author bio

Author Bio: How to Write an Outstanding One

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

September 21, 2023

Your author bio is an important part of your finished book. It gives readers a quick insight into who you are, why you wrote your book, and why they might enjoy reading your work. This isn’t a resume or a byline. It’s a short biography that should be included in your book, your author website, and your marketing materials.

Although it takes some time to write the perfect author bio, doing it will save you time in the long run. In most cases, you can use the same author bio for years, adding occasional updates as necessary. Here are some tips to writing an author bio that helps sell your book.

Why Your Author Bio Matters

The goal of your author bio is to make the reader feel they can trust you. The approach you take should be based on the type of book you’ve written.

You’re a first-time fiction writer

As a first-time fiction writer, you may not have an impressive list of titles to show off. Your author bio should focus on making the reader feel you share traits and interests with them. You want to come across as personable and relatable.

Be sure to mention any connection you have to the topic. For instance, if you’re writing a mystery or thriller, talk about your lifelong fascination with true crime or your courtroom-related work. For fiction writers, a specific background or expertise isn’t that important. What matters is making the reader feel that you’re someone they feel they would like to meet in person.

You’re a nonfiction writer

Writers of nonfiction have a key task that fiction writers don’t: They need to convince readers that they’re an expert on the subject they’re writing about. You must let them know that you’re a trustworthy source on the subject.

How do you do that? If you have a background in the subject, that’s an obvious point you want to make right away. For instance, a psychologist is probably well-qualified to write a book about anxiety, especially if that psychologist also conducts research studies on anxiety. A biologist is qualified to write a book aimed at explaining biology to children.

If you aren’t a subject expert, you might be an expert researcher who knows how to get to the facts and present them in a clear, detailed way. Many journalists can write about subjects they’re not experts in by interviewing experts and gathering their own research. If you have those skills, highlight them in your author bio.

You’ve written a how-to or self-help book

Writers of self-help and how-to books must convince readers that they’re the go-to on a particular subject. Why should a reader follow your advice? There are two main reasons people trust a how-to book:

  • The writer is someone who accomplished the task by using the steps described in the book.
  • The writer can prove that other people successfully used those same steps to achieve success.

This seems obvious. You wouldn’t trust a book on investment advice from someone who’s too broke to pay their own bills, and you wouldn’t trust a book on travel from someone who’s never left their own house.

When a reader picks up your book, the first thing they ask themselves is, “Why should I trust this person’s advice?” Use your author bio to answer that question.

Write a Great One-Liner

The first sentence of your author bio should summarize your profile and mention any other books you’ve written. Remember that most readers are skimming your author bio, and you only have a few seconds to grab and hold their interest. If they are interested enough to read your whole bio, they are more likely to give your book a chance.

Here’s a sample opening sentence for a nonfiction book: “Jamie Harrison is a professor of archeology at the University of Michigan and the author of Dinosaurs: Myths and Facts, published 2022 by Hawthorn Press.”

For a how-to book on moving to another country, an example might read: “Linda Sulieman has moved her family to three separate countries in 10 years—and did it while saving time, money, and her sanity.”

A fiction book should focus on personal details: “Kent Barini is a visual artist and writer who draws inspiration from the woods of his New Hampshire hometown.”

Don’t worry about having an impressive background—unless you do have one. Focus on providing details that make the reader think, “This is someone who I trust and would like to hear more from.”

You can use this opening sentence on its own, as a byline in articles you write, and as a summary bio in your publicity and marketing materials.

Take a Professional Author Photo

Your author bio should be accompanied by a professional-looking author photo. Everything works together to help sell your book, and an appealing photo is part of that package. This isn’t about how attractive you are or think you are. It’s about making an impression on potential readers. A good author photo can:

  • Establish your authority—which is important for nonfiction writers.
  • Show your human side—which is key for fiction writers.
  • Display your sense of humor.
  • Show that you’re a “real” person.
  • Set the tone of your book.

We’ve written an in-depth article on taking a great author photo. Here’s a summary of tips for every author:

  • Use the most appealing pose: seated, standing, or leaning against a wall.
  • Include only yourself in the photo.
  • Don’t use a distracting background.
  • Hire a professional photographer for the best results.

List Your Awards and Accomplishments

Have you won any awards for your writing? The author bio is the place to show them off–without going overboard. Make sure you list all awards related to writing or to the subject matter of your book.

Don’t go into endless detail about every commendation, industry award, or good review you’ve ever received in your career. Focus on the main ones that will impress readers. Stick to awards that relate directly to the topic of your book.

Here are some examples.

“Dr. Shockley’s latest book received a Best New Books honorary mention from the Flat Earth Society.”

“Henderson has been a practicing psychotherapist for 12 years and is certified in Marriage and Family Therapy by the American Psychological Association.”

“Alice studied writing at St. John’s College and has a certificate in floral arrangement and design.”

“Linda is an award-winning author whose latest book was a New York Times bestseller.”

What if you haven’t won any of these awards or written a bestseller? Include anything that makes you stand out as an interesting person who has accomplished things. Did you ever win at a game show, start a company, or backpack across the world on your own? Include anything that shows you’re an interesting, successful person.

Tell the Reader Who You Are

Every reader wants to feel they know something about you beyond the facts about your credentials. You don’t have to go overboard with personal details, but you may want to include some facts that shed light on who you are as a person and writer.

“When she’s not writing, Clarissa enjoys baking with chocolate and spending time with her five grandchildren.”

“Arnie lives in Colorado, where he enjoys long walks in the woods.”

Mention Your Author Website

If you have an author website or other site where you sell your books, include it in your bio.

Put It All Together: A Template for a Great Author Bio

How do you put all this information into a brief author bio? Here’s a six-sentence template you can adapt when you write yours. Paired with a good-looking author photo, your bio will attract readers and give your book a chance to stand out among the others.

1 Introductory one-liner: Use the one-liner you developed to instantly establish your credibility or introduce yourself to readers.

2 Your second sentence should cover your qualifications for writing the book. For a nonfiction book, emphasize your experience and credentials. If you’re writing fiction, focus on your interests and passions.

3 Add some brief historical information about where you’re from or where you live.

4 Include your awards in the fourth sentence.

5 Add excerpts of positive reviews, especially reviews by others who are well-respected in the field.

6 End with a brief mention of your personal life or some insight into who you are as a person. You may also include a link to your website here.

Get Published with Our Help

We hope you enjoyed this article on creating author biographies. Publishing Xpress is devoted to helping authors succeed at writing and publishing. If you would like an estimate on printing your book, contact us.

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