How to Write a Killer Author Bio
It’s important for indie authors to know how to write an author bio that tells readers: who you are, what you write, why readers should trust you, and how you stand out from other writers.
Your bio is like your calling card. “It's something that will let readers get a sense of who you are, and is an important part for pitching media and book proposals,” sums up marketer Rachel Cone-Gorham, formerly of Penguin Random House.
This step-by-step guide dives into the four main components of a killer author bio and provides tips from our talented marketers for nailing each section.
Why your author bio matters
For non-fiction authors, the author bio is a critical marketing tool as who are you are is often as (or more!) important than what your book is about.
Novelists will rarely depend on the bio to sell the book, but as book launch specialist Joel Pitney suggests: “Reading is an intimate endeavor in which the reader and the author are engaged in a kind of relationship. So, it's important to provide potential readers with the chance to get a sense of who you are and why you have the authority/expertise to write about a particular topic before they pick up your book.”
Let’s get started on putting together your killer calling card.
How to write an author bio
In general, your bio should include these four elements:
- Start with an opening byline
- State the theme of your work
- Mention your credentials
- Include a personal touch
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Start with an opening byline
Joel recommends starting your author bio with a one-liner that states your profile in a nutshell and the title of your latest publication.
- For instance: “Jane Doe is a Professor of Anthropology at UCLA and author of Insights Into Our Past: Tracing the Legacy of Intergenerational Trauma in 19th Century America.”
- Or: “Jane Doe is a poet, writer, and author of the new novel We Were Already There.”
If you’re using this bio digitally, don’t forget to link the title of your book to your sales page, whether that’s Amazon or your author website. Joel also suggests adding titles like “award-winning” or “best-selling” to your byline, if applicable.
The great part about writing a one-liner as your opener is that it can double as a short bio for guest articles, social media, etc.
2. State the theme of your work
This one is pretty simple: what do you write about? Are you fiction or non-fiction writer? Have you published more than one novel? What’s your area of interest or expertise?
- For instance: With over a decade writing obituaries for the local paper, Jane has a uniquely wry voice that shines through in her newest collection of essays on the importance we place on legacy.
- Or: A professionally trained electrician, Jane has spent the last decade reading and writing romance novels giving her characters palpable spark! Her latest work is the sequel to her debut novel, In the Arms of a Stranger.
In other words, give readers an idea of what they can expect from your book.
3. Mention your credentials
An important job of an “About the Author” section is to boost your credentials, says Rachel: “You want to show your qualifications and credibility so that a reader or potential reader will feel validated in choosing YOUR book to read.”
That being said, it’s not a good idea to start listing every award you’ve ever won. Only stick to credentials that directly relate to the content of your book. According to Rachel, “Qualifications can include writing courses, college degrees, awards, bestseller lists and accolades or, for fiction authors, even a lifetime of interest.” Here are a few of her examples:
- Jane has an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College.
- Jane completed a creative writing course at Vermont College.
- Jane is the recipient of the Vermont College creative writing award.
- Jane is a historian at Vermont College and has spent over a decade researching World War 2.
- Jane has traveled extensively around Eastern Europe, learning about the history of the region and walking the paths of her characters.
- Jane has been a lifelong writer and first began creating other worlds and characters in the third grade.
Book marketing consultant Rob Eagar suggests that another way to boost your credibility is to “to weave in any endorsements you may have received from well-known outlets figures. For example: [Famous person] says, ‘Jane Doe writes books that you won’t be able to put down.’ Readers pay more attention to authors with a proven track record.”
For non-fiction authors, your credentials are incredibly relevant as readers are far more likely to trust an authority on a subject. Fiction authors can focus more on why they write in a specific genre in this section.
4. Include a personal touch
Author bios are not a place for you to delve into a lengthy explanation of your history. First-time readers glancing at the bio of a new indie author frankly don’t want to hear about your first pet or the list of authors who have inspired you to pick up writing.
However, you also don’t want your bio to be devoid of any personality. That’s why Joel Pitney suggests: “If there's room, and it's relevant, you can add some color, like where you live or something interesting that might not obviously relate to your writing career, but that makes you a more interesting person.”
- This can be done subtly, like by referring to your location in your byline: “New-York based psychologist, Jane Doe…”
- Or you can include a brief illustration of your lifestyle, says Rachel: “Jane lives and works out of her home at the base of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, and spends her summers hiking and camping with her two children and husband.”
