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Agony Aunt > What should be in an author's bio - and what shouldn't?

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message 1: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments What do you like to see in an author's bio?

And what makes you irritated when you read one?

I'm preparing to check my own on my Amazon page. Before I put it here (possibly as an example of what NOT to do), I would like to hear if anyone has strong feelings about this little bit of self-promotion.

I, for example, don't care whether an author has pets. But I've included my chinchilla, Gizzy. Is this a humanizing touch? Does it attract cat people - and possibly repel dog people - when an author states that he lives on an island with two cats?

I had such great help for my ad copy, I thought I'd use all you good people to help with the rest of these audience-related information.

Thanks all in advance.

Alicia


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Don't think I've ever read an author's bio.

Only time I've looked for one was because they were persistently spamming the group, but spammers don't seem to do bios.


message 3: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Here I was looking for strong likes and dislikes from our baconater.

Okay, that's one vote for 'put in whatever you want, I'm not going to read it anyway.'

Maybe you'll see it differently after I start putting up pieces and asking if they should stay or go. Even if you don't read bios, it will still be good to get any comments you care to add. You have a tendency to cut to the point which is exactly what helps clean things up.


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Happy to help, of course.


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments But an author bio won't make me buy a book.


T4bsF (Call me Flo) (time4bedsaidflorence) If someone actually stated that they didn't like animals, I don't think I would read any further, but anyone who likes them can't be all bad!


message 7: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Patti (baconater) wrote: "But an author bio won't make me buy a book."

But will it make you not buy a book if you happen to know/read something about the author?

I've read all kinds of bios, and have my own reactions. They go from whimsical to passionate to too personal.

I am just revisiting all the things I may be doing wrong.


message 8: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments T4bsF (Call me Flo) wrote: "If someone actually stated that they didn't like animals, I don't think I would read any further, but anyone who likes them can't be all bad!"

There you go, Flo. That's a vote for Gizzy, who, by the way, hates the airconditioner in her room that keeps her alive in our summers. Sigh. Wish I could explain it to her. Chinchilla fur is the warmest and thickest on the planet - and not designed for summers.


message 9: by Will (new)

Will Once (willonce) | 4053 comments I think an author's bio should be like a chat up line. If it's done well, it comes across as sincere and interesting. Someone you'd like to get to know better.

If it's done badly, it can feel a bit too needy, nerdy and desperate. Someone you'd cross the road to avoid.

On the list of things not to include, I'd start with typos.


message 10: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Will wrote: "If it's done badly, it can feel a bit too needy, nerdy and desperate. Someone you'd cross the road to avoid.
..."


After getting general comments, I'll throw up the specifics to the harsh light of critique.

Like a visit to the dentist, sometimes these things need doing.

Thanks, Will.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments A few personal details are a good thing - the more memorable the better. But more than 3 or 4 things are pointless. Pets are probably good because most people either like them or are neutral. I think 3 or 4 sentences with interesting details works better than a big long paragraph with a whole life story.

Oh yeah, definitely no typos!


message 12: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments I would be more interested to hear an author's hobbies (cooking? dancing? mountain biking?) than about their pets, but nearly every author bio I've ever read says how many pets they have and what their names are.


message 13: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Third person or first person?

When you know it has been written by the publisher of publicist, you assume third person means someone else wrote the bio.

Most people don't care, but some self-publishers use first person, and some pretend they are talking about someone else, and use third, to look more traditional.

Traditional is being challenged. Is this a place to fly under the weather or go newbie?

Does it make it easier to hear, 'She won the XXX Award' from someone else? Does is sound too much like bragging if it says, I won the XXX award? Or better to refer to the book (all this assumes there is an award to be claimed, on the current books or hope for in the future).

Modesty is a virtue, shyness is not.

This kind of stuff comes up all the time, as I used my PhD in the Princeton ad, but would be reluctant to use it somewhere more democratic (most other places).

Do British aristocracy use their titles?

I should go look at what the early self-publishers like Benjamin Franklin did, if they wrote a bio to go with their books at all.


message 14: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Marie wrote: "I would be more interested to hear an author's hobbies (cooking? dancing? mountain biking?) than about their pets, but nearly every author bio I've ever read says how many pets they have and what t..."

