7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio

by Pamela Hodges | 30 comments

Whether you're starting your author website, setting up social media profiles, or submitting stories or articles to a publication, you're going to need an author bio. 

7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio

Writing your biography can seem almost as challenging as writing a book. But it is a necessary part of publishing your writing. Let's look at how to write a bio that delivers.

How to Write a Bio

  1. Write your name
  2. Share your accomplishments
  3. Use third person
  4. Say something personal
  5. Be funny
  6. Link to your writing
  7. Follow the rules

Where to Find Author Bio Examples

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 bio examples with all guest posts (you can click on any post on this page to read the author's bio).

If you're writing a bio for your resume or a cover letter for a professional role, some of the tips here will work, but you'll want to make sure you look at examples in the field where you're applying. 

Let me share with you seven tips on how to write a bio and some personal bio examples to get you started. 

7 Killer Tips for How to Write a Bio (Including More Examples)

Let me share with you seven tips on how to write a bio and some bio templates to get you started.

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.

A list of accomplishments might include things like where you went to school and where you have been published. If relevant, you can include your professional experience or current role. This is not a time to brag or list every award you won since grade two. Pick the major accomplishments that are relevant and recent.

For example:

Mary Jones, a graduate of ____________, has been published in____________ and ______________.

If this is your first publication, you can say:

Mary Jones writes about ________________ and ______________.

3. Use third person

For author bios, write in the third person, even if you are the one writing it. First-person bios are rare and not the industry standard. 

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

Well-written bios end with a personal statement about you. There's not room to tell your life story or share too many personal details, but including a personal detail or two shows readers you are a real person beyond the written page. See the ending of the following 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 professional life accomplishments. But it ends with a note about his personal life. 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. That's an interesting relevant detail based on some of the writing he's done. 

Take a look at this one, from the back inside cover of Jon Acuff’s 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 your writing and 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. Keep your target audience in mind, knowing that humor is highly contextual. 

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 website signup list?

If you only have one link, have it go to your website signup page. An email list is the most important, as it gives you direct access to make friends with your readers. You own your website (we hope!); you don’t own Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Social media platforms are great for connecting with readers, but it's good to keep in mind that they can change their rules any time and that can affect your access to your target audience. 

7. Follow the rules

Follow the rules. If the publication or bio instructions ask for a fifty-word biography, don’t give them 324 words. Stick to fifty. If there's a character limit, follow it. Don't jeopardize your chances of publication because you won't follow through on your author bio. 

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.

You can write a fantastic bio, too.

Now You Try

It's a good idea to try out a few different bios for different target audiences. Mix and match professional accomplishments and personal experiences until you have a blend that really captures you and your writing style. 

You can practice using a conversational tone and then a more formal tone. See which one fits the audience or market you have in mind. Share them with your writing friends or on your social media accounts to boost engagement and see which one your target audience likes most. 

Keep cutting extraneous details until you have a killer bio that represents you, and then polish and edit until it shines.

The handy template above and your own brilliant writing are all you need!

Do you have any tips for how to write a bio? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

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 Pro Practice Workshop. Tell us what you cut and why.

Please read other readers' biographies and help them write a clear biography.

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com.

30 Comments

  1. Dawn Van Beck

    Dawn Van Beck, an advocate for vulnerable adults and a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, writes inspirational stories and devotions, and has been published in Short Fiction Break. Currently working on her debut romance novel, she resides in Florida with her husband and feisty dachshund. You can find her at http://www.findingfaithinthefabric.com.

    Reply
    • Glynis

      Great bio, Dawn. I love that it has a light-heartedness. Heading to your website now 🙂

    • LilianGardner

      I like your bio. You are really smart.

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Dawn,
      Love that you showed your fun personality as well as what you write, and where your heart is.
      xo
      Pamela

    • Victor Paul Scerri

      Hi Dawn, I agree with Pamela Hodges, job well crafted.

  2. Haime Alshaef

    I have a question. I’ve wondered about it for awhile and I’m a bit hesitant in asking, but…

    Is is possible to be anonymous? Like, if you published a novel, can you write under a fake name and not have too many people know exactly who you are?

