3 Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Author Bio

Is your author bio boring?

Mine was—until I took a workshop from social media guru Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. She taught my fellow workshop participants and me how to make our bios lots more fun.

I think of it as taking a plain vanilla bio and turning it into a delicious sundae with plenty of yummy toppings. Here’s how. . .

Kristen gave us 3 great tips, which I’m paraphrasing.

1. Remember who we are.

We’re writers. She said that all too often when we novelists draft a bio we seem to forget that we’re fiction writers. We’re used to making up cool stories that captivate readers, but when we approach our bios we go all factual and miss out on the fun.

2. Remember who our readers are.

Who reads our books? Drum roll please. Readers!

Yes, readers read our books, but our bios often sound like little more than a recitation of our writerly accomplishments. Sure, I’m a member of RWA® and its FH&L, TGN, and SVR chapters along with being a member of ACFW, but what reader cares about that? Do they even know what the acronyms stand for? Are they all that interested in the fact that I finaled in the GH and won the STAR, Maggie, Emily, etc? I doubt it. And if we’re honest, do they really care that much about my family?

Nope. They want to know one thing. Can I tell an interesting story?

Kristen said we can include the writer-related facts and a little about our families, but she suggested putting that type of information at the end of the bio and keeping the beginning fun for the reader.

3. Remember that our job is to market ourselves.

If we want to reach readers, we need to give them what they want: good stories. We do that by keeping our bios fun, showing readers what types of stories we write, and giving them a taste of our voices.

Our bios are our opportunities to sell ourselves as writers of stories readers want to read.

Confession Time

My publisher asked me for a bio, which will appear on the back cover of my debut novel. I sent it to the lovely editorial assistant I’m working with at Barbour, Linda Hang. I’d worked on it for days, tweaking it until every word was right.

And then I took Kristen’s course.

After learning the tips above, I got really brave and read the bio I’d sent to Linda. Guess what? It was Boring with a capital B. Since I’m being honest here, I’ll tell you that I lifted portions of it directly from my query letter. Talk about plain. It was diet vanilla ice cream.

I applied the tips Kristen taught in the workshop and came up with a bio that has more pizzazz, is geared toward readers, and is no longer filled with a litany of my writerly affiliations and educational mumbo jumbo.

Examples

Since I’m a fan of show, don’t tell, I’ll let you see the before and after. And although I’m sure you could improve upon my “after,” it does represent me and my voice. I’m not exactly a sundae person in real life. I’m more of a chocolate chip ice cream drenched in Hershey’s® syrup kinda gal.

Before, with editorial notes included:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America®. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism. [Are you yawning yet?] A California native, she lives in a historic Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. She enjoys her frequent time travels to the 1800s, where she spends countless hours with her characters while fueling her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. [Better, but why put the more interesting stuff at the end?]

After, with editorial notes following:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a California native who lives in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her stories transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. She fuels her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two skitty kitties.

Notes: Since my debut novel is set in California in the heart of the Gold Country, I chose to include facts intended to show the reader that I’m someone they can trust to know the area. I mentioned the kind of stories I write. I added a touch of humor since that element is in my stories. I did mention my family briefly but included a fun description of our cats.

• • •

What are some fun facts about yourself that you could include in your bio?

Image from Wikimedia Commons
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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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32 Responses to 3 Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Author Bio

  1. Jessica says:

    That’s a great bio! And I’ve never heard of anything more disgusting than diet ice cream. LOL
    I don’t know how I’ll do my bio yet. I know it’s definitely boring. Hmmm. As for my blog, I keep it plain because I don’t like when blogs take forever to load (yes, I’m an impatient type) 🙂

  2. I took the same class, Keli, and completely revised my bio as well, adding interesting clips about my life instead of the boring “facts” about my career so far. You’re right – it isn’t supposed to be a resume’ – which mine was until I tweaked it. Thank you for this insightful post.
    Patti

  3. Wendy says:

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE that Taco Bell is IN your bio! How fitting. This is helpful to review. I might go and tweek mine some. I change mine according to who is asking for it. But I like to add almost always that I take risks every day.
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wendy, my bio wouldn’t be complete with Taco Bell in it, would it? I’ve been addicted to Taco Bell since I was in my teens, and that was several years, um, decades ago. =)

  4. Tara says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I’ve been trying to spice up my author bio for my debut picture book, THE MONSTORE (Aladdin/S&S 2013). Wish I lived in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains! I live in Jersey! UGH. (lol)

  5. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Makes complete sense!!!!

