Your Author Bio: An Essential Marketing Tool
Learn how to succinctly get readers interested in you with this important piece of author branding.
There was a time when an author biography was only a few sentences about where a writer lived and their likes, usually stuck at the back of a book. Today, an author bio is a piece of creative writing and a potent marketing tool with the power to attract readers as much as the book cover and blurb.
This small paragraph has the ability to engage potential fans at the right moment—when they are hooked and want more. An author bio provides the opportunity to showcase an author’s personality, their writing style and their accomplishments. A compelling author bio can make the difference between a potential reader picking your book or moving on, by providing a reason why they should read your book.
What is an Author Bio? Why Write One?
An author bio is a way for readers to get to know you beyond your byline and the pages of your story. For potential readers, it can be the gateway to browsing the books you have written and choosing to read one. For readers who have just finished your book, these few sentences, combined with your story, encourage them to look for more books by you to read.
You may be asking yourself why bother making the effort to craft your own author bio when no one reads them. The fact is, many people do. Unless you are already a household name or continuously near the top of the bestseller rankings, a reader needs to see you are a serious author, not just a writer who threw together a book and published it on Amazon in the hopes of making some quick money. It’s important to overcome any imposter syndrome or shyness around self promotion, and put in the work to craft a good author bio. As authors, we’re in the entertainment business, and readers want to know about the people creating the books they enjoy. You don’t need to be an open book, but be ready to make something of your personal life public information. (It could be something innocuous like a love of dogs, or fascination with retro sci-fi.)
Aside from introducing yourself, your author bio, sometimes called About the Author, can also set you apart from other authors. Whether you are launching your first book or your twenty-third, a self-published author or traditionally published, this section provides insight into who you are, why you write, how you came to be an author etc., and helps to make a connection with readers, elevating you from a name on the page into the realm of being thought about as a real person. The rise of Patreon and Kickstarter show that readers are looking for more ways to support authors they like, and by learning more about you, they may be inclined to support you beyond the initial book or series they purchased..
An author bio is one aspect you have complete control as a part of the book’s presentation and in book marketing. Many of the partners you work with to promote your book will also require an author bio, such as Amazon’s author page, book bloggers, and Goodreads. In fact, this little blurb will be used over and over again in a multitude of places. If you’re a freelance writer, a bio can be a useful tool in advertising yourself to potential clients.
Set aside the time to create a few lines that go beyond the simple standard name, education and location where you live. Step up your bio to build credibility, position yourself as a subject matter expert, explain to potential readers why this book is for them, and use your personal story as another opportunity to hook readers and sell more books.
Don’t believe me? Check out David Weber’s bio below and tell me you don’t want to read one of his books.
How to Write a Great Author Bio
Typically, an author bio is a paragraph or two, a little synopsis of you, written in third person. It is part factual and part entertaining. While there are no rules on what has to be included in an author bio, there are a few standards across most bios. Consider a combination of the following:
Your name so readers know what to google
Your credentials as a writer and/or relevant accomplishments so readers understand you are serious about writing
The theme (s) or genre of your writing so you can help readers make an informed decision about the type of books they might want to buy
A personal fact or two to help readers connect with you as a human
Social media links so readers can follow you
A call to action to point readers to a way to stay in touch
Often paired with a picture, most bios clock in with a word count of only around 60-90 words. A short bio uses the Twitter effect (before Twitter was invented) to not overload readers with copious amounts of detail or book information dumps. This quick hit gives the readers enough to get interested while being entertained.
Author Credits and Accomplishments
One easy way to establish credibility is to list some (not all!) of your accomplishments. If you’ve hit the USA Today Best Sellers list, brag about that in your author bio. Did your writing win an award? Definitely include that. Non-fiction authors may wish to include information about other places their work has appeared. For example, someone writing a book on personal finance may want to note if they’ve had articles published in the Wall Street Journal.
Even if you haven’t hit a best seller list or won an award, the fact you’ve written several books goes a long way to building that credibility readers are looking for. List the books or series you have in your backlist to demonstrate that you are a serious author.
