Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WRITING YOUR LONG AND SHORT BIOS

Over the past six months, I've had several emerging writers, call me at the eleventh hour as their submissions to contests or a publication needed a bio "yesterday." They didn't have much of one and found it challenging to write.

As professionals, writers need good bios, both long and short, and they are one of the most important pieces of promotional writing you do. You'll be surprised how much you use their content: for query letters, proposals, flyers, websites, conference programs, catalogue blurbs, by-lines, media introductions, etc., etc. They also need tweaking often to target the recipient, as well as updating regularly.

Bios are not resum├ęs, instead they reassure the reader that you are a competent writer and worth publishing, and promote you and your work. Long bios are usually written in narrative style and in third person; short ones need to be in first or third, depending on the use. A long one will be no more than a page, and a short one can be a paragraph or even just one sentence. All must be relevant to your writing career and the subject of your work. 

Here's a primer on how to gather the info you'll need, and how to make a start to write both:

Begin with your one page bio (about 500 words) as it easier to write. 

Make lists of your relevant credentials, special skills, awards and accomplishments, memberships, publishing history, and promotional experience.  Look at many examples of other writers' bios and note what works and what doesn't. Then start writing as you bear in mind who will be reading it. Use facts to promote yourself rather than lots of adjectives and adverbs, though a few judiciously placed can be effective. Brag a little but be 100% truthful. Now begin to tighten it up, cut out, and rewrite.  Show the draft bio to your published colleagues and ask for their comments. Rewrite and rewrite again. Then get someone else to edit it. Finally, comes the question of whether to include a picture on a long bio –  writers don't have to, but in this visual, connected world many do. I recommend including a photo once you have some publishing successes to your name. But make it a professional image, not a family snapshot.

The bio in a query letter to a magazine editor is usually a paragraph (six lines), so you have a few more words to play with than, say, a by-line. This type of bio must clearly tell an editor/agent why you are the ideal person to write this article or book. Short bios need the components of a long one, but choose to use only your best credential, best award, best couple of publication successes, etc. If you have lots to say and feel the editor needs to know all of it, it's best to include a long bio as a separate attachment to query letters. However, although I have forty years of writing behind me, I don't do this unless I'm specifically asked. But I do offer the hyperlink to the long bio on my website. 

Also remember that many uses also require your bio to include the means to contact you. Julie can be reached at....

Check out these bios, all different:

More details at The Long and Short of Writing Your Bio.


QUESTIONS: Is your bio accessible on your blog and website? Is your photo professional and current? If not, what are you going to do about it.

A bio for my photography