An author’s bio (autobiography) is just one of many important factors in a book’s success. In traditional publishing, authors have access to publicists who help them come up with those all-important few sentences of the short bio, along with the longer bio that may be inserted in the book. Self-publishers must write an author bio on their own.
And that’s tough.
“Every autobiography is concerned with two characters, a Don Quixote, the Ego, and a Sancho Panza, the Self.”
I’ve read a lot of first drafts of biographies and find there are five common mistakes that authors make:
- Write in the first person or “I” voice — Bios should be written in third person POV (Linda Aksomitis or she, not “I”).
- Focus on the teacher who told them they’d be/never be a writer.
- Speak for readers (if your friends love the book, let them tell others themselves on GoodReads after the book is published).
- Tell buyers what they’ll think, e.g. “This collection of poems is like Robert Frost’s works.”
- Indicate it’s a first book they have never/always planned to write.
This short video clip from Reedsy, a company that provides a range of services for self-publishers, gives you some quick guidelines on writing a bio.
The most important thing to consider when you write an author bio is your audience. By now in your publishing process, you should already know exactly who you’re writing for — that’s one of the first elements of building your marketing plan that I teach in my course, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks, in the Market and Make Money assignments.
So, think about your ideal reader and what kinds of things she might want to know about you. It might help to close your eyes and imagine you’re meeting her in person and telling her about yourself. Better yet in terms of marketing, what draws her to a book as a reader?
Wondering how you’ll find out?
That’s where your market research comes in.
To get ideas, go through the author bios of a few dozen best selling books in the same genre as your book. You’ll likely want to use Amazon, as it has the largest share of both the print and ebook markets, so odds are that many of your buyers will find you there.
Not sure how to do that? I’ve made a video below where I walk you through the steps.
Now, let’s go over these step-by-step. First, you’ll need to go to Amazon.
- Select Kindle from the dropdown box (it says ALL to start with) beside the search box
- Type the first word of your main book subject, like Romance, in the box and see the list of options that pop up under it as you type.
- Select the most appropriate subject and you’ll be taken to an Amazon search page. On the left hand side of the page you’ll be able to see how many books are already published in that category (e.g. Romance, Historical, has 42,793 books in that category).
- You can leave the sort on the right hand side on Relevance or try one of the others if you wish (such as Avg. customer review).
- Now, look down at the list of book titles, clicking on them one at a time to examine their webpages and data.
- Select a title by clicking on the link.
- Go through all of the book’s information on its product page.
- Now, repeat this another 20 or 30 times getting an idea of what the author bios and book descriptions of the best sellers say.
- Pick out the elements that you like best from the author bios, or that are most similar to your own background.
- Write your own winning bio that will help your book sell!
If you need help getting your book ready to sell on Amazon and other online bookstores, join Linda in class.