First time authors like myself have it a little tougher when it comes to writing a biography. It’s common knowledge that literary agents want to see previous publishing credit in your query letters as part of your bio. In fact, in my searches I have come across a few literary agents that do not accept unsolicited queries from unpublished authors. I’ve seen others that ask for a cover letter that lists all published works. I know most of my blogs have been about the topic of a query letter, but this one will focus on what should be the last paragraph of your query. So what should a new author say in the bio-section of his query letter?
In the world of the publishing industry, an author’s “bio” is actually a resume. It’s not who you are, it’s what you’ve done. Only if you have some life-experience that relates to your novel will you find that who you are is actually important. For instance, if you are writing a London murder mystery, and you happen to live in London all your life, then it gives credit toward your writing. For writers like me that love world building, there is nothing about my life that is relevant to a literary agent. I could say that I love all aspects of fantasy (books, movies, video games, board games, table-top games, RPGs), but none of that is what they want to hear.
Other acceptable and reputable credentials to add are that you are a member of RWA or SFWA, but those Writer’s Associations don’t just let anyone in. You have to have previously published works or short stories to qualify for membership. I searched for writer’s associations that do not have such high standards for membership and joined one or two, but then it seems that they just aren’t “resume-worthy”. I have also read that it is recommended to mention that you have joined a writer’s critique club. If you do, I highly suggest you join one that meets in person, my experience with an online club has been less than impressive. . . but I guess you get out what you put in. . . I just made a vow to myself to become a more active member! =)
Lastly, there is formal education. But if you didn’t go to college for creative writing or some sort of English major, it’s deemed irrelevant and doesn’t warrant mentioning in your bio. Also in my readings of how to craft a bio, adding that you partook in a writing workshop is not noteworthy either.
So as a new author what should be said? Or what can be said? Nothing. The conventional wisdom is to just focus on the story and wow them with your musings. They understand that new authors are out there and have great stories to tell. So just don’t send up any red flags in your query, don’t stress the fact that you are new, don’t add irrelevant info about yourself. But in an effort to rise above and distinguish myself from the slush pile, I can tell you what my plan is: I’m going to write a short story, set in my world, and work on getting it published in a magazine and/or enter it in a contest. There are a lot of contests for short stories out there. http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/creative-writing-contests.html But I will blog about this later.