There’s a lot of advice on how to write a professional author bio, and here’s mine: don’t try to be funny or clever. It seldom works. It can also make you look juvenile, narcissistic, and unprofessional. Here are some examples of bad lines extracted from actual bios (names withheld very much on purpose).
Please note that I tried not to be snarky and mean but that this proved too difficult, so I just let it ride. Sorry!
1. “He lives within his twisted imagination.”
“Twisted imagination” is like starting a story with “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s not funny or original and tells me you’re trying too hard. You’re also not telling me where you actually live or are from, which is a mistake. Such characterizations should be avoided altogether, regardless of what you’re describing. On that note, you’re supposed to be describing yourself, not something else like your imagination and its supposed merits.
The fix: “He’s a fantasy author who grew up in X and now lives in Y with a wife, two sons, and a cat.” Note that I’m not describing the cat as being somehow extraordinary, i.e, “a cat who likes to dress in maid’s outfits and imperiously demand love.” That kind of junk is a sign of an amateur.
2. “His career started with hours of caffeine injections and Computer Game X.”
More trying too hard. The injections part isn’t funny, original, or imaginative. Just be direct about playing a lot of computer games but only mention it if it has something to do with your writing, and draw the link between them.
Fix: “His career started with a love of role-playing computer games that inspired a desire to play all the characters, not just one, and craft the story, too, so he became a novelist.”
3. “His book has been read by a handful of people and loved by each.”
The author is trying to be cute. I rolled my eyes. If no one’s read your book, don’t tell me that, even to act like you’re making fun of your amateur status. Besides, this tells me nothing about you. Stick to the subject.
Fix: nix it.
4. “She has broken five bones and can dislocate her shoulders on purpose.”
Keep all details in your bio relevant, or basic info, unless it is truly interesting. This is not (any fool can break a bone, or five). The shoulder dislocation is rarer but slightly gross and a rather distracting detail. It would only be worth mentioning if it had something to do with the story being sold and your ability to tell it. This doesn’t belong in a bio unless there’s an “interesting factoids” section, but even then, that’s only good for your website (beneath your actual bio), not anywhere else.
5. “He has two daughters who alternately imagine themselves as Crazy and Wordy Thing #1 Here, Crazy and Wordy Thing #2 Here, and Crazy and Wordy Thing #3 Here.”
Sigh. Maybe your daughters have a better imagination than you – or a better sense of what to put in their bios, like “My dad thinks he’s funny but isn’t.” Repeat after me: my bio is not the place to show that I think I have an imagination. And don’t use purple prose anywhere.
There’s a piece of advice that I disagree with – that a bio is a great place to show personality. It’s actually not. Just tell us who you are without the bologna. If you can’t even do that, your writing probably isn’t much better.
So what’s my author bio look like? Well, the work-in-progress is right here. Note how I stick to the point (me) without trying to be cute, funny, or clever. The details I have to reveal hopefully make me interesting, but even if not, at least I haven’t made a dork of myself.
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