One of the most important things a writer can do is have a bio. A bio allows publishers to get a snapshot of both you as a person and as a writer. Think of a bio as a thirty-second elevator pitch. The more you can say about yourself in a short amount of space, the better chance a publisher will not only be interested in reading about you, but they will be able to understand where you’re coming from.
Bios should be short and concise, written in the third-person, and no more than 100 words. Some presses allow for bios of up to 150 words, but the typical range is between 50 and 100. Writers submitting novels or chapbooks may be asked for CVs or additional information beyond a brief bio. Your best bet is to read the guidelines for every submission you make to ensure you’re sending the appropriate amount of information.
So, what should go in a bio? Some of the information will seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone has the same background, so bios largely differ from person to person. In general, a bio includes your name, education, and publishing credits. Writers may also opt to add personal details about their lives, like any organizations or clubs they’re involved with, hobbies and interests, or even mention their pets. It’s not uncommon for people to include their writing influences and favorite television shows or movies. People even share their musical interests.
What you want to remember as an aspiring artist, who’s maybe never had anything published, is how you make yourself sound to the editors. If you want to sound goofy and fun-loving, that’s fine, but keep in mind a goofy bio may not interest a serious, literary press. The same goes for author photos. Some presses may appreciate a picture of you with googly eyes, but some may not. It’s important to not only research but read issues from the different presses you're submitting to. It may seem taxing and tiresome, but the extra effort pays big dividends when it comes to having your work read.
But we don’t want to give you the wrong impression. Writing a bio shouldn’t be a big deal. In fact, it should come naturally. The information presented is, after all, about you. And who better an expert on the subject?
Below are a couple of sample bios that you can either copy or imitate:
John Doe is an aspiring writer born in 1979. He graduated from University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1990 and currently lives in Funk, Nebraska. An active runner, John has participated in 20 marathons, including three Boston Marathons. He cares for three dogs and a cat named Tootsie. You can find recent examples of his writing in DogBone Press, The Angry Orchard, and Life in Death Review.
Sara Jane is an environmentally conscious equestrian from New Castle, Indiana. When she’s not caring for her horses or fighting climate change, she’s reading Stephen King or Clive Barker and writing short horror stories. Sara was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart in Fiction and received a substantial grant from the Organization for the Arts-Indiana in 2019. She has forthcoming works in Haunted Highway Press, Wallet Found Literary Review, and Time Out.