Did you know that Outlander series author Diana Gabaldon holds three science degrees? Or that prolific writer James Patterson donated boxes of books to over 400 schools? It’s always fun to discover something that shows us who our favorite authors are when they’re not busy writing. And the best place to find this information is on an author’s website in his or her “About the Author” section.
Most literary agents, editors, and readers are interested in getting to know the person behind the pen. And publishing industry insiders will also be curious as to whether or not your personality can support an interactive fan following. So it’s important that your author website biography reflects well on you, your writing, and what you care about. But how do you decide what to say—and what NOT to say?
Formal Author Bio vs. Informal Website Bio
A formal biography—usually the one published on the back jacket of your book or in literary journals—should focus on your writing credentials, with maybe just a hint of personal information.
But your author website bio can be more informal: You can include some of your own personal narrative along with your standard biographical information. The “About the Author” page of your website should offer visitors more “behind the scenes” details about you and your life.
What You Should—And Shouldn’t—Have In Your Author Website Bio:
What makes you uniquely “you”: While earning your MFA, did you support yourself as an Elvis impersonator? Are you named after your mother’s favorite author? Giving your readers insight into what makes you the person you are is great, but keep it brief. Readers can be turned off by authors who ramble about every little accomplishment from the time they were in middle school.
Publishing credits, education, and writing career highlights: These key details provide the foundation of your identity as a writer. If you don’t have a lot to mention, that’s fine—just include what you can. Simply knowing that you both share the same college mascot could earn you a thumbs-up from some of your visitors!
Hobbies and travels: Whether or not you add your hobbies or vacations will depend on one thing: relevance to your writing.
For instance, if your book’s plot revolves around surfing culture and you’ve spent years riding the waves on a longboard, it’s certainly worth mentioning. In the same way, if your travels have given you in-depth knowledge about the remote island where your story takes place, you can feel comfortable talking about it in your author bio.
If your hobbies or vacations don’t figure significantly into your writing or provide direct inspiration for your muse, there’s no need to include them in your “About the Author” section.
Volunteer and charity work: Your website visitors will appreciate that you have a philanthropic side! Showing that you care about others helps your audience care about you. Fun fact: Authors Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, and Stephen King are just a few of the writers who perform together in a literary garage band to raise money for charity.
Keep your author website biography professional, but give it a touch of your personality. Focusing on significant aspects of your life and how they have influenced your writing is the best way to connect with your visitors.
Photo by Jonno Witts
QUESTION: What elements of your life have shaped your writing?