Unpublished Writer: You Can Write a Kickass Author Bio!

The author bio or the “about the author” section can be a real balls ache for unpublished writers. What the heck do you boast about, if you’ve just started this writing gig?

First things first: If you’re tired/ lazy/ about to flip the desk—chill. There’s a template at the end. Like, a really awesome one. So your problem is solved.

Next on the list: It’s okay to feel useless when staring at that blank page. Even experienced writers, who build worlds and have hundreds of characters swimming around in their creative minds, cringe at the thought of having to write about themselves. (Well, that’s what I’m telling myself.)

As an unpublished writer, you’re not even sure what to call yourself. Am I an author, writer or some chump with a keyboard and a few vague ideas?

My feeling is: fake it ’til you make it.

Think of the author bio as a resumé after one shot of Jägermeister. You’re going to sell your good points like you would for a job interview but you’re going to be relaxed and little silly about it.

At this point you’re almost a 100% certain this is the worst advice you’ve ever received. Bare with me, you’ll see there’s method to my madness but first let’s get the basics down.

Don’t call yourself a “novelist” if you haven’t published yet.

  • Describe yourself as a freelance writer because chances are you will be sending your manuscripts off to publishers, or sharing your work online e.g. writer’s forums, Wattpad, blog posts.

Write in 3rd person

  • It might feel a bit pretentious but it does create distance. Use this to separate yourself from the author.
  • It also makes you look less self-indulgent to the reader when you’re tooting your horn.

Keep it short

  • Fewer than 250 words, if you haven’t won any awards, what are you jibber jabbering about anyways?
  • Keeping it brief means that you can use the same bio for print publications, author pages, social media (these might have word count/ character number restrictions).

 Be professional

  • List your achievements, something that gives you credibility or makes you newsworthy e.g. education, work experience, big prizes, press credits, were you editor of the school paper?
  • If you’re an active member of a writing group, mention it.

Be a little silly

  • You are your genre: authors who write about serious topics usually have serious bios, authors of the young-adult genre tend to be more upbeat and funny. Non-fiction authors rely on credibility, so, not a lot of room for silliness there.
  • Give the readers a sense of your voice (light, chatty, dark, brooding, sarcastic, witty).
  • What makes you human/ relatable? Do you drink too much coffee, love 80’s music and wear white socks?
  • A touch appropriate humour can go a long way in taking the snore out of a bio.
  • Mention something that makes you interesting: quirky jobs, hobbies, and talents — if it aligns with your novels even better e.g. your book is about werewolves who own a gourmet burger restaurant and you’re the world’s championship burger winner.
  • If there’s nothing interesting about you, mention something personal. Readers may be interested to know that a children’s book author has kids of her own, or an ex-police officer wrote a crime novel, or that you have a fat cat that loves to eat lasagna.

Online presence:

  • Mention your blog, Twitter handle and any social media sites you’re active on.

If all else fails: use this template provided courtesy of Alexandra Franzen. She’s got mad skills, check out her blog!

Super cool template:

{Your name here} wants to live in a world where {describe the kind of world you want to live in}.

As a {your job title here}, {he’s / she’s} been {spotlighted / featured / showcased / honored / applauded} on {list of blogs / websites / podcasts / theaters / art galleries / places that have recognized or shared your work}.

When {he’s / she’s} not {describe whatever your normally do}, you can find {him / her} {describe whatever you do when you’re not doing … that}.

{His / Her} {first / next / latest / recently-released} {book / program / project / collaboration} — {title of your new and cool thing} — hits {the shelves / airwaves / silver screen / internet / an inbox near you} on {date}.

{Discover / learn / explore / find out} how to {describe whatever you help people to do} at {your website here}.

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Oh. So, You’re A Writer Now?

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*sips on her first glass of wine*

*reminisces*

I remember the first time I was told that I was a good writer. It came from a teacher who had initially accused me of plagiarism because she could not believe the story she read was the original thoughts of a ten-year-old girl. My primary school’s principal would sometimes sit in on my speeches, simply because they amused him. In varsity an aloof, wide-eyed freshman said that my words “painted pictures she could see in her mind”. Each time, I was thrilled. Remember, this was well before Facebook; you had to earn your “likes” back then.

*pours her second glass of wine*
*gets reflective*

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For the longest time, I refused to recognise my writing as talent nor did I work on developing it. I regret this. Perhaps, it was my sober middle-class upbringing? Poverty was not romantic or martyrdom; it was the hungry family that lived down the street. Writing was not a real job; it was something rich people did. I believed this because I saw no local evidence to the contrary. So, I graduated with a respectable degree in science, in an act of subconscious flagellation. You see, I committed myself to a field that forced me to choke down my creativity, and punished me for flair. I learned to write just the facts, to be precise and consistent. I whipped the creative itch right out of me until the very idea of writing “for fun” became preposterous. I worked in a laboratory and I earned a good salary- you tell yourself that this is enough but like a smile that never reaches the eyes, it doesn’t feel right.

The truth is I made excuses for not having the balls to be my authentic self and I’m done with that. How did I get here? I hit rock bottom. It came in the form of relocation; my husband earned himself an incredible opportunity to chart his career trajectory upwards. The catch was that he had to start over in a new province. It wasn’t fair to make him give up his career for my job (trust me, there’s a difference). So I quit. Admittedly, it was exciting for a while but after a few months I discovered that: scientific jobs were few and far apart; I was no longer an independent woman and my self worth was attached to a paycheck I no longer earned. More so, I realized that I never had a career worth saving. I was lost in the wind.

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Now the great thing about rock bottom is that you learn how resilient you actually are. After all, I had nothing to lose. This was an opportunity to look at the wreckage and “put the pieces back together the way I wanted them to be” (J.K. Rowling).

It starts with a declaration: I am a new writer. I will make mistakes, I may fail spectacularly but I will not give up.

*puts the wine down and pulls up her sleeves*

Are you pumped? Then, let’s do this.