Do you really want to know I sing in the choir? It is a special tiny Catholic choir, but we sing in the Princeton U. chapel (gorgeous acoustics) - and there is a line in Pride's Children that refers to it. Usually at least one lovely old Latin hymn in several part harmony (depends on who comes how many and what parts - I said we're tiny).

Otherwise, my hobby/avocation/career is writing. They already know that.

I used to do research physics. Does anyone care? It affects a book I have in the queue, but not the present one.


Rosemary (grooving with the Picts) (nosemanny) | 9070 comments I only read an author bio after I've read a book, and only then sometimes. As a reader, the person behind the book isn't that important to me (I don't read celebrity "novels"). But it's a bit different here because often with "our" authors I sort of know them already.


message 16: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments I think you should include awards and nominations for writing :) I would like to see that an author sings in a choir and other things that add dimension to them as a person. A lot of people include their education and areas of study, which some readers will use to determine whether the author is qualified to write in their field.

I never used to read author bios, but when I was faced with having to write my own, I read approximately 5,000 author bios in two days. Okay, I am exaggerating, but it felt like that many. It does seem cheesy to write in the third person, but when I tried a first person bio, I did not like the way it sounded either.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments This is mine, but I was trying to give a certain impression...

So you want to know something about me? You nosy lot! Well what can I tell you... Age? - Old enough to know better by now (or so my Mum says). In fact old enough to be a grandmother if I had got around to having children at any stage. Work? - well I do some, but its so boring you would fall asleep if I told you, so make something up yourself, it'll be much more fun. In fact - write and tell me about it to alleviate the boredom of my job! Interests? - reading, photography, reading, playing guitar, reading, Formula 1, Dragon taming, Underwater knitting... Are you still reading? Last life lesson learned - There is no such thing as a quick game of Angry Birds before I catch my bus. I will miss the bus. And probably the next one as well. And I can get by on 4 hours sleep.


message 18: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Rosemary what's that coming over the hill wrote: "I only read an author bio after I've read a book, and only then sometimes. As a reader, the person behind the book isn't that important to me (I don't read celebrity "novels"). But it's a bit diffe..."

But there is still the question of how you decided to read/buy the book. Some people do look at the author's page at some point, often when they've finished and liked a book - looking for more.

At that point, they might read the bio - because they wonder where that world came from.

Celebrity novels bother me. I wait for the market to point out how wonderful the book is first, and then pay special attention to reviews. I let other people vet them for me, basically. I can't remember the last one I've read since I started reading reviews.


message 19: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Marie wrote: "I think you should include awards and nominations for writing :) I would like to see that an author sings in a choir and other things that add dimension to them as a person. A lot of people include..."

Thanks, Marie - now all I have to do is get some awards. All attempts so far have failed. Many contests, for example, will not consider self-published work.

Kirkus, as a potential editorial reviewer, charges indies $500 for one. A bit out of my price range - or is it? It would get me a single reviewer - and they are not guaranteed - vs. spending money on ads to people who might read.

Anyone is qualified to write fiction. The questions for the readers are 1) will I like it? And 2) do I believe it? But it's amazing what a determined author can learn to fill gaps in experience.

I have the same feeling about bios in first person (on Amazon; on a blog, they're fine). But the world is changing, and this question is not going to stay the same.

Maybe some day people will wonder what someone whose bio is not written in first person has to hide.

I will go and do my due diligence again - I read a whole bunch when I first wrote it, but I'm more focused now. I haven't even gone to read it - I wanted to start this discussion before biasing myself.

I'm wondering if Will found typos and is too nice to say that; if so, I will be mortified.


message 20: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Gingerlily - Mistress Lantern wrote: "This is mine, but I was trying to give a certain impression...

So you want to know something about me? You nosy lot! Well what can I tell you... Age? - Old enough to know better by now (or so my M..."


You play the guitar? Do you sing at the same time? I do - singing is one of the pleasures of life. Too bad so many people were discouraged along the way about their own singing. Without practice and a place to sing in public, however small that public is, it doesn't get better.


