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41: How do you write an author bio?

This week, authors J Thorn and Crys Cain discuss what an essential author bio needs, whether you’re publishing your first book or twenty books in.

Transcript

Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost J Thorn.  

J: Hey, Crys.  

Crys: Hi. Okay. Are we done batching for awhile?  

J: I think so. I think so. I don’t like, I don’t know if you feel like I, I get to a point where I’m like every weekend oh, we should batch. And then we batch for a while. That’s too much. Let’s just do one a week.  

Crys: It’s I miss . Seeing your face.  

J: I don’t know. I get through these phases, like in all, not just this podcast, like in a lot of things I like I batch for a while and then I get sick of it. And then I go back to batch. I don’t know. How do you feel about it?  

Crys: I think I like having it every week, but I prefer, in some ways, rigid consistency. Because if I get off rigid consistency, then I’m batshit crazy in every way, and cannot do any kind of consistency, not even like semi consistency, until I’m back to rigid consistency.  

J: Okay.  

Crys: It’s really frustrating.  

J: So it sounds like you want to record every week.  

Crys: I prefer it.  

J: All right. 

Crys: Oh, so what has been going on with your projects as we’re nearing the end of 2021?  

J: Yeah. I’ve got a few things wrapping up. My short story a week for the year is wrapping up. So that’s in the works. Got a few non-fiction projects I’m working with.  

As far as wrapping up stuff, there’s not a lot of stuff I can discuss yet. I have to be honest though. I’m a little disappointed today because I thought I was going to get an NFT and I missed out.  

Crys: I saw that. And what you missed out by what? 20 minutes?  

J: I don’t know. I don’t know how fast it sold out.  

Mike, the guy, Mike who’s in Linkin Park is also like a graphic artist and he’s heavily into the NFT space and he created this really cool thing called a Ziggurat. 5,000 of them. They’re a generative music and art. And so he has all these tracks and they’re all unique in how they’re mixed and how they’re layered together. 

It’s not AI generated, it was manually done, but the combination is unique and the artwork looked really cool. And I was like, oh, that looks awesome. And I knew that it was going to go on sale to the public at 1:00 PM today. And that’s the time that I record Writers, Ink.  

And I thought, okay, I’ll just keep the tab open and Writers, Ink will be done in 15 or 20 minutes. I’ll just grab one. And they were gone. They were gone. Wow. Yeah. So I learned a lesson there. If I really want it, I gotta be there right when it opens.  

Crys: Hey, we need to delay recording for two minutes while I buy this.  

J: Right? Yeah.  

But so you wrapping anything up for 2021 project wise?  

Crys: Less wrapping up in more restarting. Because I took so long off. Not planned, but still great. Just basically the whole summer drive, I didn’t really work on anything that was writing oriented. I worked on podcast, teaching stuff but did not work on. The projects.  

And last week, what was? It was about two weeks ago. I was like, okay, now we’re getting back. 

That was when we had the Essential Gathering. I was like, that was my first week back to like full-time work. And the second week after that, I was like, okay, this is my catch-up week. My first week was just getting my feet underneath me and figuring out like what I have on deck, like sorting all that out. 

Week two, I thought was going to be like my catch-up week. And it turned out week three was actually my catch up week, because all the things that I forgot about and thought I had a whole handle and things, they came up in my brain on week three. So that was my real catch-up week. Basically that’s this week. 

So now I feel like I actually have more of a handle on things and, like a month and a half, two months ago, I had JP who Phyllis and she don’t know with my co-host on the Write Away Podcast, I had him give me a deadline for that plot, a story with Tarot project that we’d started way back in the spring. 

 He finished his in June for a submission he was attempting and mine has just been sitting there. So my deadline was. Yes, sturdy day bef no yesterday. So I started working on it yesterday. And it was like, I did not finish it, but I replotted it. And this is a story that fits into the larger serial world that I’m developing and the serial story that I’m developing. 

It doesn’t have any connection to the main plot. But the reason I put it in that same world was so that it would prompt me to figure out some other elements of the world building from a completely different angle.  

Also, I really liked the idea of story worlds and everything feeding into each other iP wise and creating all these different funnels. So short stories is one way of doing that.  

I had a really good time of pulling these ideas together, figuring out some really deep world building stuff that will probably not show up in this story at all. But it was necessary for me to wrap my brain around things while also making me feel like I’m contributing to that larger project and not just the short story.  

J: It sounds like you’re getting you’re getting back into an alignment of sorts.  

Crys: Back into alignment. It’s really good. I am feeling much more sane than I have in a while. 

J: Are you declaring summer of Chaos officially over?  

Crys: Summer of Chaos is officially over. I think we’re looking for a season of stability now.  