- Finally, Rob suggests a quippy-one liner that illustrates what kind of writer you are. “If your writing is known for its humor, let it show in your bio. One of my favorite examples is from a writer I know who ends his bio by saying, “He lost on Jeopardy to a dancing waiter from Iowa.’”
Adding a bit of color to your bio helps readers imagine who you are. And if they can relate to you, it might be an extra push for them to buy your book.
So, you know the general elements that an “About the Author” section should include. Now let’s take a look at tips from professional marketers that will ensure your author bio sticks the landing as a cohesive whole.
1. KISS: Keep It Short, (Stupid)
“People don't want to read long bios! Keep it under 300 words. Only include relevant materials and be as succinct as possible. If you've won a lot of awards, for example, only include the most impressive ones. Same goes if you’ve published a couple of books; only include your most successful three.”
— Joel Pitney
2. Inject a sense of your unique brand or style
“If you’ve developed an author tagline, use it in your bio. For instance, some of the New York Times bestselling authors that I coach have powerful taglines, such as: Become the Most Connected Couple You Know, Leading Women in the Adventure of Faith, and Amish Country’s Most Beloved Storyteller.”
— Rob Eagar
3. Write in the 3rd person
“First person voice is fine for your website, but for everywhere else, make it 3rd person. It's more professional.”
— Joel Pitney
4. Keep your bio updated and encourage readers to stay connected
“Add bestseller lists, awards and accolades, media appearances and reviews as they come up, and, of course, new books. If you have a website and email list, encourage readers to visit and sign up.”
— Rachel Cone-Gorham
5. Think big
“Some authors don't feel like they have enough to say about themselves; but just the fact that you've written a book makes you important enough to have at least a 3-4 line bio! Think creatively about what elements of who you are might be of interest to readers; don't be shy!”
— Joel Pitney
6. Use your bio to cross-promote other books you’ve written
“It’s a marketing tool that can tell readers to buy your other titles. For instance, if the first book in a fiction series gets most of the attention and sales, use your bio to remind readers of the next books in the series. You could say, ‘Jane Doe is the author of the popular book, Lightning Strikes which started the non-stop thrill ride readers experience in the follow-up books, In the Eye of the Storm and Dark Horizons.’”
— Rob Eager
Examples of author bios
Let’s see some of our pointers in action! Here are a few author bio examples, with quick explanations of why they work.
John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller Redshirts, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.
Why this bio works: It gives you a sense of John’s personality and tone right off the bat. We know what genre he writes in and that he’s received accolades for his publications. He’s got a number of credentials that tie into the science fiction genre, and he closes off with a punchy explanation of how to read more about him.
Natalie Barelli can usually be found reading a book, and that book will more likely than not be a psychological thriller. Writing a novel was always on her bucket list, and eventually, with Until I Met Her, it became a reality. After He Killed Me is the second and final book in her Emma Fern Series. When not absorbed in the latest gripping page-turner, Natalie loves cooking, knits very badly, enjoys riding her Vespa around town, and otherwise spends far too much time at the computer. She lives in Australia, with her husband and extended family.
Why this bio works: We have to admit it, we can’t help but boast about Natalie because after having her book edited via Reedsy, she went on to score a contract with Amazon Publishing. But pride aside, Natalie’s bio is short and sweet and works for a novelist. She mentions her affinity for thrillers, she promotes her series, and she wraps it all up with a few personal details.
Amanda Ripley is an investigative journalist for Time, The Atlantic and other magazines. She is the author, most recently, of THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD–and How They Got That Way. Her first book, THE UNTHINKABLE: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why, was published in 15 countries and turned into a PBS documentary. Her work has helped Time win two National Magazine Awards.
Why this bio works: If you’re not sure whether Amanda Ripley is an authority on public policy and human behavior before reading her author bio, you’ll probably be a little more assured after reading it. And, for the non-fiction author’s bio, this is a mission accomplished.
RESOURCE: How to Write an Author Bio Template
We've summarized this post into a brief, handy template you can use as a reference while crafting your own author bio.
If readers enjoy your books, they will likely want to get to know you better, summarizes Rob. “Use your bio as a tool to confirm your credibility, display your personality, and cross-promote other titles. By taking those steps, you can help transform readers into fans.”
What are some of the best author bios you’ve seen on an Amazon page or on a back cover? Share them in the comments below and tell us why you like them.