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How to get the most out of your bio

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Some writers don’t submit to magazines or websites unless they’re paying cold, hard cash, but other writers don’t mind letting their work go to a “for the love” or “exposure only” market. It’s up to the individual writer to decide which one is right for them, but if you do choose to submit to a non-paying market that allows you to provide a bio or a link to your bio, why not use it to let yourself shine and promote your writing?

Here are some suggestions that can help you write a successful bio.

Write your bio in third person
Write your bio in third person Image by Simon Howden via Freedigitalphotos.net

Write your bio in third person

It might be strange at first to write about yourself in third person, but that’s the way to do it.  If it helps, first write it up in first person, then go through and change all the “I” to “he” or “she.”  Another tip is to think about what you’d see on the jacket of your first book; what would it say?

Decide whether to list degrees and jobs
Decide whether to list degrees and jobs Image by Criminalatt via Freedigitalphotos.net

Decide whether to list degrees and jobs

Is your degree or your job relevant to your work?  Or will it just detract from what you’ve written?  If you’ve just completed your PhD in Biology and written a science fiction story that involves finding a new life form, then including that degree might help readers (and publishers) feel like you know your stuff!  At the same time, if you have an MBA, it probably isn’t going to make your readers feel that you can discuss alien life forms with authority.

Don’t list anything that might be seen as “harmful”
Don’t list anything that might be seen as “harmful” Image by Thanamat via Freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t list anything that might be seen as “harmful”

Don’t include anything that might harm your public image.  For example, if you’re a stocker or cashier at the local grocery store, your bio might not be the right place to brag about it; wait until you’ve made your first million in book sales to tell people that you worked as a bagger at the local supermarket for ten years.

List Previous Publications
List Previous Publications Image by digitialart via Freedigitalphotos.net

List Previous Publications

Your bio is a great place to show off all your previous publications.  When you list them, put them in order of prominence.  For instance, if you were published on Uncle Benny’s website, that’s not as impressive as if you were published in The New Yorker.  You don’t need to list all of your previous publications if you have a lot of them, but do make sure to list the highest ranking ones and the ones most closely related to the current place of publication.  If you’ve been published on a Parenting website, chances are that it won’t really help your credibility if you list that on a horror site.  (Or maybe it will.)  If this is your first publication, you don’t need to advertise that fact; simply choose to focus on interesting and relevant tidbits about your life.

Keep it short and sweet
Keep it short and sweet Image by Suat Eman via Freedigitalphotos.net

Keep it short and sweet

I always love to give this advice – short and sweet is the way to be.  Unless the publisher gave you a length to aim for, go for as short as you can.  I have two different bios that I swap between; one is about 100 words, and the other tops out at over 300.  Depending on what the publisher want, I can pick whichever fits.  I generally use the shorter one, though, especially for cover letters.

Link to your website
Link to your website Image by Stuart Miles via Freedigitalphotos.net

Link to your website

If you have a website – and you should! – link to it in your bio.  You can also link to other places that have published your work, especially if they offer payment for additional hits.  Remember, if you’ve chosen to take exposure only as your payment for your piece, use that exposure to get everything you can out of it.  Don’t waste your space and links!

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