J: I think you’re in it.  

Crys: Let’s hold on to that.  

So this week’s question comes from something in our Slack group. One of our authors asked, she’s having to write her author bio. And so she asked for examples and just trying to wrap her head around it. 

This is something that sometimes I’m like, oh, I got this. And sometimes I’m like, I have no effing clue.  

Most of our listener friends are in the no effing clue bucket, particularly if it is for your first published piece.  

So I think there’s two kind of writer bios that you have: one before you’ve published anything slash you’ve only published a couple of things and then two after you’ve published. 

So I think it would be really helpful if we talked through what the goals are of an author bio.  

J: It’s so funny that you mentioned it that way, because I feel the same way. I don’t know, I’m 12 or 13 years after I first did this. And I’m less certain now of what an author bio should be than I was even four years ago. 

I don’t even know. Yeah. I don’t, there’s sort of the, you need the real quick, if you’re going to be part of a promotion or a collection of some sort and there’s a character limit or a word limit, you need like that 150 word version, right?  

Crys: Yep.  

J: That one is pretty… I feel that one’s like pretty formulaic, whether you have one book published or several. It’s who are you? What do you write? That’s that’s about all you get in like the 150 word version.  

Beyond that. I’m not real confident in saying, I know what a good author bio should look like. Do you?  

Crys: I would say, yeah, let’s go do the 150 or 300, like max 300 words. This is what is going to go on the backflap of your book, back page of your book. It’s gotta be short, it’s gotta be snappy. 

 Let’s use that. Cause you could have a whole page on your website, like a story, and that’s a different thing. So let’s yeah, let’s definitely narrow our vision to the shorter version. 

J: Okay.  

Crys: The easiest one to define as the author, who’s written several books, your goal of writing an author, bio specifically for your books is to tell other people what you’ve written so that they can find it.  

For some TradPub authors, it might be like they write for this newspaper or this journal. And also they wrote this other book.  

For indie pubs, it’s gonna be like, they wrote the best selling, whatever series, whatever your biggest thing is that they’re not currently reading. You want to redirect them. 

 Now are most people when you read these? Probably not, but some do. And so you want to use every opportunity. You have to tell people how to find you. That’s the purpose.  

J: Do you think identifying some genre, specifics are important in that short bio?  

Crys: If you are a narrowly genre writer… yes. I think that focusing in on that idea, what your style is, is really helpful for the authors who don’t have anything else published, who have very little published. 

As we’re talking about this, I’m like, this is what Dana Kaye talks about. And when she gives presentations and also her book, Your Book, Your Brand, of knowing who you are, as an author and what you offer to readers.  

So I think that are on the right track there when you’re like genre elements, except I’d say, what is it that you as an author quintessentially offer? That might be your bio. 

Say you are a women’s fiction author, which in itself is such a every women’s fiction author complaints about the genre women’s fiction, because it basically means mainstream fiction that happens to be about women. So it’s just so wide and empty… and that’s a whole different soapbox, but anyways.  

You can’t just say I wrote women’s fiction. No one cares. What you might say is “Lena Emmanuel writes fiction about women with broken families who find strength and connection through um…”  

J: Gambling.  

Crys: Some–gambling. There you go. That’d be amazing. There you go. Somebody make that their thing. That’s amazing. 

That would also be very interesting. Strength and connection through their weaknesses, I don’t know. But you find something you…  

Basically your sales pitch.  

If you just feel the need for it to look longer than you can say more about where you are and your cats and all that, but that’s not actually interesting. No one actually cares about that. That’s really just fluff or filler for you to say, Hey, that looks long enough.  

Unless those are actually really important elements that show up in your books all the time. ” Her books are generally based in the new England area drawing from her lifetime of living there,” or whatever. Everything should tie back to what you offer in your books. 

J: Yeah, that seems pretty straightforward.  

Crys: It’s difficult because most of us don’t know what it is we write. We’re not super conscious about it.  

J: Yeah. Yeah. The approach is almost, you almost have to be like a journalist in a way, right?  

You’re writing in the third person? Do you write it in the first person? Do you have thoughts on that?  

Crys: I default to third person. For back of books for… if you have a media page on your website of really good ideas to have several different versions of your about you, when that’s 150, where the 300 word, the formal, the informal… it’s like a media packet. 

But that’s not something for first time authors to worry a cent about. That’s only for if you are starting to get invited or one of your goals is to get invited to conferences and literary things.  

On your website, you might want to turn that into, depending on what your personality, your brand’s personality is, you might want to turn that into the first person. 

“Hi, welcome to my page. I’m so-and-so… I write…”  

You need to just flip it all around and add the pizzazz on there. But on the back of books, I think it should be third person. Inside the book you could have if you’re like about the author, hi, this is, or the note from the author, then I think that’s personal. 

