One of the things that always entertained me when I was hosting readings was when I would the writers to send me a bio (short for biography) with which to introduce themselves.
Bios are always written in third person, in order to give the illusion that the emcee (or editor of a book) knows the author well enough to introduce them. There have been very few (I can think of two) instances in my life where the host of a reading knew my work well enough to introduce me without a script.
A reading bio should do three things:
- name you
- name the piece you’re going to read
- mention where it has or will be published. No one wants to know about stuff you’ve written unrelated to the piece you’re going to read. They want to know why they should pay attention.
Reading bios tend to be short, maybe 25-50 words max. San Francisco’s Litquake bios are limited to 10 words, unless you’re someone famous.
Bios should always be tailored to the audience, too. When I read my space opera, my bio focuses on those book titles. When I read my cemetery work, I feature CemeteryTravel.com and my book of cemetery essays. When I’m reading one of the Alondra stories, I mention where they have been published.
Loren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes, a space opera trilogy published by Night Shade Books in 2015.
That’s 26 words. It’s so short that I have to mention the title of the piece I’m reading before I begin.
Loren Rhoads is the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She blogs at CemeteryTravel.com.
That’s 18 words. And I get to decide what I’m reading on the fly.
In contrast, that one is almost 50 words:
Loren Rhoads’s Alondra stories have appeared in the books Fright Mare: Women Write Horror, nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery, and the Macabre, Sins of the Sirens, The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One, and will be in Best New Horror #27. Tonight she’s reading “The Shattered Rose.”
At a certain point, too many credits sound like bragging. I may well have crossed the line with that one. This bio doesn’t list everywhere the Alondra stories have been published and it still sounds too long for a reading introduction to me, although it would work great in the back of a book.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention my website on any of these. That’s because my name has such a difficult spelling. Even if people heard the url at a reading — and could remember it later — they wouldn’t get the spelling of my name right. Better that they search on a book title.
A published bio is different.
Author bios that appear in books or magazines are a different creature. Again the bio should do three things:
- name you
- name your book or story
- demonstrate your credentials to have written that book or story. That means mentioning similar work you’ve done
No one wants to know about your cats or family members. The only time I tell where I live is when I’m publishing a ghost story and want to mention that I live in a haunted house.
When people check your bio in a book, they want to know why they should read your book/story.
This is Brian’s bio from our succubus book:
Brian Thomas served a decade-long stint as a researcher at 20th Century Fox, specializing in religion, arcana, death, and creative violence. He contributed his expertise in matters celestial/infernal to such projects as The X Files, Millennium, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and The Omen, to name a few. Brian also contributed to Morbid Curiosity magazine, Jamie Foxx’s Night Tales website, and to far too many uncredited script doctoring assignments. He currently operates Rogue Research, a freelance research and technical advising service for filmmakers, authors, and artists.
Wouldn’t you want to read a book by that guy? The bio is 85 words. He tells you exactly why Brian was the person to write this book.
This is Martha Allard’s bio, from her novel Black Light:
Martha J. Allard is a writer of contemporary and dark fantasy. Her short fiction has appeared in magazines like Talebones and Not One of Us. Her story “Dust” won an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 19th edition, edited by Gardner Dozois. Her story “Phase” was nominated for a British Science Fiction Award. They are both collected in the chapbook Dust and Other Stories. You can find her on her blog at marthajallard.blogspot.com.
Martha’s writing credits add up to tell you how beautiful her writing is. Her bio is only 75 words.
Your assignment is this: make yourself a list of your writing credits. Shape them into bios of 10, 25, 50, and 75 words long. Read them aloud. Which ones would work to introduce you at a reading? Do some of them entice different audiences than others do?