How to Write an Author Bio

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I recently had to write an author bio for a piece I submitted to an online publisher. It was possibly the most difficult piece of writing I have ever written. By nature, I am a huge believer in humility; I am horrified more by the thought that someone might think I'm conceited or overstating my abilities than if they think I'm unqualified or inept. A bio, by nature, is a honking of your own horn. (I know, I tend to mix up my metaphors, but it's my thing.)


Image: stevendepolo via Flickr

My go-to method of avoiding self-aggrandizement is to make light of myself. As evidence, I submitted the last part of my profile description: "This is my attempt to keep my sanity after leaving the workforce, taking up breastfeeding, and managing the kids. I'm mostly failing at it."

Am I failing? That remains to be seen. But I could be failing at it, because I'm not perfect, and that's my point. Editors, however, don't want your humor, at least not in that way. They want to know what you know, where you've been, who you've published with, and why you're doing it. They want to see the things that make you unique, they want to know that you're worth reading, and they want to know that you know your subject.

It's not easy to give that information when it's your first published essay, when you don't have too many accomplishments to list yet, and when you're trying to come off as not conceited. It gnawed at me all day, and I was afraid I was not going to be able to publish a great essay because I couldn't pump out an author bio. One of the editors, Aly, at The Good Men Project gave me some excellent pointers, and these are the ones I came away with:

1. Write it as if you are trying to impress a potential employer which, if you're getting paid for your work, you are.

2. What skills set you apart from Joe Shmoe? In other words, what are your credentials? Think hard -- you have them, even if it is just that you are blogging about your life.  That's experience, right there.

3. What makes you an "expert" (read: gives you any authority whatsoever) on your subject matter? If it's an essay about potty-training, being a mom of 3 counts.

4. What's something that stands out? Maybe you live in an area that is connected to your subject right now.  For example, your article is about women's rights, and you live in Texas. Or maybe you have 13 kids and you're writing about the mother-child relationship as influenced by birth order. You get the idea.

5. Brag a little. I know, it's scary and you hate it, but you've got to do it. Just be sure not to overdo it. Being featured on BlogHer might be pertinent; having your name published in the "Who's Who of American High School Students" perhaps not so much! If you write a blog, you're a writer. Being a mother is an accomplishment. Taking Psych 101 does NOT make you a psychologist.

With all of these wonderful tips in mind, I came up with my author bio:

Stuck At Home Mom is a writer, mother, and former educator. She lives in the Northeast with her coffee-loving husband, two non-conformist tweens, and a tyrannical baby. She has studied Anthropology and Early Education, and her writing has been featured on BlogHer. She is currently writing a novel and blogging about her attempts to keep her sanity after leaving the workforce, taking up breastfeeding, and managing the kids.

I don't think it's too shabby, how about you?

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