|Though our bios are important,|
what do our photos tell
readers about us?
During the course of our writing careers, our bios take at least three forms—some more stressful to produce than others—and, if we’re lucky, can take a fourth.
BIO LEVEL 1
The first form is the bio we write early in our career, the one accompanying our first few publications when we have no career of note.
It will be simple, and likely filled with information not writing related:
A. Writer eats broccoli, likes cats, and lives in his mother’s basement. This is his first sale.BIO LEVEL 2
The second bio we write after we establish a modest career, and it is likely filled with info about our publications and, maybe, a personal note:
A. Writer is the author of Really Cool Novel (Small Press Publisher, 2016), and more than a dozen short stories published in Magazine A, Magazine B, and others. He still lives in his mother’s basement.BIO LEVEL 3
Several years later, after we’ve established ourselves, we have so many accomplishments we could mention that we find ourselves torn. Which do we mention? How much can we say without sounding like an ego-inflated ass? And, so, even though we know it doesn’t include everything we’ve accomplished, our bio looks something like:
A. Writer is the author of several novels, including Really Cool Novel (Small Press Publisher, 2016), Really Cool Novel 2 (Small Press Publisher, 2017), Really Cool Novel 3 (Small Press Publisher, 2018), and the stand-alone My Agent Made Me Write This (Almost a Big Five Publisher, 2020), as well as several hundred short stories published or forthcoming in Major Magazine A, Major Magazine B, Magazine A, Magazine B, Magazine C, Magazine D, Anthology A, and Anthology B. His stories have been short-listed for half-a-dozen awards, some of which you’ve never heard of, and he’s twice had stories good enough to be included in the “Other Distinguished Stories” list at the back of The Best of Year Anthology. He edited Broccoli & Cats, an anthology of food-related cat stories. He finally has his own apartment.BIO LEVEL 4
This one may be the easiest bio of all but is one few of us ever get to write. This is the point in our career when we have become so famous that our byline is all the bio we need. Think:
- Stephen King
- James Patterson
A. Writer. His mother lives in his basement.BIO VARIATIONS
Some editors (me, for example) prefer professional bios. That is, they want bios heavy on writing accomplishments and light on personal details. They want to know what awards you’ve received and where your work has been published.
Other editors prefer personal bios. They want to know about your veggie preferences, your cats, your kids, your spouse, your education, your hobbies, and any intimate details of your life you care to reveal.
Still other editors want a combination bio that includes a bit of both.
And, sometimes, an editor wants a specific bit of information included in your bio, regardless of which type (professional or personal) they prefer. For example, I asked contributors to The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods to include something about their connection to Texas, and through the author bios, readers learn which contributors were born in Texas and still live here, which were born here but moved away, who worked on a cattle ranch, who is descended from the first Secretary of War to the Republic of Texas, and so on.
IT’S NOT THE LENGTH OF YOUR BIO, IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH IT
Editors often have space limitations, so we must be creative within whatever limitations we’re given. Twenty-five words? Fifty words? One hundred words? It varies from publication to publication.
So, pay attention to your editor’s bio guidelines. Pay attention to your word count, your editor’s bio style preferences, and any special requests. Then pack as much information as possible within the word count you’re given.
What you should never do is ignore the editor’s guidelines and send the editor your one-size-fits-all (but doesn’t really) prepackaged bio and ask the editor to revise it to meet her needs or cut it to fit within her publication’s space limitations.
I’m not complaining about my current bio level, but it certainly would be nice to advance to Bio Level 4.
My past as the King of Confessions rises to the surface. Eight of my confessions have been reprinted in these four anthologies.