Submitting to a Publisher: Author Biography
An author biography can range in length from a line or two to about 500 words, but it will ideally be around 200 to 300 words.
It’s worth writing something that you can use again when needed with only minor tweaks and additions.
Always ask yourself if fun details are relevant - remember that they’re not so amusing after the tenth time of reading
When writing your biography, keep the following things in mind:
- Write in the third person.
- Try not to use phrases that will quickly become dated. For example, ‘She hopes to complete a short-story collection in 2014’ is best avoided. Just include a neutral mention of your short-story collection amongst your list of writing credits. Similarly, writing ‘She recently visited Cove Park’ is better written as ‘She visited Cove Park in April 2013’. Remember that people may be reading this in a year or even two years’ time, when your short-story collection will hopefully be finished and your trip to Cove Park a happy memory.
- Write your year of birth, not your age, eg. ‘He was born in 1969’, not, ‘He is 44 years old’. Or don’t refer to your age at all if you’d rather not.
- Highlight your writing achievements above anything else: if you’ve been previously published in magazines or anthologies, won or been shortlisted for any prizes then make sure those are in the foreground.
- Other details might include where you live and significant educational achievements. Keep it straightforward and resist the temptation to include information from the distant past unless it is genuinely relevant to your writing.
- Include interesting or unusual personal details only if you feel they support your writing in some way, but avoid including anything too anecdotal or quirky. Keep it straightforward – if you’ve been a trapeze artist, exclusively wear corduroy or ever played in a jazz band, these will stand out without too much embellishment. Always ask yourself if such details are relevant and remember that they’re not so amusing after the tenth time of reading.
- Never include any information that you might one day come to regret sharing with the world at large; remember that you’re entitled to privacy. If you’d rather not disclose where you live, how many children you have or whether you are married you can be vague: for example, instead of saying ‘She lives in Thurso with two daughters’ you could write ‘She lives with her family in the north of Scotland’.
- If you have a personal website or an active Twitter account, you might want to add that to the bottom of the biography.
A brief note on author photographs
Some submissions may ask for an accompanying photograph, or you may be required to provide one if you win a competition, for example.
A great author photograph will help cement your profile but a bad one will leave the wrong kind of lasting impression. Photographer Alex Hewitt reflects on the five biggest mistakes you should avoid.