Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Get Ready to Submit, Part 1—Every Writer Needs a Bio

Today I'm starting a new series, Get Ready to Submit. Conference season is upon us and whether you've already attending one and are getting ready to submit requested material or are getting ready to attend and need to get everything in order—this series should help. 

This first post deals with a basic component you'll need, because Every Writer Needs a Bio

And trust me, none of us like writing them! But today I'm gong to give you the basics to help you conquer this hurdle.

But when I said every writer needs a bio I wasn't being completely accurate...

Actually, you need three.
  • A small one, 25-50 words.
  • A medium length one, approximately two paragraphs.
  • A full page one, in depth.

Many times this written bio is the first introduction someone in this business (think editor or event coordinator) or a consumer (reader or attendee) will have of you. This, along with your message, can mean the difference between making the sale or not.

Your bio should reflect—through words—exactly who you are. It must be relevant and it must reflect your personality, as well as give you credibility.

Below are some (not all) of the instances where a bio will be necessary.
  • Cover Letter (to an editor, agent or event coordinator).
  • Book Proposal.
  • Query Letter.
  • Your website.
  • Inside your book or on the jacket.
  • Publicity for a personal appearance. 
  • In a publication (web or print) after an article.

It’s important to remember a bio isn’t a resume. It’s not necessary to include information that isn’t relevant to what you’re writing. For example, if you’re not writing about a salesperson, it isn’t important to mention your job 15 years ago as an outside sales person. Again, think relevant when you’re composing your bio.

Here are some steps to help you write an engaging bio:

Step One—ask yourself a few questions.
  • What are some of my passions?
  • Why am I pursuing this craft of writing and/or speaking?
  • What value do I present my audience?
  • What are some of my strengths?
  • What impression do I leave with most people?

Don’t worry about sounding like an egomaniac when you answer, no one but you will see your rough draft. After answering those questions, try to come up with a one-sentence statement about yourself. Use active verbs and vivid adjectives.

Step Two—more questions.
  • What is my experience in this field?
  • What experience(s) in other fields are relevant to this field?
  • What aspects of my personality give me credibility?
  • What study(s) give me credibility?
  • What life experience gives me credibility?

Step Three—get the order right.
Now begin to put the above information in order of importance. This isn’t the time to build up to the point. Think about who the bio is for and put the information that is most important for them to know FIRST.

Step Four—flesh it out.
Build a word pool. This is a list of words that appear when you answer these questions. As you see a trend emerge, use it. Amplify it by trading on words that bring your essence to mind.

Step Five – wrap it up.
Put it all together. It’s time to assemble the information you’ve gathered into your full-page bio. It's easier to start big and work backward to the smaller one. If you’re having problems pulling this full-page bio together, this is the time to get some feedback from close friends.

Once you have your full-page bio it’s time to sift through it and boil it down, first reduce it two paragraphs (try to keep it at no more than 200 words). Then cut it further to 25-50 words.

Need some examples? Check out the Media Page, here on my blog and see the different bios I have listed.

As you're writing your bio, you'll probably have some questions come up on what to include and what order is best. That's what this community is for. Post your questions in the comments below and we'll all chime in and help each other!

Don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. How many words should be included for a bio on the back cover of a book? Thanks, Edie! Always love your blogs!

    Sarah Meece

    1. Sarah that depends on how much room you have. Generally back cover bio's are short, only a 1-3 sentences. And again, the key is relevance. The one on my military devotional mentions my son who served and my social media one talks about the places I"m on staff with social media. Even with fiction, you want your bio to stay relevant to your target audience. Hope this helps, Blessings, E

  2. Edie, I don't think I have ever seen anything on writing a bio. Mine stinks! I know this will help me to write a better one. Thanks!

    1. Kat, I'm sure yours isn't as bad as you think! LOL But I'm glad this helps. Thanks so much for stopping by, Blessings, E

  3. Edie, this new series is exactly what I need. Thanks so much!

    1. Cathy, I'm glad it's helpful! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  4. Edie -

    I just started following your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I'm loving it! You have such informative, helpful posts. I'll be linking to them on my blog from time to time. My readers will benefit from your wisdom and knowledge.

    Susan :)

  5. Susan, thank you! I love your blog and always look forward to them. Blessings, E

  6. Hi Edie. A bio is used when you write a query letter, right? You said you need three, each of different lengths. When do you use which?

    1. Ellen, you'd use the smallest one for a query letter. You want to use the majority of the letter to pitch your idea. As far as when to use which one, mainly it depends on the room you have. I use my longest one in any proposals I write, the rest depends strictly on the room I have. Hope this helps, Blessings, E

  7. Writing the bio is so difficult! Thank you for this post, Edie. I've read the comments, and it sounds as if a writer might want different bios based on the project. So this isn't something we can write and then use for the next few years? It'll need to be tweaked depending on the situation?

    1. Meghan, the largest part of it stays pretty solid. I tweak mine when new books come out or I get a new position. But my key phrases have stayed pretty constant. Tweaking yes—rewriting from scratch—I hope never again! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  8. Great post, Edie. It took me a while to figure out that I needed different bios for different venues. Remember when we first sat down and tried to write bios? What a mess! Thanks for helping others from going through what we went through. :-)

    1. I do remember, that's one of the reasons I want to help! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  9. Edie, what a great post. I'm going to go through those questions and figure out my bio. I played around with the one on my blog, but I'll have to rework it for conferences. Thanks for your insights!!

  10. Great timing--I was re-vamping my longer bio today! Thanks for the help.

  11. Thanks so much, Edie. I've been going at my bio hit or miss, rewriting it every time to "match" the person it's going to. Your tips will help so much1

  12. Edie,
    great post. i need to re-write mine... :D

  13. Dear Edie,
    Thank you for the love and support you give to any who come to your site. This info has helped me and given me confidence to submit my book.

    Thank you again,
    Margie Houmes