How To Shorten Your Author Bio (Without Leaving Out the Good Stuff!)
If you’re serious about getting published, then it’s important to have your short author bio ready for cover letters, query letters, marketing materials for events where you’ll be speaking or reading, and even for some literary journals when you get an acceptance. Your author bio is one of the first things busy editors and agents will see when looking over your submission — so, short and to the point is the way to go. If you’re just starting out, keeping your author bio brief is simple. But what if you have lots of credentials, awards, and publications? How do you shorten your author bio without leaving out important information?
Smart Ways To Keep Your Author Bio Short But Informative
Update Your Credits. One of the biggest considerations when writing a short author bio is deciding which publication credits are important enough to include. The more you regularly submit work, the more opportunities you’ll have to be accepted by literary journals. This is a great situation for any writer to be in!
But as the list of your publications grows, it is definitely possible to have too many credits included in your bio. Sure, having a list of three dozen magazines that accepted your work looks impressive — and you earned it! But a busy literary agent or editor won’t necessarily sit and read through paragraphs of your accomplishments. Instead, include only your eight best credits, followed by “among others.” And be sure to weed out older acceptances, especially if they’re in journals that are not well recognized.
Talk About Yourself (Briefly). You should definitely include any relevant education, writing conferences, volunteer work, or writing groups you belong to. But a common mistake many writers make in their author bios is delving too much into their personal life. A little bit of personal information helps agents and editors get to know the writer behind the work, and that can help you stand out from the crowd. Editors have commented positively after reading in cover letters that one writer is a jazz pianist on weekends, and another is restoring an old farmhouse circa 1764.
And if you’ve written a book and have some expertise in the topic, it’s a good idea to mention this in your query letter’s author bio. If you’re an optometrist and your book is about a killer who uses poisoned eye drops, mentioning your knowledge in this area shows your book will be accurate. But you don’t need to include that you decided to become an optometrist when you watched Mr. Magoo as a five-year-old.
However, if you’ve written a short story based on your travels in Spain, or your poetry is inspired by the time you spend in your organic garden as you contemplate the buttercups — this is information that can be left out of your cover letter. Literary editors are more interested in the actual writing and will focus on your submission. They don’t want to spend a minute more on your cover letter than absolutely necessary.
Here’s more about how to know when you’re giving TMI in your author bio.
Reference Your Author Website. Always include the URL to your author website and a short statement inviting the reader to take a look and learn more about you. Your author website is where you can have a full list of your accomplishments, accolades, and publication credits. If an agent or editor is intrigued by you and your writing, they can find all the details and more on your author website.
Publishing industry standards suggest your author bio should be only one paragraph long. Sometimes, when you have work accepted by a literary journal, you’ll be asked for an even shorter two- to three-sentence bio. Simply take your standard bio and cut it down.
Also: When creating your basic author bio, be careful that you don’t strip it back so much that it becomes too short. A vague sentence or two about your deep spiritual connection to writing offers no real information about you. Keep your information specific and relevant.