Gingerlily - The Full Wild | 36808 comments Yes, I do sing as well. I really enjoy singing. The best part of my holiday last week was when there were 5 of us together, and all good singers, and we had a kick-ass singsong :)


message 22: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Gingerlily - Mistress Lantern wrote: "Yes, I do sing as well. I really enjoy singing. The best part of my holiday last week was when there were 5 of us together, and all good singers, and we had a kick-ass singsong :)"

What a pleasure! I belong to the Princeton Folk Music Society, which is now 50 - every month except for summer we have a Sing at a member's house, and a concert. It's one of the few things in my life I try very hard not to miss.

Wish we were closer.


message 23: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments I love this! Author-singers unite :) I sing also, but truly miss singing in a choir, as I have not had the opportunity in recent years. It is one of the most magical feelings! :)


message 24: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Marie wrote: "I love this! Author-singers unite :) I sing also, but truly miss singing in a choir, as I have not had the opportunity in recent years. It is one of the most magical feelings! :)"

I have to make a huge physical effort - the crypt where we practice has no handicapped access - but I will do that as long as possible - and as long as I don't get little-old-lady voice. I've told each director to let me know immediately if I don't have the sense to quit then.

To be taken as one of the gang, and be able to practice and then sing with students, grad students, whoever shows up - it is heaven. We're pretty good, most of the time - and have a little motto: end strong! We are, of course, there to serve and add a little beauty to the Mass, and sing with the congregation. We get our chances in particular places - and you have to be able to lead singing a capella by yourself when needed.

If I had someone to sing with at home, I'd do a lot more.


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments I love a good thread creep. :D


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim | 21834 comments Just to spoil everything and bring it back on topic here's mine
I haven't a clue if anybody has read it or whether it's put people off or if it's any good

"Jim Webster is probably fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing SF and fantasy novels.
He lives in South Cumbria.

He has even been cozened into writing a blog, available for perusal by the discerning (or indeed by the less than discerning) at http://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/"


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments You're assuming people know where south Cumbria is?


message 28: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Sounds British.

And as if he might write fantasy.

Funny, I've always thought of Jim as older than myself - and yet he isn't


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments On the Internet, you can be any age you like.

Going by the posts in our group, most of us are giggly teenagers.


message 30: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Patti (baconater) wrote: "On the Internet, you can be any age you like.

Going by the posts in our group, most of us are giggly teenagers."


I'll never be a day over eighteen. It's in my contract.


message 31: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Lawston (andrewlawston) | 1790 comments I need to take my bio a bit more seriously. There's several different versions floating around various websites, and they tend to include such scintillating details as the fact that I like beer and curry. I think... I don't know, but I think you ought to use the things in your life that people tend to ask you about. People do ask me about my pets. People ask me about my acting work a lot. Sometimes people ask about my French-speakingness (but "I learnt it at school, why didn't you?" isn't a particularly sexy answer). I think most people take one look at my fluctuating waistline and can work out for themselves that I probably enjoy beer and curry.


message 32: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Marie Gabriel (lisamariegabriel) | 1091 comments I never gave mine a huge lot of thought. Maybe I should, even if only to update the number of cats. I am reluctant to give pet names out, or my birthday, for security reasons. (Though for the nice people here I will hit the big 60 on Friday).

Celebrity novels? I usually avoid them. When I know there are so many good writers struggling to sell even one book and some model or footballer has hired a ghostwriter to look clever in public it gets my goat. No offence meant to any ghostwriters in the group.

I usually read a bio only if I first read the book and found it fascinating. Then I might want to know more about the author. I have never been a big follower of personalities in music or literature. It's the book, the song or the symphony I enjoy. On the other hand if someone were to write a book about autism in mechanical engineers I would like to know they have credentials or experience of some sort so, for non-fiction, some sort of CV is useful maybe. For fiction less so. It is nice if the author comes across as friendly and human but the bio is an afterthought for me, often as not.


message 33: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 1691 comments What a useful thread! I know I need to rewrite mine. I have some definite no-nos in mine, sitting up there on Amazon. How could I still have that junk there? I keep meaning to rewrite it. I have others and possibly they're better. Must do something about this.