    Reply
    • EmFairley

      Yes. I do, but I also have a biography for the pen name I use, which is admittedly way more than 50 words long

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi EmFairley,
      What a great idea to have a biography with your pen name.
      xo
      Pamela
      And of course you are not going to share it, because it is anonymous. 🙂

    • Victor Paul Scerri

      A biography is best written by an outsider or at least to be read that way as in POV 3rd voice. It sounds cool to use a pen name.

  3. Miles Allen

    Hi Pamela. Your 7-step formula is typical of bio after bio after bio. As writer’s we should let the reader know they’re in for a great read. Writing a mechanical bio doesn’t give them much to go on. Here’s some food-for-thought from my 1-day bio course…

    1. Don’t put your name at the start for two reasons. Firstly, bio’s are likely to be set within the context of the author anyway, so no point wasting words repeating it. Secondly, if the name should be included – perhaps because it’s to be read in isolation – it has more impact at the end; this is because a) people will remember it more after reading something interesting, and b) a great bio should create tension so the reader WANTS to know who this is.

    2. Don’t waste valuable words boring the reader LISTING your accomplishments. Most authors have them, so they won’t make you stand out. And few readers would know the difference between a credible one and a valueless one. And people with truly epic accomplishments, like Stephen King, don’t need to flourish being a 50-times best-seller. By all means, roll your best one into the conversation, just don’t be mechanical.

    3. Third person is good for not sounding like it’s an ego trip, but a much better way IS to be in first person and use the bio to connect with the reader. Use humour (your point 5) and open up to them, making sure your comments are directed at THEM (i.e. use ‘you’) to show you care about THEM.

    4. Be personal – right! But more than that, make sure you’re saying something relevant TO the reader. Make them feel your reaching out to THEM and not the masses.

    5. Yes. I’ve covered that above.

    6. Yes, although don’t waste the words if you’ve already put the links on the page in other fields, which is common.

    7. Definitely.

    8 (added) – Tailor it for the location. Note just word count, but voice. If it’s for a funky radio show for e.g., check out the lingo and match the style.

    Hope that helps unlocks a whole new way of thinking about bios and standing out from the crowd. If you get it right, the results speak for themselves.

    Here’s an example of one of mine used for my first series of fantasy books:

    “My goal is a story that pulls you in. A story you want to keep reading, as powerful as I can make, with characters real and compelling. Some are heroes with flaws, others are weak with hidden strengths. They stand against a hidden enemy. Not all of them want to…”

    Miles Allen

    Here’s a link to my blog on writing business bios. It’s a different angle, but much of it will translate to creating a more penetrating author bio too.

    http://www.milesallen.net/why-your-business-biography-is-killing-sales/

    Reply
  4. Prince Ydnar Velonza

    Prince Ydnar Velonza is a frustrated writer and blogger. He loves to eat chocolate whenever he’s alone. Prince Ydnar is editing a book that will be publish soon.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello Prince Ydnar Velonza,
      Right now you have 28 very well written words, I just switched a few words in the last sentence.

      “Prince Ydnar Velonza is a frustrated writer and blogger. He loves to eat chocolate whenever he’s alone. Prince Ydnar is editing a book that he will publish soon.”

      Can you think of anything else to include? You have the personal element down with the chocolate and frustrated writer and blogger part. How about where you live? Or where you go to school? Any awards?

      Best to you,
      xo
      Pamela

  5. LilianGardner

    Hello Pamela. Thanks so much for your article. I was looking for something just like this and the length of a bio. It’s great to learn from famous writer’s bio; now I have an example of how to start and what to include.

    Lilian Gardner was born in India. After
    obtaining her school diploma, she qualified as a teacher at the Teacher’s
    Training College.

    She has written and self-published two books and is busy editing her third
    novel.

