How to Write a Jolly-Good Author Bio

by Lisanne Harrington

Another year is just around the corner, so it just might be time to review your personal branding and update your author bio.

Many Uses, One Purpose

The thing about bios is that you can write pretty much anything you want. Just remember, the main purpose of a bio is to convey information about you and your work. No matter whether you’re sending it to a publisher, placing it on your book flap, adding it to articles you write for blogs or periodicals, or including it on your website, you need to include relevant information that clues the reader into your personality and expertise.

But, each bio should be tailored to its goal. Some will be perfunctory, others a little stiff or formal. Some can even be injected with humor.

What Not to Do:

When I was first starting out, not knowing any better, I included everything I could think of, trying to impress a publisher enough to take a chance on me. Here’s what I sent along with my query letters when I was shopping Murder in the Family, my debut mystery:

Lisanne Harrington writes what she loves—mysteries and paranormal thrillers with strong but flawed female protagonists.

Lisanne has earned two Honorable Mentions in the huge Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition, and twice been a finalist in the Yosemite Writers Conference Contest. Her short story, A Momentary Lapse, was published in “The Storyteller.” A second story, No Such Things as Vampires, will be published this Halloween in an anthology by GMTA Publishing.

She started Murder in the Family in New York Times bestselling author Bonnie Hearn Hill’s Writer’s Digest Advanced Novel Writing on-line course. She has maintained a friendship with Bonnie over the years and considers her to be her friend and writing mentor. Lisanne has also taken online courses from and maintained friendships with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of “Night Stalker” and member of The Twelve, Carol Davis Luce, and Pushcart Prize nominee and Kresge Fellowship recipient Carolyn Walker.

As a paralegal for sixteen years, Lisanne wrote her share of research memos, briefs and motions, and never missed a deadline. She is willing to work hard, take constructive criticism to heart and do whatever it takes to be a successful author.

You can find her newly created Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisanne-Harrington, where she keeps followers updated on the progress of her queries and her writing.

She lives in suburban SoCal with her husband and lovingly stubborn and highly opinionated Miniature Pinscher, Lady Fiona’s Pot o’ Gold, and is currently shopping two novels and working on the first in her Robbie MacFarlane Mystery Series.

Murder in the Family is her debut novel.

*cringes*

Way too long, more than a little dry and frankly, boring. It also includes unnecessary information about how I wrote it and who my teachers were. I mean, really, who cares about that? This sort of bio should only include relevant information, such as prior publishing clips and anything in your background that might lend credence to your work. I was shopping a murder mystery, so I would still include my past life as a paralegal. But now, I would leave out who I know, my eagerness, and the part about my Facebook page. I can always include website and social media information in the query letter.

Also, a formal bio like this one should be written in third person. Don’t forget to check the publisher’s requirements before you start.

Ideally, your bio, in any incarnation, shouldn’t exceed 250 words. My first attempt was a bit over that, but I could have cut it way down by leaving out the superfluous parts.

To paraphrase Elmore Leonard, leave out the parts people will skip.

Humor is Fun!

Keep in mind that what you might send to a publisher will be different than what you write for your book flap or what you might want on your website. To me, those are much more fun and can show as much of your personality as you want.

When writing a bio for your website, it should be informal and conversational, so write it in first person to better connect with your readers. Make them feel like they’re chatting with you.

Next, think about the people who are likely to visit. What kind of things will they want to know about you? What are you willing to share with them?

Even though I write about murder, mystery, and monsters, I wanted to keep it light, so here’s what I came up with:

After sixteen years as a paralegal, I left the legal world behind forever so I could pander to my muse, a sarcastic little so-and-so. Only copious amounts of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and hamburgers will get him to fill my head with stories of serial killers, werewolves, and the things that live under your bed.

I love to watch reruns of Gilmore Girls, horror movies like Young Frankenstein and Fido, and true crime shows. I like scary clowns, coffee with flavored creamer, and French fries. Lots and lots of French fries.

When not hanging with “The Girls,” I write paranormal mysteries and murder mysteries. Check out my Wolf Creek Mystery series, and be sure to look for my upcoming murder mystery, Murder in the Family, and my newest paranormal story, Gravelings, both due out in 2018.

I live in SoCal with my husband and always-has-to-have-the-last-word Miniature Pinscher, Fiona.

I also included a picture of my muse:

As you can see, what’s on my website is totally different than that awful first attempt. It conveys what I used to do, where I live and who with, what I like to do, a bit about how I write, and my upcoming books, all in less than 150 words. And with a little bit of humor.

The “Rules”

To sum up the “rules” of author bios, they should be tailored to their purpose, under 250 words, and can show as much or as little of your own personality as you’re comfortable with.

Now, get out there and write that bio.

And have a jolly good time with it!

***

Lisanne HarringtonAfter sixteen years as a paralegal, I staged a coup and left the straight-laced corporate world behind forever. I now pander to my muse, a sarcastic little so-and-so who delights in getting the voices in my head to either all speak at once in a cacophony of noise or to remain completely silent. Only copious amounts of Diet Cherry Dr. Peppers and hamburgers will ensure their complicity in filling my head with stories of serial killers, werewolves, and the things that live under your bed.

I live in SoCal, in the small town I fashioned Moonspell’s Wolf Creek after, with my beloved husband and persistently rowdy, always-has-to-have-the-last-word Miniature Pinscher, Fiona.

8 thoughts on “How to Write a Jolly-Good Author Bio

  1. I like your second bio much better. I did the same thing this year and rewrote mine, adding all the necessary elements, but I added humor and kept it light. It’s like a good query letter; you must have a hook. Great blog post, Lisanne.

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