Well done Alicia for kicking us all into action. Patti has reassured me a little by saying they're never read.

It would be great, Alicia, if you could come up with a template for those of us who haven't a clue and dash off something fast to fill in the box. Thank you for getting us thinking.

I don't think it matters where you were born. It can be interesting to see where an author lives. 'Little Wapwap' is insufficient, the country needs to be included. I live but do I learn?

I don't need to know their age but a general idea of they've lived a bit helps in realizing that they may know what they're talking about.

Hobbies? Um... writing?! Things like knitting are probably going to turn some people off, but trekking across the Antarctic might be interesting if the title refers to 'Ice' or 'Snow'. In other words, is the hobby relevant?

As Lisa says, I like to know if they have credentials for writing on a particular topic. But I don't like giving mine! In fact, I hide them - how silly is that? But I prefer to be private.

I shall follow this thread closely and I shall definitely rewrite my bio taking into account what people say.


message 34: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 43 comments My first reaction upon seeing this thread was going to Author Central and changing my bio. I am not sure that I will ever be 100% happy with it.


message 35: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Andrew wrote: "I need to take my bio a bit more seriously. There's several different versions floating around various websites, and they tend to include such scintillating details as the fact that I like beer and..."

Most of us are not comfortable writing the bio our publicist would write if we had one.

I really don't want to revise the one I have - but it has to be done - there have to be words in the bio box.

And a new picture. Which is a whole other area I'm not looking forward to.


message 36: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Lisa wrote: "I never gave mine a huge lot of thought. Maybe I should, even if only to update the number of cats. I am reluctant to give pet names out, or my birthday, for security reasons. (Though for the nice ..."

The trick is to sound appealing without actually lying (unless you are of the whimsical sort). I need a serious, grownup bio because I'm not selling right now, and have a big ad coming up, and I don't want to scare off anyone who might click through.

I will go look at a bunch of them as part of the process. I guess you can signal 'serious writer' with a bio.


message 37: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Anna wrote: "What a useful thread! I know I need to rewrite mine. I have some definite no-nos in mine, sitting up there on Amazon. How could I still have that junk there? I keep meaning to rewrite it. I have ot..."

I have the credentials to write my book, but I don't want to emphasize them. I'm not ready to step into the world in which the credentials are front and center, because it takes the attention off the writing, and puts it solidly on the content.

The whole idea is to sound like someone you'd trust to write this book and do a good job of it.

I know Romance writers who are men, for example, have that question to answer. At least one includes 'Romance written by a MAN' everywhere. Possibly hopes for some attention by being an oddity. Other men writing Romance use initials or a female pseudonym to not make it obvious.

And no matter what you do, someone will misinterpret it. I'm assuming those folk won't be in my 'tribe.'

It is best to think of the space as another ad. I will see if I can find any templates out there. I'm too far from the norm to create a satisfactory one.


message 38: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Marie wrote: "My first reaction upon seeing this thread was going to Author Central and changing my bio. I am not sure that I will ever be 100% happy with it."

But is it better?

I have been reluctant to change anything about what I first put up because I didn't know if that meant the whole thing would be up for Amazon reevaluating it, and possibly rejecting the new version or delaying it. But if nothing's happening, I should be able to putz about to my heart's content.


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Have a look at bios from big name authors in your genre.

Or did someone say that already?


message 40: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments I went to Find Your Funny, and Jay Cole's about was
https://fyfunny.wordpress.com/about/
the kind of thing I admire, but can't use.


message 41: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Well, I'm so glad I started this thread. Turns out my bio is BLANK. On Amazon AND Goodreads.

Never trust memory!

Good thing I looked.

It's also empty on my book site, https://prideschildren.wordpress.com/...

I do have About filled in on my main writing blog,
https://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/...
but it has that bit about telling more than I want about my credentials.

So it seems I have my work cut out creating a short bio for every place except my own idiosyncratic personal writing blog.

Aargh!


Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments There's the evidence that no one reads the bios.

