Bios: One Size Won’t Fit Me

While writers are often into their own worlds of fire-breathing dragons or sexual encounters with that dark knight, there is one topic that many writers struggle to write about: themselves. It's ironic... Here we are, words flow easily on the page when discussing some fictional character, but writing about the one person that we know the best... You have got to be kidding.

However, writing a bio is not something that a writer should shy away from. There are so many ways to spinning what might seem like a boring hum-drum life and making it sound glamorous. We're writers. We can do this, right?

Any bio or About page should be able to answer the following questions:

1) What genre do you write?

It's perfectly acceptable to admit that you write a wide range of stories that span across multiple genres. You're a person with diverse ideas that want to burst forth all at once.

2) What drives you to do what you do?

You don't need an entire essay to answer this; you should be able to sum it up into a few words. For me, I just love to be swept away into the world of imagination; sometimes, I refuse to resurface.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you have a background in something relevant to your writing? This is your chance to show others why only you can write the stories that you do.

3) What are some of your accomplishments?

Include any special mentions for your published works, and if you are still waiting to see your name in print, mention that award-winning fish that you caught and turned into an awesome meal that wasn't burnt. Okay, maybe not that last one, but there is always a way to turn the hum-drum into the exciting.

4) What else do you do?

Being a writer is one thing. Being a writer who enjoys getting lost in the forest and hunting deer is something entirely different — especially if those deer keep threatening to hunt you in return.

You don't need to include an entire exposé about your life, but it is a good idea to remind your readers that you're not some artificial intelligence program that can win literary awards. (Think I'm joking about that one? Look it up. I was shocked to see it.)

Bio Checklist

Bio Checklist

Bios have different lengths for different purposes, but there will be common elements across all forms. This checklist will remind you of the differences between the micro, short and long bios. No specific detail is provided in this document as it is meant to be used in tandem with The Hidden Traps of a Writer's Online Platform, due to be released August 2017.

Crafting a Bio

The art of writing a bio comes down to the answers of the above four questions — and not necessarily the serious answers. I have written many bios over the last few years, some for myself, but mainly for clients of Black Wolf Editorial Services. Often clients feel a little self-conscious talking about themselves and frequently I encounter those who feel ashamed to admit that they don't do much outside of their main job or the writing. When I interview them, sometimes something little — seemingly insignificant — is said, but it's the little things that can become nuggets of gold, making your bio stand out from the rest. Let me give you an example.

One client admitted to me that she sometimes fidgets with paper and folds origami. It was a little side comment, but it found its way into the final version of her bio.

"An engineer by day, and gamer when time allows, this paper ninja writes, reads and plays with pen-and-paper RPGs and folds origami. It's not surprising that her stories are filled with unexpected folds and twists that blend seamlessly with reality."

If you are really struggling to think of what you should include in your bio, have a friend interview you, taking notes of your conversation. Even the newest of writers have those little quirks that make them interesting people.

Bios are typically written in third person. I'll be the first to admit that it's odd to think of yourself in the third person, but bios are constructed in such a way that they appear to be written by another. If it helps, pretend that you are writing about someone you only just met.

Depending on how your online platform is structured, you may need up to three different variants of the same bio: the micro-bio for use on social media profiles; the short bio for use on sites like Goodreads and Amazon; and a longer bio to include on your personal website. All will contain similar elements, but the emphasis will be in different directions.

The structure of a bio, regardless its length, should follow the same pattern: what you do (i.e. writer of whatever genre and any other key activities); why you do it (serious or not); key accomplishments (if you have room); and other activities (prove you're human). Notice that this order is in the same order as the questions above? There is a very good reason for that.

Bios will also include call-to-action elements. Exactly what call-to-action elements are used will depend entirely on where the bio is being shown.

So, how does one get all of this information into the bios of varying lengths?

The Micro-Bio

If you are on Twitter, your bio is restricted to 160 characters. Tag lines for Google+ and Facebook are even shorter. Within the Story section on Facebook, you can write an entire essay if you want, but no one is ever going to see it, except for the first few lines.

