How to Write a Bio for New Authors

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 In fact, in my searches I have come across a few literary agents that do not accept unsolicited queries from unpublished authors.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.

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An Author in a Sea of Authors

Becoming a published novelist is the golden apple of the publishing world. With such high prestige, it makes me wonder why so many people follow this pursuit. Shouldn’t the prestige of becoming a published author deter instead of invite? Certainly, striving to be an Olympian doesn’t attract talent the way the dream of publishing a novel does.

But that’s just it. Talent. Many people believe they have it just because they have a story to share, but describing the actions and imagery requires a learned skill. One that can be sharpened and honed. There are certain rules that should be followed when writing, (and believe me, I learned the hard way) and they can be subconsciously gleaned through the osmosis of reading. But the rules and skills of writing still require the conscious mind to analyze and comprehend them.

I belong to the Critters Writers Workshop, a critique group that’s designed to do just that. However, the most prevalent flaw in the writing that I see coming out of Critters Writers Workshop is lack of showing, with too much ‘telling’. In fact, I’m in awe that The Hunger Games ever got published with the abundance of “telling” that occurred in Katniss’ narrations, but I digress.

Let me be clear, I do not consider myself above any of these other authors, for they have had the same driving desire to have their story told on the world’s largest stage as I have, and they never gave up which is a triumph unto itself. My biggest hurdle with my story was changing my writing style from “telling” to “showing,” so I’ve been there and know what it’s like. I was lucky to have my closest friends have the courage to provide me their honest feedback. My saving grace was my openness to criticism. Throughout writing my novel, my ‘skill’ did greatly improve which allowed me to go back and revise my earlier work; a necessary evil.

The sheer number of aspiring authors is still a wonder to behold, and its no wonder that this industry has erected numerous hurdles to prevent just anyone from taking a bite at the golden apple, such as Query Letters, Synopsis’, and author bio’s.  They sound simple, but they are a baited trap if I’ve ever seen one. Designed to filter out the masses, its no wonder agents refer to their submissions as “the slush pile.” Too many aspiring authors come and go, or give up along the way. It has become my goal to rise above, and float to the top of the slush, and I will share my imagination with the world. Persistence, the meticulous formatting and care given to my queries and synopsis, along with the continual refinement of my craft are what will separate me from the crowd. To be standing at the very edge, at the precipice, looking for a bridge to connect me to the global stage… to be so close, failure is not an option.