And those are my… there’s no reason… I don’t have a, like an, a thought out reason for that. I might have subconscious reasons for that, but that’s just my default idea of what I think fits best.  

J: What about the longer form about me page kind of thing. Do you have a version of that? 

Crys: I don’t as an a… do I as an author? I’m thinking of what I have on my romance. I do more for my non-fiction and that’s simply because as we’ve put up our services page, I had to think through that. But that is more of a sales page than it isn’t about me, but it blends the two ideas for me in that manner. 

Now, when I went to make my nonfiction slash author mish-mash bio for when I appear on other’s podcasts, I took the mental approach of what would a mediocre white man who thinks he’s the shit would do. And just made it as braggy as possible. That actually works.  

I feel very uncomfortable about it. I’m better with it now because I’ve sat with it for, I don’t know, like six months or something and I’ve used it several times.  

I think I can find relatively quickly… I’ll share it because I, it just feels so braggy and over the top here it is. And I think I’ve edited it since then. 

This is the first draft I think I did. And it might be a little bit different now.  

Through her secret, super secret alias, Crys Cain has gone from homeless to six-figures selling over 300,000 copies of her books. Her writing supports a life of adventures, including, but not limited to, living in Costa Rica, driving across the us in a van for three months and jumping across country borders as often as possible, generally legally. And she’s now on a quest to publish science fiction and fantasy under her own name. When she isn’t writing, she teaches craft and business to the author community at The Author Success Mastermind with J Thorn, and that’s about the writer life on the Write Away Podcast with JP Rindfleisch.  

J: Nice. That’s not that braggy.  

Crys: But to write it, I had to make myself like, just say, be as braggy as possible. No one else is going to perceive it that way. But I think that’s a mindset that people need to put themselves into. Pretend you’re writing it for your best friend and you want everybody to know how awesome they are. What would you put in there for your best friend that you don’t dare put in there for yourself? 

J: And the other thing I like about yours that I think would work, especially for authors who haven’t published anything yet or only have a minimal publications, is that it doesn’t all have to be about the writing or the book. You can include elements of your professional life or your hobbies or a passion. 

And that’s just a, it’s just a little taste. It’s a little, seasoning that, that adds to your bio that doesn’t have to be tied to the books that you’ve written or published or not in whatever case.  

Crys: I will say that the choices of what, like, life elements I put in there, I did choose to give specific flavor as to how I teach, how I write, how I share things and a little crazy, a little wild and, I’m going to say it this way because my brain is not thinking words right now and a little illegal sometimes.  

And by illegal, I mean, like, not following what everybody says. Those are the life details I pulled to all contribute towards what my brand image is. 

I didn’t necessarily do that consciously in that moment, but because I’ve been doing so much brand thinking over the last year or more looking at it, I can tell that’s what I was doing subconsciously.  

J: It’s a good model, a good template in a way.  

Crys: So my advice is either embrace mediocrity and bragging or how you’d write it for your best friend and then try and have everything push back to what it is you actually are doing or writing. And point to your next books.  

J: Yeah. Yeah.  

Crys: Point to your work. Whatever your work is, whether it is art, whether it is non-fiction, whether it is fiction, see how you can point them to another thing.  

J: Yeah, that sounds good.  

Crys: Excellent. For our listeners, if you have your author, bio, why don’t you share it with us? 

And if you don’t, this is a challenge to write one. Even if it’s terrible, please share it with us.  

J: Do we want to give them any constraints? 

Crys: Let’s do 150… let’s do 250 words.  

J: 250 words, okay.  

Crys: Yeah. Because you can always cut it down and it’s difficult. I have cut mine, that one that I shared I think is closer to 300, and I have cut it down to 150 word version for other people. 

So I think 250 words is a good place to start.  

J: All right. Sounds like fun.  

Crys: Thank you so much for joining us this week. If you’d like to learn more about the community, check out www.theauthorsuccessmastermind.com.

Comments on 41: How do you write an author bio?

  1. One of the best reasons to write your About page in 3rd person is to get your name shoved into Google. Many fiction authors don’t rank for their own name because their name doesn’t appear often on their own websites. An About page (or other bio-style pages) can help with that.

    Some readers might think it’s more ‘traditional’ looking to have someone else introducing you, like a publisher would. Again, 3rd person.

    If you’re going for approachable, and really leaning into the indie angle, maybe 1st person is better, in which case some pages or posts where you name appears in context could be a good addition. If you’re interviewed, for instance, ask if you can post an excerpt.

    Also, Chris mentioned a media kit. Having one, in 3rd person, could lend some credibility to readers, whether it’s ever used by ‘the media’ or not. How would they know?

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