You have just opened your email from the magazine you submitted your article to. You read the email you have been hoping for and dreaming of: “Hey there, we want to publish your article. Please reply with a fifty-word killer bio. We will post it at the end of your article. You can include up to three links.”
Wow, your writing has been accepted! Now you have to say who you are.
Writing your biography can seem almost as challenging as writing the piece you submitted. But it is a necessary part of publishing your writing. How will your readers know who wrote your wonderful article if you do not tell them?
7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio
A good place to find examples of other writers’ biographies is right here on The Write Practice. You can meet the Write Practice team on the About page. The Write Practice also includes bios with all guest posts (you can click on any post on this page to read the author’s bio).
But you do not need a bio from the About page of The Write Practice. You need a bio for your own amazing article that is being published soon. So now it is your turn to write a killer bio.
Let me share with you seven tips on how to write a bio.
1. Write your name
Start with your name. Might seem obvious, but you want to make sure readers know who you are.
2. Share your accomplishments
Don’t be shy. Say what you have done. You can mention things like where you went to school and where you have been published. This is not a time to brag or list every award you won since grade two. Pick the ones that are relevant and recent.
Mary Jones, a graduate of ____________, had been published in____________ and ______________.
If this is your first publication, you can say:
Mary Jones, a graduate of _______________, writes about ________________ and ______________.
3. Use third person
Write in the third person, even if you are the one writing it.
Instead of saying, “I have lived in Tokyo and have six cats,” say, “Pamela has lived in Tokyo and has six cats.”
4. Say something personal
End with a personal statement about you. See the ending of these examples.
Here is Stephen King’s biography from the back of his book On Writing. It has 65 words.
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are 11/22/63, Under the Dome, Lisey’s Story, Duma Key, Cell, Dreamcatcher, Hearts in Atlantis, and Bag of Bones. He was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
Stephen King’s biography begins with his name and then lists his accomplishments. But it ends on a more personal note. Now you know that he lives in Maine and his wife is a novelist. This helps you to connect with him as a regular human being, not just a very accomplished celebrity.
(His biography is long, though. If you were Steven King, and they said, “Mr. King, you have only fifty words,” what would you take out?)
Or read this biography from the back of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This one is 42 words.
Steven Pressfield is the author of Gates of Fire, Tides of War, The Afghan Campaign, The Profession, The Warrior Ethos and Turning Pro, among others. He lives in Los Angeles. In 2003, he was made an honorary citizen of Sparta in Greece.
If I wanted to know what books Steven Pressfield wrote, I could look up his page on Amazon. But I would not know to look up whether he was made an honorary citizen of Sparta in Greece.
Take a look at this one, from the back inside cover of Jon Acuff’s new book Finish. This has 49 words.
Jon Acuff is the New York Times bestselling author of Start, Quitter, and Do Over, among other books. He is a popular public speaker, blogger, Tweeter, and the creator of the “30 Days of Hustle” online challenge. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jenny, and their two daughters.
Jon Acuff’s biography tells me about his accomplishments. Then it ends with a note about his family. It is a good idea to share a piece of personal information about yourself so readers can connect with you.
5. Be funny
Include humor if it fits the publication you are submitting to. Remember, you don’t want to make off-color jokes in your biography, so pretend your mother is reading it.
Unless, of course, it is for an adult magazine. Then you can write humor that fits that publication.
6. Link to your writing
Use only one link. Decide what is the most important place you want your readers to find you. Twitter? Instagram? Your blog signup list?
If you only have one link, have it go to your blog signup page. An email list is the most important, as it gives you direct access to make friends with your readers. You own your blog; you don’t own Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
Unless, of course, you are Ev Williams, the director and co-founder of Twitter, or Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.
7. Follow the rules
Follow the rules. If they ask for a fifty-word biography, don’t give them 324 words. Stick to fifty.
Bonus Tip: Be Yourself
It can seem intimidating to write a killer bio. But you are a writer. You have already written an article or story so amazing that someone wants to publish it.
Do not stress about this. Now you know how to write a bio, and you will write an amazing one.
Do you have any tips for how to write a bio? Let us know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to write a fifty-word biography. This is the length of biographies Alice, my editor, asks for on The Write Practice.
What will you include in your biography? Share the bio you write in the comments. Tell us what you cut out. Or, if you have any questions about what to include, ask those here.
Please read other readers’ biographies and help them write a clear biography. Ask questions, and let’s help each other.