A Quick Guide to Writing a Compelling Author Biography

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From its role in querying literary agents to setting up an Amazon author page and optimizing book descriptions for print and online marketplaces, a compelling biography is essential for authors looking to bring their work to readers, whether through self-publishing or traditional publishing. It enhances your credibility as a writer, which is especially important for new authors, and makes you look more professional, thereby more easily enticing readers to purchase your book.

Good marketing is integral to the commercial success of a book, and having a solid author bio that can be adapted and repurposed will make promoting your new title much easier. This way, you have a reliable base that you can simply tweak to target different audiences or adhere to different length requirements. If you would like some help with your marketing materials, check out our bespoke book marketing packages for authors

What makes a good author bio? 

Your author bio should be short, punchy, and engaging while making the reader—whether that’s a literary agent, a publisher, or a potential buyer of your book—want to know more about you and your work. It’s a marketing tool that can help you gain prominence in the publishing field and win the hearts of more readers. 

That’s what makes it so hard: Not all authors are good copywriters or marketers, and that’s okay, but it doesn’t mean you can get away with a lazy or boring biography. Your bio should highlight your achievements, style, voice, and experience, but it can be challenging to decide what to include and what to leave out. You don’t necessarily have to use the same writing style you used in your book, either, but the bio should be true to you.

Who is your target reader?

Though your author bio can be used in multiple ways throughout the marketing and promoting stages, you should always adjust it to a particular reader or audience. For example, you wouldn’t use the exact same copy for a book proposal or a query letter as you would for the back cover of your book or your Amazon author page. 

Agents and publishers are primarily concerned with your past writing achievements, including other published works or awards, and anything else that makes you more qualified to have your current book published. Readers, on the other hand, simply want a little background information to get to know you and why you wrote this book. Similarly, your bio would certainly look slightly different for a TV appearance or your personal author website. Having a bio template is a great place to start, making it much easier to adjust and tailor it for each particular purpose.


What should your bio include? 

If you’re pitching your manuscript to a literary agent, you want to highlight your professional achievements—the stuff that will impress them and make them want to see more of your work, like awards, stories featured in well-known publications, fellowships, and even award nominations or speaking engagements. They don’t care about your personal details—they just want to know whether you’re worth investing in. 

If it’s for your Amazon author page or the back cover of your book, you can also add some basic information about yourself, such as where you live or a quirky detail about your personality (if you feel comfortable sharing it with the world). Basically, you want to humanize yourself beyond your book so your audience feels close to you. It’s also a good idea to include any details that connect you to the plot or setting of the story.

What should your bio exclude? 

Don’t go overboard with the personal information. No matter who your target audience is, whatever you choose to share about your personal life should be kept to a minimum—one sentence is enough—and should somehow highlight your experience in writing about the particular subject matter your book deals with. 

Don’t mention what your mother thinks of your book or that writing award you got in the fifth grade—save that for your full-length autobiography, when you’re recounting what inspired you to pursue a career in writing. Remember, this is basically a targeted ad to sell yourself and should focus on why you’re the best person to write this specific book. The way you should market yourself depends on who you’re catering to, but your bio is always a marketing tool, regardless of the audience.

You want to be objective, so write it in the third person, and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when appropriate (in moderation, of course). Keep it relevant, short, and to the point, and mention any previous books or short stories you’ve already written on the same subject or within the same genre. Once you have your basic bio—which you’ll use for queries, social media profiles, and publicity and marketing material, tweaking it as appropriate for each different usage—you can add more details if you ever need a longer version. 

Just follow the principles we’ve outlined in this article, refraining from cramming your entire life story onto the page. If you feel that you can’t get out of your own head to write about yourself, check out our book marketing packages for authors

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