First-time authors might find listing credits a challenge since you don’t yet have an award-winning, critically acclaimed book. Think about any other relevant accomplishments you might have. If you write crimes or mysteries, is there something in your background, like a previous job or even a talent for reading every Agatha Christie book ever written? Are you a member of a group or society that can offer expertise in your genre? Have you won any short story contests? If your book is a cookbook, include where you studied or, as in Chungah Rhee’s case (see below) how your recipes are loved by millions.
The Personal Touch
The fact is, if a potential reader likes you, they are far more likely to enjoy what you write. The reverse is the same. If they don’t connect with your author bio, they might move on to the next author. One way to engage readers is to bring your unique personality to your bio.
You can be serious in your personal details like Adam Silvera (see below) but try not to be factual and dry. This is a way for you to showcase who you are beyond your writing while demonstrating what it is about your writing readers might like. You don’t need to give your whole life story or reason for writing, but add some color to your author bio with a fact or two beyond the basics. Pick something that sets you apart from other authors in your genre or life in general.
Note that even in a relatively serious author bio, Adam Silvera pops in one quirky line at the end about his height.
Pro-Tip: Not sure what to include for your personal tidbit? Ask your friends or family. They know you best and can probably offer some fun insights.
Consider carefully how you want yourself and your work to be perceived. Make use of your personality and let that shine through your words. If humor is a theme or even the central plot in your book, showcase that fact by infusing some sense of comedy into your bio. If your work turns more towards the mysterious, highlight that fact with a detail or two like Angie Fox in the example below.
Most importantly, each sentence, phrase and word should be in line with your author branding and tailored to your genre and target audience. By making these elements crystal clear, readers can find common ground with you as the author but also will not be surprised when they go to buy a book and find the story is not what they expected.
Where to use your Author Bio
The back matter of your books
Back or sleeve of printed books
Author pages: Goodreads, Amazon, BookBub, etc.
Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.
If you are featured in a publication or guest post on a blog, you’ll also be asked for one. Your bio is often used as an introduction on podcasts and other interviews.
Tips on Writing a Bio
Use Third Person Point of View
It may feel awkward to write about yourself from a distance, using he, she or they rather than the I you think of yourself as or maybe even wrote your book in. However, this is the expected standard for an author bio and readers will relate to the style. First person author bios are rare. Plus, your awards and accolades sound a lot less boastful in third person rather than first person.
Pro-Tip: Think about the bio like the voiceover of a movie trailer.
Do write for your target audience
Consider who you wanted to read your book when you started writing and craft a bio with them in mind. How can you connect with those readers through a personal story or a specific accomplishment? April White compels readers to pick up her time travel books with tidbits from her own travels. (see below)
Don’t confuse readers
If you write horror stories about zombies taking over the world, resist the urge to create an author bio that focuses on your love of cats and rainbows after a rainstorm. This disconnect between your words and the story you’re enticing them to read has the potential to leave them dissatisfied, which can lead to them abandoning the book. Or worse, giving a bad review because the book was not what they expected.
Start with a catchy first sentence
With an impactful opening line, you can snag a reader’s attention and compel them to read on. Much like the opening line of your books. This first sentence should be relevant to your genre and your writing style. For an example of a punchy first sentence, read Courtney Milan’s author bio below.
Don’t be too wordy
Three to five sentences will suffice. The goal is to write something easy to read, to tease some information and connect, not provide your life’s story or list all of your accomplishments. If readers want more or a listing of every book you’ve written, point them to your website.
Pro-Tip: Check out How to Build an Author Website for a comprehensive overview of what should and shouldn’t be part of your author website.
Don’t mention your love of reading
Why would you write a book if you aren’t a reader yourself? This is not creating a connection with any potential readers and states a fact most fans take for granted. General statements like these do not set you apart from other authors.
Author Bio Template
This is more of a guideline, as there is no one way to write an author bio. However, if you browse through the author bios of USA Today or New York Times best-selling authors, you may notice most tend to follow this sequence:
- Open with a punchy, impactful first sentence.
- Using your genre as a background, explain your area of expertise and something unique about your personality or life experience.
- Add some credibility resisting the urge to seem braggy
- Include a personal detail
- Lastly, incorporate a call to action
Author Bio Examples
This author seamlessly mixes her genre, her accolades and a call to action to join her social media in this witty author bio. Her first line catches your interest with the smartwatch twist and compels you to read on.
