. Sbe is a featured writer in three history books for children, No Plot No Problem by Chris Baty, and won her certificate for completing a novel in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month for four consecutive years. She has five children, including twin boys with autism and a son with bipolar and schizo-affective disorder. She maintains a blogs at http://homeschoolblogger.com/karlakakins and http://jesuslovesbikerchickstoo.blogspot.com. When she can tear herself away from writing and research, Karla enjoys riding her motorcycle and training her dogs for work as therapy dogs for children with disabilities and the elderly. She grew up in Wichita, Kansas and has lived in Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas. She currently resides in Indiana where she helps her husband as he pastors Christian Fellowship Church.
Okay here we go. I’m considering this bio for a fantasy that takes the characters through mountains, prairies and deserts in search of a weapon and treasure that would save their war-torn kingdom:
Lynn Squire lived on the prairies, worked in the mountains and now resides in the San Francisco Bay area. She spent most of her youth on the back of a horse scouring the Alberta prairies for adventure, and much of her adult life leading trailrides through the beautiful mountains surrounding Vancouver, British Columbia.
After five years of marriage Lynn left with her husband and first baby to California. She gave up her horses and her life in the wild to live in one of the busiest areas of the western United States. Now she is a mother of three and when she is not attending to her husband and her children’s needs, she writes. Lynn maintains three websites and has two ezines, one for homemakers and one for faith fiction readers.
Valerie Fentress says
Below is my general bio from my one sheet. Does you bio need to relate to what your pitching?
Valerie lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two dogs. By day she is working to find new ways to treat cancer, and by night her true self comes alive in her writing. She has won several short story contests through ArmchairInterviewers.com, and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Valerie’s stories encourage readers to “Cherish the Journey, for the destination is a landmark, but it’s the journey that defines you.” You can find out more about Valerie and her writing at www.vfentress.blogspot.com
I second Vennessa’s question of “What do you do if you have no brilliant qualifications to lean on?”. But I’ll give it a shot.
Donna LeClere spent her childhood in the open country of easter Iowa where her imagination was given free reign. Her grade school years were spent writing short stories and ‘radio show’ scripts to entertain her siblings.
As an adult she still enjoys small town life in eastern Iowa while raising her three children, one of which is now grown and living his own adventures. Donna continues her career in the manufacturing field and spends her free time with her children, writing, and doing hobbies of free-lance photography, researching her family’s genealogy, and maintaining three websites, including one for a Canadian actor.
Andra M. says
Thanks Randy, again, for the opportunity to publically humiliate myself (kidding!). My book is Christian Science Fiction, so I list my best professional qualifications for both.
Andra M is a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild, having completed their two-year Apprentice writing course a few years ago. She holds an AAS degree in Civil Engineering Technology and currently works for a civil engineering firm as a Registered Land Surveyor. She and her husband, are expecting their first child in January.
Jane Robertson says
Here is the bio I’ve been using in my proposals. Help!
Since turning to Christian writing, Jane Robertson has contributed to Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Mothers (2003), Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul (2005), and A Cup of Comfort Devotional (2004). She worked as a movie reviewer for crosshome.com from 2002 through 2004. She has also sold articles to the Dawkins Project’s Celebrations: Notes to My Grandfather and Kimberly Ripley’s second collection, Breathe Deeply: The Extended Family and Beyond.
Robertson attended Mount Hermon’s Christian Writer’s Conference in 2004 and again in 2006, the latter year as a participant in Brandilyn Collins’ novel writers’ seminar. In November 2005 she took part in Karen Ball’s mentoring clinic, also at Mount Hermon.
In 1991 she completed the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Program. Her undergraduate minor was in creative writing, and she twice received her college’s fiction award. She earned honorable mention in two Writer’s Digest fiction-writing competitions (1987 and 1988) and won the Ohio River Writer’s Conference fiction prize (1981).
Robertson worked more than twenty years in advertising, as a copywriter, then an account executive, then a vice president. A client for whom she wrote a book-length company history was pleased enough to offer her a byline, and she still consults on occasion. Her career enables her to instill Curst Be the Tie with an insider’s view of the ad business.
She holds professional memberships in American Christian Fiction Writers, the Utah Christian Writers’ Fellowship, and the online Christian Writers’ Group.
Lara Krupicka says
I’m working on a Christian mom lit book about one mom’s decision to home school her kids and the challenges it brings to her family, her friendships, and ultimately, her faith (actually I’ve got a plan for three related books, each about a Christian mom with kids in different schooling situations: home school, Christian school and public school).
Here’s my bio:
Lara Krupicka is the product of a parochial school and holds a college degree in marketing. Her first book, Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well For Less (www.pamperinggiftsbook.com) was released in August of this year. Lara is the mother of three public school children, who insist that she home school them in the summer so they can be more like many of their church friends.
