Looks like we hit a nerve yesterday when I suggested you submit your author bios for critique. A LOT of you responded. I’ll look at some of them today. A few comments, first:
1) Yes, Christophe, there’s a Dublin in California. There’s also a Paris in Pennsylvania, a London in Texas, a Madrid in New York, and a Cairo in Tennessee. We are just a bunch of copycats here in the US, and no mistake.
2) A bio should be written in the third person. Randy feels very weird talking about himself in third person, but he’s getting used to it. Randy also has written press releases about himself in third person, and that is even weirder. “When you quote yourself, you start wondering if the whole news business is just one big scam,” Randy says without a trace of irony.
3) Several of you are exhibiting angst over the fact that you have no qualifications. Remember, you just need to tie your fiction to your real life. What genre do you write, and why? What is it in you that drives you to write that kind of fiction? How can you reveal a bit of your personality within your bio? All of these are at least as important as academic degrees, which really only matter if your novel is one of those that requires oodles of research.
4) You are allowed to be funny in your bio, but if you try it, you’d better actually BE funny. There is nothing worse than a joke that falls flat in a bio. Whimsy is good, in small doses, for the right kinds of books. John’s bio had a bit of whimsy, and it worked. I don’t whim well, so I wouldn’t try it. If you put humor in your bio and it’s really funny and the editors don’t get it, then it was probably best that you not work with them anyway.
OK, let’s pick out a few bios that I thought were pretty strong:
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.
Randy sez: First paragraph is strong. Those sales numbers let the editors know that you’ve moved some copies.
Paragraph 2 needs a little work. First off, “fiction novel” is redundant, since all novels are fiction. The second part of the first sentence is a little vague. Let’s examine it in some detail: “but his short stories and writing skills have been garnering lots of attention in 2007.”
What does this mean? Did any short stories get published? If so, where? Did they win an award? If so, how big of an award?
The parts about teaching writing are probably less relevant, since teaching is easier than doing, and many teachers haven’t been published. Likewise, publishing online is not regarded as a hard thing to do, so the sentence about that probably isn’t pulling its own weight here.
Can you tie in your life experiences to what you write? I don’t know what genre you’re writing, but the bio should fit the genre, if possible.
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.
Randy sez: The last paragraph is the most important, so this should be moved up to the top. I have read a few chapters of Curst Be The Tie, and found it extremely witty and enjoyable. It’s a mystery set in an ad agency. I didn’t know Jane had 20+ years in advertising, but this is useful to know, because it tells us Jane is an insider. There are any number of people who write books about stuff they know nothing about! Jane is not one of those.
The second most important material here is Jane’s actual experience writing. She’s contributed to a couple of Chicken Soup books. That is relevant.
As for Jane’s education and experience at writing conferences and various awards, those can be summarized in a quick paragraph. The idea is to show that you’ve been actively learning how to write without making too big a deal out of it. Lots of people have taken courses, gone to conferences, and won awards.
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??
Randy sez: That set of qualifications is pretty darned good. “I’m self-absorbed.” Love that! Self-absorbed about being self-absorbed! I was waiting to see you call yourself “mean-spirited,” but maybe you’re not, which is a pity.
I think what makes this work is the fact that your novel is kind of out of touch with all that. You end with the question “WHY??”
I’ll bet there’s an answer to that question, Camille. If you come up with an answer that’s as genuine and funny as the “qualifications” paragraph, you’d have a winner. Because the world has enough writers who are sweet and old-fashioned and faith-filled and write sweet, old-fashioned faith-based romances for those pesky normal women with nice nails. But I bet it could use a sassy writer who writes that kind of fiction.
Think hard about this: Why are you writing this kind of fiction? Obviously, it’s because you like it. But why? There’s got to be some contradiction deep inside you. Contradictions make people interesting.
Nuff said for tonight. We’ll look at some more tomorrow.