Entries Tagged 'Branding' ↓

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!

A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 2

In part 1, we covered some touchy-feelies of marketing: goals, brand, slogan, and pretty colors. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty: your audience and your budget.

Target audience: Without even meaning to, you’ve already begun to think about your target audience. Don’t act all incredulous. It’s true. When you mentally stuck your book into a genre, you picked a target audience. When you wrote about a horse trainer, you picked a target audience. I’m just here to help you tease all that out.

Let’s start really basic. I mean reeeeally basic. Your first and largest potential audience is the most general: readers. Nothing earth-shattering there, but, lest ye refer to me sarcastically as Sherlock or Captain Obvious, we’ll get deeper eventually. Next level would depend on the format, so if you have chosen the eBook format, for example, your audience is eBook readers. So now we have:

Readers
–>eBook readers

Now we can start getting into the specifics. Think about your genre. Think about subcategories within your genre. Think about specific plot items or characters in your book. Do you really have a horse trainer in your book? Then horse trainers might get a kick out of it. They’re a potential audience. To give you an idea of how this works, I’m going to give you my target audiences for “Love In Shadow,” available from The Wild Rose Press:

Readers
–>eBook readers
—->Fiction readers
——>Romance readers
——–>Fantasy readers
——–> Western readers
——–> Historical readers
——> Women
——–> Wives of widowers
——–> Mothers of twins

Now my story, “Love In Shadow,” is a whopping 6,500 words and has, seriously, two characters. If I can come up with that many potential audiences for my little bitty story, you can certainly come up with at least that many for your novel of epic proportions. Go make your target audience list. Write it down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Reaching your target audience: Here comes the fun part. Now that you’ve got your list of target audiences, you have to come up with ways to reach those audiences. Some of them will be easy, others won’t. Here’s a hard one: How do you reach the entire book-reading audience? Hopefully your publisher will provide some help in those tough areas, and we’ll cover more ways to reach general audiences in the future, but for now, think mostly about those niche groups you listed. Staying with the horse trainer example, do you participate on horse message boards? Can you put up a flier at the barn? Be creative, and think like a marketer. There’s a website for just about anything anymore, so chances are if you’ve got the audience, the audience already has a web community somewhere. Find it and infiltrate it.

Brainstorm, and write down your ideas. It’s not a plan if it’s NOT WRITTEN DOWN.

Budget: Think long and hard about how much time and money you are willing to spend promoting yourself. I can’t tell you how to do this, since it’s a very personal thing, but let me give you some pitfalls to avoid:

Do not spend more money than you will recoup. This might require some math. Sorry.

Get the most bang from your buck. Here’s a hint: If it’s free and doesn’t take much time, do it! So few things in life are free, so take advantage of what there is.

Don’t spend so much time marketing that you lose sight of writing. The best way to market yourself is to keep writing things that people want to read, and the only way to do that is to dedicate yourself to your craft, not to whoring yourself twenty-four hours a day (although no one said you couldn’t whore yourself for a little while every day).

I know I said I wouldn’t tell you specifics about what to do with your budget, but here’s one I just can’t shut up about: websites. You neeeeeeeed a good website, and by good, I do not mean the website your 8-year-old son set up for you on Angelfire. Nothing against your 8-year-old son, but, repeat after me, “publishing is a business.” Would you let your 8-year-old son design your company’s website? I think not. So if you’re going to spend money, spend it on your website. There. That’s all I’ll say about your highly personal budget.

Make a budget for your time and your money. Write it down. (It’s not a plan if it’s not blah blah blah.) Stick to it.

Look up. Take a breath. You’re done. You now have a beautiful and detailed marketing plan. You are stupendously awesome, and I’m not just saying that cuz you read my blog.

Now go out there and sell sell sell!

A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 1


I hear all your pantsers out there screaming, “Nooooo! We cannot plan! It is against our infallible (or at least highly quirky and charming) personalities to plan! We refuse!” To you I say: Marketing ain’t like dustin’ crops, boy. You gotta have a plan.

Your plan should include the following:

Goals: You need long term and short term goals, beyond, of course, “sell my book.” How many copies do you want to sell? What kind of a readership do you want to build? Is your eBook your foot-in-the-door for a brick and mortar press, or are you planning to continue publishing in the eBook format? You need to think about all this stuff when you’re thinking about your goals.

Got some goals? Good. Write them down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Brand: Brand is a word that generally makes authors run away screaming. I feel your pain. I was once one of the run-away-screaming unwashed masses. I’m going to simplify for you. Your brand is what you are, or what your book is. Simple as that. It is what you are selling. If I am selling my newest book, “Love In Shadow” (see me promoting right there? see? now you know why I’m called the promo ho?), then my brand is “Love In Shadow.” Done. That’s it. If you’re not yet published, your brand is you. So before I was published, my brand was Sonja Foust. That’s all. Don’t make a slogan yet. Don’t think of a color scheme yet. Focus. Brand. Good.

Write it down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Slogan: Now we’re expanding on your brand. We’re defining your brand. Here’s a simple example of a slogan: WRAL, the local news station where I live, uses the slogan, “coverage you can count on.” Their brand is WRAL. Their slogan is “coverage you can count on.” Clear as mud? Good. Come up with a slogan.

Easier said than done, right? I know. So here’s how you start. Get a sheet of scrap paper. Get a big one if you’re good at brainstorming. Hell, get a big one even if you’re not good at brainstorming. Maybe it will inspire you. Now fill the page with all the words that describe what you write. I’ll admit that this part isn’t easy, especially if you’re not quite sure of yourself yet or you haven’t had much feedback or, like in my case, you write across a lot of different genres. You have my sympathy. Do it anyway.

In my case, I ended up with a whole lot of different words, some of them actually opposites of each other. Instead of despairing, I came up with a slogan to actually use the opposites: “Sometimes tender, sometimes tense… always true love!”

You can’t steal my slogan, but I know that you great creative minds will come up with something from that big list of words you made. Circle them, draw lines between them, whatever. Do what you gotta do.

Write it down because (repeat after me) it’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Colors and theme: Now you artsy fartsy people get to do what you love best: play with colors. Go with your gut, within reason. I mean, come on people. If you write super steamy bondage threesome love-in-an-elevator stuff, don’t use pretty pink rose petals. Use red rose petals on black satin sheets with, like, handcuffs on top. Get my drift? Don’t be afraid to go with the cliche. The cliche is there because it helps people define that thing. Handcuffs and black satin sheets make people think of a certain style, and if that’s you, go for it! No need to beat around the bush.

Got some ideas? Good. Write them down. It’s not a plan if it’s not written down.

Congratulations, you’ve got a pretty darn good start on a marketing plan. Oh no, we’re not done yet, my leetle pigeons. A Plan: Yes You Can, Part 2 will cover your target audience and your budget. So take a break, watch some TV, note the marketing tactics, and come back ready to Expand That Plan!