How to write a compelling author bio
Guest Post by the uber talented Mish Slade of Mortified Cow.
When you wrote your Amazon book page, how much thought did you put into the author bio? Did you quickly throw together some random sentences just so you could finish the page and hit “publish”?
Did you even bother to write an author bio at all?
No one reads the author bio… so it doesn’t really matter, right?
Unless you’re a household name, the author bio matters!
I’m assuming you’re not Grisham, or Godin, or Ferriss, or Fleming (that last one would be particularly difficult to achieve) – which means very few people other than your mom will buy the book purely because you’re the author.
(It’s a given that you need a stellar front cover, an attention-grabbing book title, and a sophisticated keyword strategy. But those are the elements that get users to your book page in the first place – not what keeps them there.)
The author bio is where you establish yourself as the kind of person who ought to be read by your target market. It’s where you forge a connection with your potential readers and get them to trust you, believe in you, and want to read what you have to say. If you take the author bio seriously and get it right, you’ll sell more books. *That’s* why the author bio matters.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to decide which information to include (and what you can leave out) in your author bio
- The best “tone” and “personality” to use
- Tips on making sure your author bio is persuasive and engaging
- How to add the bio to your book listing page
- An author bio template checklist
First, though, a quick explanation of which author bio we’re talking about. On Amazon, there are two kinds of bio: the generic bio on your “Author Page,” and separate bios for each of your books. The advice in this post is aimed at your bio on your individual book pages (although much of it will still be relevant to your main “Author Page”).
Step 1: Strategically Prepare for your author bio
Before you write your masterpiece of an author bio, ask yourself the following questions.
What’s your book about?
If your book is a contemporary romance novel with a middle-aged female protagonist, the personality and content of your author bio will be markedly different from if you’re writing about tax-deduction strategies for real estate investors.
Who are you writing for?
Closely linked to the question above, you need to think about your target reader.
Who did you have in mind when writing the book?
Who do you want to buy and read it?
Will that person be looking for evidence of your credibility in the field and reassurance that you’re an authority on the subject? Or are you hoping to attract people who are drawn to your personality or unique opinions or insights?
Figure it out, then write for that person. Try not to add information to your bio “just in case” a different kind of reader might appreciate it. You’ll end up with a behemoth of a bio that no one reads because it’s simply too daunting.
What tone and personality suit the author bio?
Again, this ties into the previous questions. If you’ve written a funny fictional story, go with that same humor in your bio. If your book is a spiritual guide to personal growth, some life-affirming positivity wouldn’t go amiss.
You can also use the author bio to guide the reader into understanding what the personality of the book will be like – which is particularly useful when the tone of the book is unusual or surprising compared to the subject matter.
For example, there’s a book called Profit First: A Simple System To Transform Any Business From A Cash-Eating Monster To A Money-Making Machine. If anyone reaches the Amazon page thinking the author will have an overly aggressive or arrogant approach, the bio (a fabulous combination of humor, credentials, and authority on the subject) will set them straight:
“Mike Michalowicz (mi-KAL-o-witz) is the author of Profit First, The Pumpkin Plan and the “entrepreneur’s cult classic” (BusinessWeek), The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. With a popular, quirky website MikeMichalowicz.com, he is a globally recognized entrepreneurial advocate. Mike is a former small business columnist for the Wall Street Journal, is MSBNC’s business make-over, has built and sold two multi-million dollar companies and currently runs his third.”
Step 2: How to write an author bio
While you’re writing, keep asking yourself: Is this relevant to my reader? Will they be interested in the fact that I was born in California or that I was top of my class in Physics once?
And while we’re on this topic… no one cares that you always wanted to be a writer. Well done that you’re living your dream, but seriously: leave it out unless you’re writing a memoir.
This isn’t to say that your bio should be impersonal. On the contrary: it’s your opportunity to connect with readers and make them feel like they know you and *want* to read your work. You just need to make sure the information you include is relevant and will be of genuine interest to them.
Here are some other things to consider while writing:
Go with the third person
“About the author” demands the third person. While it may feel a bit weird to write “he” or “she” rather than “I,” there’s one major benefit: it’ll come across as less boastful when you start mentioning all your (relevant) accomplishments and accolades.
We all know you wrote your own author bio
You can’t go waaay overboard showing off because – even though the author bio is in the third person – every reader will know you wrote it. State your achievements, sure, but don’t become a braggart: try to bring a little humility and modesty to the text.
