Monday, 23 December 2013

A Writer's Portfolio: The Author Bio

Early Work
Get in early creating your author identity! (image courtesy of Umut Kemal at stock.xchng)
As writers, we often spend so much time thinking about the piece we are working on, that we neglect the other essential little bits that are required to be an author.

How often on conferences or in courses have you been told to sit down and take time to write up your author bio? Well, for me, never.

Whenever I go to publish something, be it on Amazon, or a guest blog post, or even entering a competition, I am suddenly faced with churning out around 250 words about myself.

Writing about yourself, summing yourself up in 250 words, is difficult. At first, almost impossible. The trash that I've come out with still haunts me at night.

So I am now challenging you to put aside whatever you are working on, and take some time crafting and forming this very important piece of writing. Having a good description of yourself, practiced a few different ways, polished up and ready to go, is an essential part of the writer's portfolio.

The question is, how to go about it?

Sitting at a blank computer screen telling yourself to write about yourself is the hardest possible way to go. Actually, sitting in front of an internet form at midnight, with Amazon telling you to write about yourself before you can publish your book might be slightly harder. Eitherway, you can definitely make life easier for yourself.

First we are going to get some ideas and models. You need to know what to include and what not to, what style works well. Should it be in the first person, or do you write about yourself in the third? Do you mention your pet cat, or focus only on your qualifications for writing in this field?

This varies across what genre and style you are writing in. This is why you should do some research.

Start by working out who you are writing your bio for, who is your audience and what do you want to tell them? If you are a self-help writer you may want to give some credentials. If you are writing humorous fiction your audience might expect your bio to also be funny. A romance writer? Your audience is interested in relationships, and so probably want to know more about you as a person, not just your books.

Next I recommend going to Amazon and reading the bios of authors writing in your field. Note what person they write in (first or third?), the types of details they give and what they leave out. Find a few that really appeal to you, and work out exactly what it is that you like about them.

Now you need to start writing. This is not going to be a once off, polished, done affair. The greater number of different ways you write about yourself, the more chance you have of finding the perfect combination of information and tone.

So I want to challenge you, over the next week (yes, across Christmas), take a few minutes everyday to jot down another version of your personal bio. Try focusing on a few different aspects each time. Also, try adjusting your wording, keeping the same content but changing the style. At the end of the week, sort through them all and pick out the parts that work the best, then start to polish. You should make a slightly longer version, around 250 words, and a much shorter snappier version, down to 50 words.

Then you will need to keep playing with it and updating it at various intervals. Your information is going to change. Maybe your cat died, or you won a great award. I highly recommend keeping a list of all your editable bios (such as your Amazon author page, your blog about page, etc.) so that when you have a new achievement or detail to add, you know where to go.

Remember, you need to give yourself time and permission to do on this. It is all part of your work as a writer, and shouldn't be left to the last minute.

One week, seven attempts, great start for 2014 being your year of writing!

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