    Lilian lives in Italy with her husband, Giuliano, an engineer and pilot, and
    their cat, Minnie

    Unfortunately, I am two words above the word count you gave us. I started wih 220 words, and cut, cut, cut it down to 52 words. It seems scant. Please give me feedback. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi Lilian,
      I got it down to 48 words.
      “Lilian Gardner was born in India. After
      obtaining her school diploma, she graduated from the Teacher’s
      Training College.
      She has written and self-published two books and is currently editing her third
      novel.
      Lilian lives in Italy with her husband, Giuliano, an engineer and pilot, and
      their cat, Minnie”

      This is the sentence I changed. Did you work as a teacher after you graduated? What is the most important point in this sentence? What about —After graduating from the Teacher’s Training College she worked with elementary school children in Florence, Italy. (or wherever you worked)

      “After obtaining her school diploma, she graduated from the Teacher’s
      Training College”
      And I had no idea you lived in Italy. Your cat speak Italian!!
      xo
      Pamela

    • LilianGardner

      Thanks, Pamela. I like your super edit. I honestly needed to know how to write a bio.
      Minnie is multilingual. i speak to her in English, my husband speaks to her in Italian, and my son’s girlfriend speaks to her in Slovak. Her answer never changes. it’s always ‘meow’.
      How is Harper and the rest of the clan doing?

  6. S.M. Sierra

    SM Sierra is the author of two self-published books, Molly Blue &The Quill of Two Lives, and Molly Blue & The Thirteen Wands, she is currently working on the third book in the series. She resides in California with her mechanic husband, Milo, and her adopted crooked-tail black kitty, Coulson.

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      I like your post which is Informative and interesting.

    • S.M. Sierra

      Thanks for the feedback Lilian!

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hello S.M. Sierra,
      So nice to read your biography. I don’t know if you have to say your books are self-published. What do you think S.M.? Do we have to say how they are published?
      Hello to Milo and Coulson.
      xo
      Pamela

    • S.M. Sierra

      Thanks Pam,
      It took me a lot of time and research to learn the best way to format to create a book…it is all mine, therefore in place of a degree or background in journalism, which I do not have, I consider the writing and self publishing my accomplishments.

    • Pamela Hodges

      Hi S.M.
      Thank you for your perspective on this. You are right, it is an accomplishment. And great job for learning how to make your own book.
      I self-published my book too, and spend a lot of time as well learning how to make it. You have opened my eyes to the value of what we have learned.
      xo
      Pamela

    • Victor Paul Scerri

      It took her; you said it took me. I believe the (bio) should be written in POV third voice. ie;. He/she and not I.

    • Victor Paul Scerri

      Love the croocked – tail black kitty. Lol. .

  7. justin boote

    Hi all. I’ve been told, and read, by many editors that on ocassions, the bio can be the difference between them accepting your story or someone else’s. More important than people think. Here’s mine;
    Justin Boote is an Englishman living in Barcelona for twenty years working as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant. He has been writing short horror/suspense stories for two years, in which time, he has published seventeen stories in a diversity of magazines. He can be found at Facebook.

    Reply
  8. Victor Paul Scerri

    About the Author
    Victor Paul Scerri first works as a writer and artist published by Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing. In recognition of his art exhibits, a Zen painting is the cover image for the April 2011 issue of the journal. He continues to publish articles at EnzineArticles.com, and is an active team writer of short stories. He made cultural award winning entrepreneur in Norway and now lives in Thailand. You can find him at http://www.nicewriters.com / nicewriters on (FB).

    Reply
    • Marsha

      Victor Scerri, born in London, living in Thailand, ventured to Norway – he made cultural award-winning entrepreneur. He was published by Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing. His art is on the cover of the April 2011 issue. He still writes and publishes with EnzineArticles.com. See: http://www.nicewriters.com.

    • Victor Paul Scerri

      Thank you, Marsha, for taking the time to edit my bio

  9. Prince Ydnar Velonza

    (This is an edited.)
    Prince Ydnar Velonza is a 15 year-old student. He is a starter writer and blogger. He lives from Philippines. Velonza was awarded as salutatorian since his elementary times. Now, he is studying 4th year high school (Grade 10). He loves to play a Philippine outdoor games like “tagu-taguan” (hide and seek) especially in night, “patintero”, and “tumbang-preso”. Playing “busy apple” is the bonding of his family.

    Reply

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