As an editor, I’ve discovered many authors don’t know what to include in a bio. Most editors want a brief third-person summary of who you are and what you’ve written. Because it should take no more than 30 words, you can’t include everything.
Include some of your writing experience. But unless you’re a new writer, you don’t have space to include everything you’ve worked on. Some rules of thumb:
● List one or two books you’ve written that are in print or nearing publication. But don’t list a publication in direct competition with the market you’re submitting to. When I was editing Cup of Comfort books, I usually cut the titles if bios said the author had written for Chicken Soup books.
● Omit information that labels you in a way the publisher may not want to emphasize. In my bio for an Assembly of God publication, I won’t mention I’ve recently written for a Baptist magazine. While most denominations go far outside their membership for authors, they don’t want to advertise that.
● Don’t list all your magazine articles. List specific magazines if they’re well-known. One of my general bios for articles has been, “Jeanette Gardner Littleton has written more than 3,000 articles for various publications, including Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman.” That’s just 21 words, but it evidences a lot of experience. Otherwise, I might write, “Jeanette Gardner Littleton is a full-time freelance writer and editor with more than 3,000 pieces in print.”
What if you don’t know what your editor wants? Sometimes I send two bios for the editor to choose from. I might send a fun one and a business one. Or the same bio at two lengths —one barebones and one expanded a sentence or two. As an editor, I appreciate authors giving me an option.
The next time you’re asked to include a bio, think like a pro and let the editor have a slice of your life that fits his or her needs.
Jeanette Littleton, a CWG mentor, works from her Kansas City home. She enjoys baking with her nine-year-old daughter, deep conversations with her fifteen-year-old son, and antiquing with her writer husband Mark.
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