Not sure what else in my background would qualify me to write this. And I’m thinking my degree in marketing should be considered an asset (ie. I’ll have some idea how to promote my books), but would an editor think so?
If you have *no* special expertise or qualifications whatsoever, is it OK to just play some wild cards (example below)? I’m mainly interested in writing for and about children/teens, and I’ve heard if you’ve ever been a kid, that counts as a qualification. (I certainly hope so, ’cause that’s all I’ve got!)
Here’s the bio I came up with:
Aly has loved books for as long as she can remember and has been writing stories since she could hold a pen. With liberal arts degree in hand, she has had many adventures, clocking in at such diverse workplaces as an opera company, a chiropractic office, an English conversation school and a law firm. When she’s not wondering what her next adventure will be, she enjoys writing them. She lives in Austin, Texas.
P.S. Randy, your bio breakdowns cracked me up! Does John know you’re poking fun at him? =)
Zara Altair says
Here goes. I feel that this is too long, does not say enough and is…well…boring. Current work is historical political thriller set in Ravenna at the height of Ostrogoth rule in Italy. Although I am an excellent researcher, I have no “professional” background in history. I welcome your comments.
Zara Altair, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley in 1963, earned a M.A. in English Literature at San Francisco State University in 1969. An award winning poet, as area coordinator of California Poets-in-the Schools she worked with students from elementary age through college teaching writing skills. A recipient of the California Arts Council’s Artist in the Schools grant for several consecutive years, she was then awarded a grant from the California State Senate creating a replicable model for arts curriculum within public schools. As a ghostwriter and copywriter for over ten years she has worked on projects as diverse as the history of gold, electrical machinery, oak woodland management, international fishery marketing, and business etiquette in the Cote d’Ivoire. After post-graduate work in Pacific Basin Studies: Political and Economic Assessment at Dominican University in the mid-eighties she worked in the financial markets where she wrote a monthly newsletter for clients and hosted a live call-in radio show. A regular visitor to her two adult children, she lives near the coast in San Diego, California, and La Gironde, France.
My books will deal with Creationism.
Lynda XXX has degrees in Analytical Chemistry and Soil Science, and she volunteers at a botanic garden.
After careful study, she became an avid Creationist. She left her career in chemistry to become a full-time mom and quickly found her job description included homeschool mom, theater mom, and soccer mom. She has been described as a community activist, having served on many boards and committees, a grass roots action group, and in local political campaigns. Her credits include several published short stories, a column in a monthly botanic newsletter, and a stint as the editor of a community newsletter. When she isn’t keeping up with her husband and the local rock club on expeditions into the rugged wilds of California and Arizona, she does genealogical research and writes frequent letters-to-the-editor so she can bask in the applause or ire of the readers.
Lynda lives in Southern California with her husband of thiry-four years and two canine companions. She has two grown children and one adorable grandbaby.
I am writing fantasies. One book is overtly Christian and will be marketed to a CBA publisher, but most are more appropriate for the ABA. Not that there will be anything objectionable to Christians in them. They are just all set in fantasy worlds and do not address the issue of religion/Christianity.
The bio to go along with the ABA books:
Stephanie has been creating stories in her head for as long as she can remember. All her childhood, she and her younger brother would act out the stories she conjured up. Visiting cousins would be enticed to join the fun during holidays and other special occasions. It wasn’t until she was in high school, though, that her brother’s English assignment opened her eyes to the idea of actually writing down these stories for others to enjoy. She’s spent the intervening years entertaining her family of growing children. Now that her captive audience is leaving home, she wants to share some of these stories with the world.
The bio to go along with the CBA book:
Stephanie learned to read by the time she was four and has been devouring books ever since. Even now when she is in the thrall of an exciting story, alarms and screams can go off all around and she not hear them. Since becoming a Christian three decades ago, that same love of a good story compels her to study the Scriptures. Her imagination was fired by Frank Peretti’s books on spiritual warfare. Her knowledge of Scripture and the sense that the spiritual world exists with different rules and norms vied with that fascination. In the intervening years, she has created her own versions of spiritual warfare stories, which, until now have been tucked away in the recesses of her computer.
My story is about a working mom (archeology professor and aspiring television co-host)who finds herself solving a mystery dealing with an Egyptian artifact and smuggling ring.
With that said, I’ve shortened my bio, but wonder if there’s anything else I should cut from it.
Gina C loves a good mystery, and while homeschooling her four children became so fascinated with archeology and Egypt that she devoted several semesters to studying them. As founder of Writer…Interrupted (www.writerinterrupted.com), a community and blog with over 150 members, Gina is not alone in her struggle to balance her career and family.