  6. Katie Ganshert says:

    purely awesome. I feel as if mine is completely inadequate. Time to go practice…

  7. Thanks for this post, Keli. I enjoyed reading the “before” and “after” examples (and think it’s great you mentioned Taco Bell and your kitties). Since everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I adore cats and they’re a major part of my life, 😉 I always include a statement about them in my bio. ~ But I’m also thinking of something else I could add that would be a little humorous but also completely true. Since I love doughnuts, I could honestly say I’ve never met a doughnut I didn’t like. 🙂 (Actually, my husband said that about me several years ago, and sadly it’s so true!) ~ Thank you again for another informative post. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Patti Jo, I love the line, “I’ve never met a doughnut I didn’t like.” What a fun way to inject some humor into your bio. And I agree. Yours wouldn’t be complete without a mention of your cats. =)

  8. Jodi says:

    Thanks for the tips. I will have to remember those when I get to the bio part.

  9. Donna Pyle says:

    Great post and perfect timing. Thanks!

  10. Author Kristen Lamb says:

    Awesome post and what a fantastic bio. Can I use you as an example in my new book I am writing? :D. That is MUCH better and far catchier.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Woohoo! I’ve arrived, everyone. Kristen Lamb just commented on my blog. 🙂

      Seriously, Kristen, it’s great to see you here. I’m putting what you taught us to use. You do know your stuff.

      And I’d be honored to be included in your book. Please, tell me you weren’t teasing. I’m so gullible that when I was young I believed someone who told me that word wasn’t in the dictionary. LOL.

  11. Great bio! I have to go fix mine now. 🙂

  12. Jill Kemerer says:

    Wow, Keli! Thanks for sharing! I love your new bio. This came at a great time for me, too, since I’m preparing to redesign my website and blog. Woo-hoo!

    And Kristen’s comment–how cool is that??

  13. Lynn kelley says:

    Great example. Love the rewrite of your bio! Much more fun. I wish you all the best with your books.

  14. I did like the time traveling part in your first bio, though! 🙂 Thanks for the tips.

  15. Love the new bio, Keli! And thanks for letting us see the “before”. It helps to see the specific things you changed.

    Like Wendy, my bio gets tweaked depending on where it’s going. Now I’m anxious to look it over and make sure it’s fun enough. 🙂

  16. Cynthia Herron says:

    Keli,
    This was priceless info, and very timely! I’ve been tinkering with my Bio, as well, and like everything these days, I anguish a bit too much about “tooting my own horn.” I think sometimes we forget that readers want to see a bit of our “human side” and that writers are indeed REAL people who DO actually eat at places like Taco Bell! (Yum.)

  17. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing. I have to admit, I had to read the part about the kitties a second time. I thought it said something else that rhymes with kitty, but starts with a “sh”. LOL Oops! Guess I need another cup of coffee.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://www.lynnettelabelle.com

  18. Hi 🙂

    Great post. I liked your 2nd version of bio very much. Good thing you changed it :).

    Thank you for the very interesting post.

  19. Carla Gade says:

    Keli, this is a wonderful post and so very helpful. Did you get a chance to send your revised bio into Barbour? I’m going to have to spend some serious time revamping my own bio. Thanks so much for the tips.

  20. Your revised bio definitely sounds more interesting, and more like the ‘you’ I imagine from your blogs. I think that has to be a consideration… that its writing not only conveys info in an interesting way but its tone also reflects who you are. Right now my blog bio is pretty basic and hasn’t changed since I first started the blog three years ago. But then I’m not yet at the point of trying to sell a book. 🙂

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  23. I’m trying to write a bio now (ugh). As you say, it’s challenging. I confess I liked both your bios. After reading the first I thought, how can she improve upon that. And then you did! I’ve got some work to do!

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