“Courtney Milan writes books about carriages, corsets, and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller.
Courtney pens a weekly newsletter about tea, books, and basically anything and everything else. Sign up for it here: https://bit.ly/CourtneysTea
Before she started writing romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.
Courtney is represented by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency.”
He kicks off his bio with a listing of his bestsellers, proving to potential readers he’s not a one-hit-wonder. He backs it up with his experience in the publishing world and a most fun, fun fact about his height.
“Adam Silvera is the number one New York Times bestselling author of More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me, They Both Die at the End, Infinity Son, Infinity Reaper, and—with Becky Albertalli—What If It’s Us. He was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for his debut. Adam was born and raised in the Bronx. He was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing and has worked at a literary development company and a creative writing website for teens and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He is tall for no reason and lives in Los Angeles. Visit him online at www.adamsilvera.com.”
Here she brilliantly draws a distinction between herself and her characters, using her genre as the background. With a book series called Accidental Demon Slayer her humor comes shining through.
“New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox writes sweet, fun, action-packed mysteries. Her characters are clever and fearless, but in real life, Angie is afraid of basements, bees, and going up stairs when it is dark behind her. Let’s face it. Angie wouldn’t last five minutes in one of her books.
Angie is best known for her Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries and for her Accidental Demon Slayer books. Visit her at www.angiefox.com”
The personal details make you want to be her best friend in this humorous author bio:
“April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books.
Her first novel, Marking Time, is the 2016 winner of the Library Journal Indie E-Book Award for YA Literature, and her contemporary romantic suspense, Code of Conduct, was a Next Generation Indie Award and RONE Award Finalist. All five books in the Immortal Descendants series are on the Amazon Top 100 lists in Time Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy. More information and her blog can be found at www.aprilwhitebooks.com.”
As the pen name for a pair of co-authors, this bio spells that out upfront before offering a little about them and their books.
“Willa Drew is not one, but two writers of fun, flirty fiction full of feels.
Lovers of emotional scenes (don’t tell anyone: someone always cries as we write them), dramatic scenarios (don’t blame us, the characters insisted), and the best the world has to offer like eclairs and butter tarts (don’t ask us to share, but we’ll point you to the recipes).
Our new adult romances have every flavor. Angst? Check. Secrets? Of course. Risk taking? You bet. Expect slow burns, heart flutters, soul mates, first loves, and swoon-worthy kisses.
Hang out with us over on all the socials @willadrewauthor or sign up for our newsletter at www.willadrew.com and get updates sent right to you.”
Touted by his publisher as a science fiction phenomenon, David Weber offers insight into his writing style and philosophy on publishing.
“David Mark Weber is an American science fiction and fantasy author. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952.
Many of his stories have military, particularly naval, themes, and fit into the military science fiction genre. He frequently places female leading characters in what have been traditionally male roles.
One of his most popular and enduring characters is Honor Harrington whose alliterated name is an homage to C.S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower and her last name from a fleet doctor in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. Her story, together with the "Honorverse" she inhabits, has been developed through 16 novels and six shared-universe anthologies. In 2008, he donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University.
Many of his books are available online, either in their entirety as part of the Baen Free Library or, in the case of more recent books, in the form of sample chapters (typically the first 25-33% of the work).
A great example from a nonfiction book, which is also a first-time author bio:
“Damn Delicious Meal Prep: 115 Easy Recipes for Low-Calories, High-Energy Living: Chungah Rhee is the founder, recipe developer, and photographer of Damn Delicious. What began as a grad school hobby is now a top food blog, with millions of readers coming to her site for easy weeknight recipes and simplified gourmet meals. She lives and continues to cook non-stop in Los Angeles, with her corgi, Butters. Her first cookbook was published in 2016 by Oxmoor House. Visit her at www.damndelicious.net”
This may be one of the most unique calls to action at the end of John’s bio:
John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller Redshirts, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, and was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.
Try before they buy
As you can see, an author bio may be one of the most important and impactful passages you, as an author will write. These few short lines give readers insight into who you are beyond the pages of your book and will be used in a multitude of locations and purposes. Writing an outstanding bio can help you and your books get noticed (Did you google the word “Whatever”?) and has the potential to create a connection with readers turning them into lifelong fans.