Entries from January 2010 ↓

How to Write a Kickass Author Bio

I know that sometimes when you sit down to do something that should be simple, like write your own paragraph-long author bio, you just get blocked and stare at the blinking cursor and wish for death. But you’re a writer. Suck it up and write your damn bio. You’ll need it for your website, any press you get, your book covers (eventually), and your query letters. Here’s how to do it:

1. Write your bio in the same tone that you write your books.

If your books are a little humorous, your bio should be a little humorous. If your books are about familial relationships, it’s probably best to highlight your family. If you write dog training books, you’d probably better mention your dogs.

2. Keep it short.

Remember, no one cares as much about you as you do, so don’t put them through the agony of reading a page-long description of your quirks and history from age 2.

3. Make it interesting.

Your readers want to be able to connect with you on some level, so make it easier for them to do that. Think about the questions people most often ask you: What do you do? Where do you live? What are your hobbies? Do you have any kids? If you have some weird fact to share that also relates to what you write, score one for you. Use it.

4. Write it in third person.

This is true for almost everything. The major exception is, of course, query letters. Those need to be in first person because, uh, they’re letters, duh.

5. Put your name at the very front.

I tried, but I cannot think of any other item that must be in every author bio besides your name, and it should be the very first thing people read. “Jane Doe has been a writer since the tender age of blah blah blah…”

If you’re still drawing a blank, here’s some other stuff that you could include in your bio, but certainly don’t have to. Oh, and don’t include all of them. I will personally hunt you down if you use all of them in one bio. It’s just unnecessary and no one wants to read it.

  • Where you live
  • Who you live with
  • What you write (If this is for a book cover flap, what you write besides what the reader is holding in her hand.)
  • Your hobbies/how you spend your non-writing time
  • What got you into writing in the first place
  • Any REALLY BIG credentials– I’m talking New York Times Bestseller here, not Mom’s Yearly Poetry Contest winner.
  • Your educational credentials only if they relate to what you write (If you have a PhD in coniferous fungal varieties, I don’t really want to know, unless that’s what your book is about.)
  • Any causes dear to your heart or volunteer work you do (even better if it relates to your subject matter, but doesn’t have to)

Don’t forget to go around and read the bios on some of your favorite authors’ websites and get some ideas for what you’d like to do with yours. Remember, this writing stuff is fun, so enjoy it!

Career Goals for Writers

If you’re not treating writing as a career, maybe it’s time to step back and consider why that is. Is it because you don’t care if you are never published? That’s fine then. For any other reason, though (you’re too lazy, you don’t think you’re a professional, you think of writing as a hobby even though you think you want to make money at it, etc.), you’re not getting off the hook. If you hope to be published and/or make money from sales of your writing at some point, you need to treat your writing as a career, and you need writing career goals.

Here are my top tips for forming your writing career goals and achieving them.

1. Know the market.

I know, writing is an art, and you can’t force art, blah blah blah. If you are writing fiction for publication, get that notion out of your head right this minute. You want to sell, so you need to know the market. That doesn’t mean you have to write something exactly like what the market expects, but how will you know what rules to break if you don’t know the rules? Know what market you are targeting first (literature, mystery, romance, non-fiction, etc.). Once you have that nailed down, do as much research as you can about that market. Read the books. Join the organizations. Talk to authors who are already published in that market. Learn it. Know it.

2. Decide where you want to be in the market.

Within your chosen market, there are likely many different ways to be successful. I am a romance author, for example, so I could choose to go the category romance route, or the single title romance route (among others, but we’ll stick to those two for simplicity). Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It is my job to know what those are and which one fits better with my personality and my other goals.

3. Create steps to get to your desired place.

I’m going to use romance as an example again, because I know romance. Let’s say I want to be a single title author at a big New York publishing house. Now let’s say that the category publishers are looking for hot new voices at the moment, and I think I could probably write a category. I decide to do this to get my foot in the door and get some publishing experience before moving on to single title. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying this is how you break into single title. I’m just saying this might be one way to go about it.) The point is that you have to know your market in order to know what steps will take you to your goals. Ask other writers what steps they took, and whether they’d recommend it to someone else. There’s no substitute for personal experience.

4. Re-evaluate periodically.

Your writing career aspirations may change as you learn and grow. That’s ok! Just take the time to re-evaluate every now and then so that you know your short-term writing goals are still in line with your career goals.

5 Marketing Resolutions You Should Make

1. Look at your analytics.

If you don’t have analytics installed on your website/blog, you’re doin’ it wrong! Get some Google Analytics or StatCounter, or whatever floats your boat– just get something! Then look at your data and make decisions on what to add and take out of your site, what to do to make your site easier, and where to try to get links, all based on your analytics data.

2. Research social media.

I’m not saying social media is necessarily the right thing for you to jump into, but you can’t deny that social media is the thing right now. You at least need to know what’s out there, how other authors are using it, and what might be the potential benefits for you. Then if you decide that it’s not worth it to dive into Twitter or Facebook, you will be making an informed decision.

3. Learn something new.

Marketing, and online marketing especially, is an ever-changing expertise. You won’t have any trouble finding a topic to learn more about. Make it a goal (and a regular habit) to learn something new about marketing.

4. Try something crazy.

Go waaaaay outside the box and do something really new and different. Put up a free read. Get a guest blogger. Share some photos. Anything, as long as it’s something you’ve never done before. It’s ok to try because you’re looking at your data, and if your idea bombs, you’ll know– and you might surprise yourself with a great result!

5. Make friends with someone who’s not an author.

Have lunch with a web designer. Chat with a developer. Find an analytics guru and buy them coffee. The people around you are your best resource for marketing ideas.

Do you have any new marketing goals for 2010? I’d love to hear what they are! Please share in the comments.