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

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

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.

Submission Protocol: Simultaneous Submissions

Let’s talk about one of my favorite writerly topics: simultaneous submissions. A simultaneous submission (sim-sub, for short) is when you send one story to multiple markets to increase the chance you’ll put the story in front of an editor who will publish it. As with all the subjects I’ve covered in the submission protocol series, you should check the submission guidelines when you’re considering sending out simultaneous submissions. In the case of sim-subs, most markets take a pretty unambiguous stance of “yes, we accept them” or “no, we don’t.” If a publication does not accept simultaneous submissions, I don’t send them one. My reason for this is simple: I don’t want to end up in a situation, unlikely as it may be, where I sell a story to two publishers, one or both of which does not accept sim-subs. That’s just a pickle I’d rather avoid.

You’ll notice I’m not taking the usual hardline approach here as I often do with submission guidelines. That’s because sim-subs can be a hot-button subject, and I know some authors do send sim-subs to publishers that don’t accept them. Why would an author do that? Well, for starters, some authors, myself included, view simultaneous submissions as a really good way to increase a story’s chance at publication. The more editors that are looking at it, the more likely it is to be published. When you send a story to a publisher that doesn’t accept sim-subs, the story is out of circulation while they make a decision. If a publisher can turn submissions in a reasonable amount of time, that’s not a big deal. Some publishers, however, may take quite a while to make a decision (120 days or more in some cases), and some of these publishers do not accept sim-subs. Because of these long turn times, an author might sim-sub these publishers anyway, taking the risk the no-sim-sub publisher will reject the story or accept the story first, and they’ll avoid the pickle I described earlier.

Is an author wrong for doing that? Tough call. I mean, I get it. When I look at a publisher’s guidelines and see no sim-subs and “please do not query until 180 days have passed,” it gives me pause, and I might not submit to that publisher if I think I can sim-sub the story to two or three good markets rather than just the one. That said, I also understand the other side of the coin and why a publisher might want to avoid simultaneous submissions. Having been a magazine editor for years, I know firsthand that putting a publication together is a pain in the ass. It’s a never-ending race against the clock to get the issue out on time, and the last thing you want to do is waste that precious time reading and reviewing an article/story the author might pull out from under you before you can make a final decision. How do you keep this from happening? You don’t allow sim-subs. Admittedly, this line of reasoning is easier for an author to swallow if a publisher can turn a story in a reasonable amount of time. What’s reasonable? Depends on the market, really. Longer turn times, for example, are more common in the literary genre, or so I’m told by friends who write that type of fiction. For the genre market, I think sixty days is reasonable, and the vast majority of publications I submit to have turn times in that range and/or allow sim-subs.

What are your thoughts on simultaneous submissions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.