Gina has had numerous articles published in the United States and in Nigeria where she spent eight months on a journalism and mission’s internship. She’s the co-author of the books Reach for your Dreams, Graduate and Anytime Prayers for Everyday Moms. Her online articles which include thoughts on motherhood and career interruptions can be read at … (I go on to list specific sites, but I’m wondering if this is too much) She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers XXXX chapter where she has spoken on “Marketing Yourself Before You Sell.” She graduated with honors from XXXX University with an emphasis in journalism and television production.
Patrick Hudson says
Let’s say you’re like me, and I have no qualifications (I mean by the time I get around to completing a book, I will probably be in college) So does this make me less qualified? Does it shoot out your hope, or do you need to just give a spectacular synopsis and pray that you’ll get lucky?
Like some of the post already written, I too have no qualifications. I do have ministerial credentials though.
I do have plenty of life qualifications.
There is an area of writing that I am interested in, which is a Frank Peretti style, and I am debating if the first book (a few years down the road) should be non-fiction or fiction. That is something that I am currently pondering on.
Is it ok to include the writing courses one has accomplished? I think that would help.
Thank you again, I do appreciate all that you do here on your blog.
Sorry, my bio doesn’t match my current novel. What I should be writing?
As someone with an endless imagination, a knack for analyzing people, and a fascination for what makes people tick, I want to write about characters with real struggles, complex motives; compelling pain, hopes and fears, mixed emotions, strengths and weaknesses. I want readers to laugh, and reach a little deeper, and ponder something they hadn’t thought about.
Qualifications: I have a PhD in Learning Things the Hard Way. I’m well acquainted with dysfunction, abuse, pain, and despair. And thanks to the self-help Eighties, in additional to dysfunctional, I’m self absorbed. I’m also sarcastic, ironic, gifted but lazy, compulsive, wry witted, self-depreciating, and over-caffeinated. I play bass guitar, love Classic Rock, muscle cars, big V-twins and action flicks, and I HATE shopping.
And. . . I’m currently writing a touchingly sweet, old fashioned, faith-based romance targeted toward nice, normal women with nice nails. WHY??
Okay, let’s give this a whirl…
My book is a space-fantasy empire saga that’s a hybrid cross between Ancient Ireland and the Russian Empire.
Holly — graduated from the University of Life with a B.A. in Overcoming and a minor in Science Fiction. She is a long study of ancient and modern cultures and believes the best science fiction is written with the past in mind. Holly enjoys playing ancient Celtic tunes on her hammered dulcimer and fiddle and loves watching jousts at the local Renaissance Faire. Her career in fencing was nonexistant, so she spends her days thrusting and parrying on paper.
Mary Hake says
I’m a day behind, but here’s mine. Is it too detailed? It’s for my YA novel.
Mary Ann Hake has been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years and a freelance editor for twelve years. She has published hundreds of nonfiction articles, plus short stories for all ages, devotions for teens and adults, homeschool curricula, opinion pieces, puzzles, activities, and poetry. Nine of her children’s stories appear in the book Walking with Jesus, One Step at a Time, published by Zondervan. She has also contributed to a number of compilation books, including Seasons of a Woman’s Heart, The Gift of Prayer, His Forever, and Hello Future!
Married more than thirty-four years, Mary is the mother of two grown daughters, who are both teachers. She homeschooled for ten years, taking both girls through high school. When her children were in college, she earned an associate’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Linn-Benton Community College, Albany, Oregon, and won awards for her writing, service, and academics. She also served as a reporter and chief copyeditor for the award-winning college newspaper, The Commuter.
Mary has worked for a Christian bookstore, in both sales and purchasing, and has been employed as a part-time teacher, teacher’s aide, and childcare provider. She taught various children’s classes at church for over twenty-five years, served as a church librarian for eight years, and edited both church and homeschool newsletters. She has been a member of Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) for over twenty years and served seven years as program coordinator for OCW’s three annual one-day conferences, in addition to assisting with their annual summer conferences over the years. She has also taught writing workshops at conferences and to students in grades two through twelve.
An avid and eclectic reader, Mary particularly enjoys historical fiction. In addition, she loves research and accuracy. Currently, her focus is on writing for young people, providing wholesome material to encourage their spiritual growth and their natural desire to learn. Her motto is “Seeking to Satisfy the Searching Heart.”
Mary herself made the journey from a sinful, worldly lifestyle to faith in Christ and eventually joined a Conservative Mennonite Church. Her husband, Ted, now serves as a deacon in their small, outreach fellowship.
Charlotte Babb says
I am experienced. I have worked as a waitress, a webmaster, a cloth store associate, a technical writer, a washing machine gasket inspector, a teacher of remedial English and a telephone psychic.
I am a survivor of unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, widowhood, single motherhood, obesity and depression.
When I say that I laugh at adversity, I mean it, and so do my characters.