Keep your author bio short
Even if you have a ton of biographical information that relates to your book, very few people will be prepared to wade through nine paragraphs of it. The faster they can read about you, the faster they can click the link to buy your book.
The general consensus on word count is aim for 75 words, but definitely don’t go above 150. It takes effort and practice to distill everything into such a short space, but once you’ve nailed it you’ll be able to fit a great deal of personality and information into those words.
Use it like a business card
Give readers a way to interact with you by adding your website or social media info. At the very least, they’ll be able to find out more about you and explore your other works.
Step 3: Add the author bio to your book page
You can do this in one of two ways:
- Visit Amazon Author Central, click on your book, and add it in the “About the Author” section OR…
- If you published a paperback version of your book on CreateSpace, you can enter the bio in the “Author Biography” section for your book. There isn’t an equivalent field in KDP, but when you include this information on CreateSpace, it’ll automatically get included on the Kindle version of your book on Amazon.
Use these author bio examples as inspiration
Here are some real-life author bios that combine most or all of the tips above:
Damn Delicious: 100 Super Easy, Super Fast Recipes: “Chungah Rhee is the founder, recipe developer, and photographer of Damn Delicious. What began as a grad school hobby is now a top food blog, with millions of readers coming to her site for easy weeknight recipes and simplified gourmet meals. She lives and continues to cook non-stop in Los Angeles, with her baby corgi, Butters. Visit her at damndelicious.net.” [60 words]
Long Range Shooting Handbook: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Long Range Shooting: “Ryan Cleckner served as a special operations sniper team leader with the U.S. Army’s elite 1st Ranger Bn. on multiple combat deployments. Ryan is a graduate of the premier Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC), among other military training courses, and has taught snipers and police sharpshooters from around the world. Ryan has a series of online instructional videos known for their ability to explain complex topics in a simple and digestible way. Ryan is currently a firearms industry professional and an attorney.” [83 words]
Diary of a Farting Creeper: Why Does the Creeper Fart When He Should Explode? (Volume 1): Who is Wimpy Fart? Wimpy Fart loves Minecraft and writes awesome Minecraft books for YOU because you are the best Minecraft fans in the world. You can email Wimpy Fart to tell him about your favorite Minecraft books, or to talk about really loud farts. firstname.lastname@example.org Oh – Wimpy Fart reads all your awesome Amazon reviews and likes to know what you want to read about in Minecraft books! [68 words]
Forgotten Secrets: Internationally bestselling and award-winning author Robin Perini is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes adventures with a love story sure to melt their hearts. A RITA Award finalist, she sold fourteen titles to publishers in less than two years after winning the prestigious Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award in 2011. An analyst for an advanced technology corporation, she is also a nationally acclaimed writing instructor and enjoys competitive small-bore rifle silhouette shooting. Robin makes her home in the American Southwest and loves to hear from readers. Visit her website at www.robinperini.com. [94 words]
Dave Chesson’s Own Blog Bio at Kindlepreneur: (Added by Dave here) I probably don’t have to tell you but I’m pretty much a techy goof ball. And hopefully, my bio does a great job of conveying it. Using humor and an upbeat manner, I hope I’ve created a dialogue that lets Kindlepreneur readers know exactly who I am as a writer for this site in 34 words. But the inspiration for such a bio came after I read an amazing biography of John Scalzi at the end of his book “Old Man’s War.” It was this biography that drove me to buy John’s next book and follow him on his blog…does that make me a stalker? John Scalzi, what do you think?
Use This Author Bio Template
The information you include in your author bio (and the personality of your text) will depend on a combination of many factors.
There’s no “one size fits all” approach. Having said that, the following checklist provides a structure you may wish to consider. If you browse many of the best author bios, you’ll notice they tend to follow this sequence:
Punchy, impactful intro sentence
Introduce industry/field/authority area
Build credibility without overly bragging
Add a personal touch
Finish on a call to action (check out new book, follow on social media, etc.)
The steps in this post take you through everything you need to think about and do when it comes to writing your own author description. Refer back to them when you start writing – and you’ll have a persuasive, engaging author bio that wins more fans and sells more books in no time!
About the Author: Mish Slade
Mish Slade is the founder of copywriting agency Mortified Cow – which takes a decidedly different view on how businesses should promote themselves. Her latest book is called May I Have Your Attention, Please? Your Guide to Business Writing That Charms, Captivates, and Converts.