Authors often worry about their bio. “What do I say??” is the main nail-biter…especially if the author doesn’t have a publishing credit.
Understand this: It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a publishing credit. Really.
It bothers me to hear that authors feel defeated before they even begin the query process because they “don’t have a bio.” Of course you do! Everyone has a bio. The trick is to create your bio so that it’s relevant to your story.
Stay On Track
Bios, for me, can be the icing on the cake that entice me to ask for pages. If you were the 2012 Singing Belly Button Champ and your book is about singing belly button tricks, then you have a good bio. If your book is about cleaning gutters in Bakersfield, then your talented belly button has zero relevance. Leave it out. See the difference?
The trick is to create a bridge between your life experience and the topic of your book. Are you the cop who writes about his cases (hello, Chris Baughman), or the mother-turned-heart warrior for her son and who is shaking things up in Congress and the Congenital Heart Disease community (hello, Amanda Adams)? Zero previous publishing credits aside, those are strong bios that create a bridge to their subject.
Stay on track with your bio in order to keep it relevant. There is a reason why you wrote your book – so concentrate on that and how your bio fits into that topic. I’m looking for a golden nugget that I can use to promote your book. You may have written a novel about a teacher who decides to take on her school district, and not realize it’s important to state that you are an award-winning teacher, but it’s important to me because I know you have access to your potential readership.
Look for the bridge.
Are You an Expert?
If you wrote a cancer/divorce/substance abuse/mid-life crisis book, your bio is, obviously, that you lived these experiences. However, is there something you can pull from your bio that sets you up as an “expert”? For example, let’s say your book is about bipolar disorder. Did your experience get you to become involved in NAIMA as a spokesperson? That information is something I can use when it comes to marketing and promoting your book.
Competition vs. Experience
Maybe the main character in your novel is an Army Ranger, and you spent a decade as an Army Ranger. It may not mean much to you, but this may be a slice o’ heaven for your editor because you may be able to do book signings on bases and speak before veteran groups. You’re using your experiences to catapult you against the competition of others who write military novels.
Conversely, the mom who stays home and knits toilet paper doilies and writes about her experience with cancer is going to have a tough road to hoe because a) she’s writing in a hugely overwritten category (ever seen how many cancer books are out there?) and b) she has zero platform – meaning there is nothing that will drive readers to want to read her book.
I know many agents and editors who don’t really care about someone’s bio in a query letter, and it’s because authors rarely know how to write an effective bio. But I have yet to ever hear of an agent or editor who rejected an author because their bio was a terrific bridge to the book. It will be rejected for other reasons, but not because of the bio. So why not make your bio count for something that may pique our interest?