Submission Protocol: Short Author Bio

As often as not, short fiction publishers may ask you to include a brief author bio along with your cover letter. It can be a tricky thing to get right, and there are a lot of opinions on what should be included. In this post, I’ll give you my opinions and show you how I constructed one of my author bios. Like my previous posts on cover letters and withdrawal letters, this post is based on my experiences and should not be taken as absolute gospel. This is what has worked for me; it might not work for you.

Let’s get to it. Author bios, like all things in submission land, demand we follow the guidelines all the way and exactly as requested. With most publishers, the only hard and fast rule is the bio’s length. Here’s a typical author bio guideline.

We also require a brief biography (50 or so words) and a list of previous publications.

Pretty straightforward, right? Don’t go over 50 words, and give them a list of previous publications (which you could probably include in the bio). I’ve found that 50 words seems to be the typical requested length, so I’ll be constructing my bio with that assumption.

The short author bio, in my opinion, should be written in third-person and have the following components:

  • Basic details
  • Accomplishments
  • Where to go/buy

Basic details: This is the necessary who, what, and where. No need to go crazy here. You don’t need more than your name, what you do, and maybe where you’re from. Keep any potentially sensitive data as far away from your bio as possible. Don’t give your address, your phone number, or anything like that. In other words, don’t lay out the red carpet for identity thieves.

Here’s my basic details:

Aeryn Rudel is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington.

Yep, basic. That’s my who, what, and where. Some folks might balk at listing the city they live in, and I get that. So, as an alternate, I might vague it up and say: Aeryn Rudel is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. Personally, I’m okay with folks knowing which city I live in (please don’t make me regret that).

Accomplishments: Time to brag a bit and let folks know about your writerly accomplishments. Keep it short, though. I don’t think you should list more than three things. What might those things be? Notable publications (stories, novels, articles, etc.) should be top priority. Membership in professional writing organizations, like the SFWA, are good too. Applicable education, like a degree in English, literature, or creative writing, might be something to include, especially if you don’t have anything else, but I’ll admit, I don’t often see it in author bios.

What if you don’t have any accomplishments yet? Just omit this part of the bio. When you do have something, you can always go back and add it. Author bios are ever-evolving things; they grow and change as you do.

My accomplishments look like this:

His short fiction has appeared in The Devilfish Review, Evil Girlfriend Media, and The Molotov Cocktail.

I tend to list publications that can still be found and read online, in the hope someone will actually read my bio and go looking for my work. This section will almost certainly change in the near future, as my list of publications grows and diversifies.

Where to go/buy: If someone reads your story or interview or whatever, likes what they see and actually bothers to read your bio, you definitely want to give them a link to click. Your website, your blog, or your Amazon author page are all possibilities, just as long as they give an interested reader access to more of your work. Personally, I think you can include up to two links here, like your website and your blog, for example.

And my where to go/buy looks like this:

Learn more about Aeryn and his work on his blog at www.rejectomancy.com.

For the moment, I’m using my blog. It’s currently the most practical place to send folks interested in my work. Like most things in this bio, that could change, and I might add another link down the line.

Okay, let’s put it all together and see how it looks.

Aeryn Rudel is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington. His short fiction has appeared in The Devilfish Review, Evil Girlfriend Media, and The Molotov Cocktail. Learn more about Aeryn and his work on his blog at www.rejectomancy.com.

This gives all the important info, and since it’s only 37 words, it leaves me plenty of room to change or add stuff in the future.

As I said at the beginning of this rambling post, these are just, like, my opinions, man, so if you have thoughts on author bios, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Submission Protocol: Short Author Bio

  1. As your list of publications grows and diversifies, deciding which publications to list among the three or so you have room to include in your bio becomes more difficult. So, here’re a couple of suggestions based on what I do:

    1. Ensure that the publications you list are genre-specific. That is, if it’s a bio for an SF story, include SF publications. If it’s a bio for crime fiction, list crime fiction publications. And so on.

    2. Ignore the above if you have a truly impressive publication you can list. For example, if I ever sold a story to the New Yorker, I’d probably list it in every one of my bios until the day I died.

    3. Consider including editor-specific, publication-specific, or publisher-specific publications. For example, if Really Smart Editor includes one of my stories in her anthology and my work has appeared in several of her other anthologies, the publications I list might be three stories she’s published. If I’m preparing a bio for a magazine that has published several of my stories, I might list three of those stories. If my work is to be included in an anthology from a publisher that has published several anthologies that included my work, I might list only stories from those anthologies.

    Sometimes editors request–or you wish to include–something a little more personal. If so, try to ensure that it somehow relates to the story. You’re a doctor and the story’s a medical mystery? Mention it! You’ve written an SF story about cats in space? Mention the six stray cats you’ve taken in!

    But, always err on the side of not enough personal information.

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