No one checked for yours and told you you didn't have one.


message 43: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Okay. Time to get started with the research.

Over the past four years, while I was finishing Pride's Children: PURGATORY and publishing it, I saved the links to articles about 'how to write your author bio' because they seemed potentially helpful.

I've checked out my collection, and, for the convenience of other people with the same problem, here are the links:
http://annerallen.com/how-to-write-au...

https://forums.createspace.com/en/com...

http://selfpublishingadvice.org/how-t...

https://insights.bookbub.com/great-au...

I go now to do what I should have done months ago. Apparently, the thought of writing a bio was so overwhelming I checked it off the To Do list without actually doing it. Hmmm.


message 44: by Alicia (last edited Jun 28, 2016 10:24AM) (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Patti (baconater) wrote: "There's the evidence that no one reads the bios.

No one checked for yours and told you you didn't have one."


That you're right worries me.

And of course no one would bother to tell me, even if they noticed.

This is going to take a while. My gut is already churning. Which is silly, because I'm all over the web - my life story is spread out in bits over the more than 400 blog posts I have up. There is no privacy on the web; there is only stuff that requires too many clicks to find, and isn't worth the bother.


message 45: by David (new)

David Hadley | 4873 comments Once, when I was thinking of trying to make my own bio interesting I found this template. I can't remember where.

Of course, I never bothered filling it in myself, but it may give you some ideas for yours:

***

Your turn! Fill in the prompts:
{Your name here} wants to live in a world where {describe the kind of world you want to live in}.
As a {your job title here}, {he’s / she’s} been {spotlighted / featured / showcased / honored / applauded} on {list of blogs / websites / podcasts / theaters / art galleries / places that have recognized or shared your work}.
When {he’s / she’s} not {describe whatever your normally do}, you can find {him / her} {describe whatever you do when you’re not doing … that}.
{His / Her} {first / next / latest / recently-released} {book / program / project / collaboration} — {title of your new and cool thing} — hits {the shelves / airwaves / silver screen / internet / an inbox near you} on {date}.
{Discover / learn / explore / find out} how to {describe whatever you help people to do} at {your website here}.

***


message 46: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments If I were forced to fill in the template, it might go like this:

ABE wants to live in a world where people are nice to each other. Or at least civil.

As a writer, she's been featured on Wattpad, where her short story, Too Late has received 63.5K reads, and where her novel Pride's Children: PURGATORY was serialized and currently has 19.7K reads.

When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the hummingbirds in her garden of perennials designed for them, or singing.

She is hard at work on the next novel in the Pride's Children trilogy, working title NETHERWORLD, scheduled for publication later this year. Follow on Amazon or at prideschildren.wordpress.com to be informed when her next story is available.

Discover more about her opinionated opinions and quirky writing methods at liebjabberings.wordpress.com.


message 47: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments David wrote: "Once, when I was thinking of trying to make my own bio interesting I found this template. I can't remember where.

Of course, I never bothered filling it in myself, but it may give you some ideas f..."


Thanks, David. Sometimes prompts - and being forced to write - does lead to usable words.

This doesn't mention family, location, or the chinchilla.

I'm not sure a Wattpad 'credential' is appropriate for a grownup, though people keep finding Too Late and liking it. (Publishing it is on the short list - it's a prequel story to PC.)


message 48: by Jim (new)

Jim | 21834 comments Patti (baconater) wrote: "You're assuming people know where south Cumbria is?"

I assume they're smart enough to use google :-)
If not, my prose will lose them


message 49: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago It's entirely probable that my own bio is shite.

But I'm middle aged, happily married, and I like dogs. How'd you make that exciting...


message 50: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ehrhardt (aliciabutcherehrhardt) | 4161 comments Jane wrote: "It's entirely probable that my own bio is shite.

But I'm middle aged, happily married, and I like dogs. How'd you make that exciting..."


What are the one or two things you do/wish you did that make you unique? Tuck them in somewhere. You are unique.

Happily married to ?
Like ? dogs? and why?
Middle-aged? How about 'on the exciting side of sixty.'

You can lie, exaggerate, or tell the absolute truth - but you can still find something if you dig.


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