Because of the character restrictions, these bios do not need to be complete sentences.

Take a look at my own micro-bio variants.

On Twitter:

Writer, editor (), host of @ConvoScience on @KLRNRadio & just plain crazy. So many ways to get into trouble. Coordinator of

On Facebook:

Judy L. Mohr is a writer, editor, host of science show on @KLRNRadio, and just plain crazy. So many ways to get into trouble.

On Google+:

Writer and Freelance Editor, and just plain crazy

While it is a good idea to include hashtags and other links in your micro-bios when possible, be aware of the number of links you use. On Twitter, some use nothing but a string of hashtags for their bios, however, the eyes tend to glance over links, hunting out the text. The way some have combated this is to make the links the same color as the text (yes, on Twitter, you can do this). Unfortunately, if you do this, links are missed, confusing followers who might actually want to visit the blog post you've shared.

The exact wording used within micro-bios will show elements of your personality. However, there are some phrases that I would never use. Aspiring writer is one. It sounds negative. If you write, then you're a writer.

The Short Bio

The limitation on the short bio is defined by those "See More" links on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon. Most people don't bother to click those links, so anything that doesn't show in first few lines tends to go unseen. And for those who do click on the "See More" links...

How many times have you done just that, only to discover that it was only another word or two to the bio? Grrr... Frustrating!

Writers, why, oh why, would you ever want to have your precious words that you spent such a long time crafting to go unseen by the masses? Sorry, guys, but you need to pull out that editing hat and edit the crap out of that bio, so it fits within the spaces allowed.

Most of these bios are restricted to approximately 40 words. However, this is not an exact measure, as it will depend on the number of lines that those 40 words take on the website in question. As you want to ensure that all your bios on these sorts of sites are the same, you'll want to edit it for Goodreads and Amazon on their sites, then copy the shortest variant across all other sites.

To confuse matters, you short bio is the one that you will use for guest blogging and/or interviews. If you are presenting at a workshop, it's some variant of you short bio that you will give the workshop coordinators. Of all of your bios, it's your short bio that will get used the most, so make sure it says exactly what you want it to say, including those links and call-to-action elements.

Just to give you an idea on how to different bios can have similar elements, but be slanted in entirely different ways, take a look at my own bios.

Below is my personal short bio that appears on Goodreads, Gravatar, Facebook (About section), LinkedIn, etc. I also use the same bio (or a variant there of) for guest blogs and interviews.

Kiwi Judy L Mohr is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is also a freelance editor with Black Wolf Editorial Services, working on projects from writers around the world. When she isn't writing, editing or doing something for writing within the local community, she is hosting her own radio show about science on KLRN Radio. You can find out more about Judy's various projects on her personal website or follow her on Twitter (@JudyLMohr).

My bio for my science posts on Dan Kobolbt's Science in Science Fiction blog series is completely different, but it needed to be. The series is written by experts within certain scientific fields, hence my bio needed to show my scientific background. (Remember question 2 from above: why do you write what you do, showing the reader why only you could write what you have written.)

Judy L. Mohr is an engineer by background, but a writer at heart. Her PhD specialized in astronomical instrumentation, where she used stellar light to measure the horizontal air movement above the McLellan 1-m Telescope, Tekapo, New Zealand. Her post-doctoral research was with the MARS research team, who are developing the world’s first color-CT scanner. Needless to say, optics, imaging and light are her thing.

It should be no surprise that Judy’s fictional writing has a science fiction and fantasy slant. You can follow Judy on Twitter, or visit her at www.judylmohr.com.

I have another short bio on the site for KLRNRadio. Again, I needed to put an emphasis on my scientific background, explaining to listeners of my radio show why only I can be the host of that show.

Dr Judy L Mohr is a real doctor, but not a medical doctor. Nope… The Doc has a PhD in Astronomy on top of her Masters in Engineering. She’s not ashamed to admit that she has spent far too long at school. But her love of science extends beyond the stars and machines.

Ever wanted to know how the things worked but was confused by all the scientific terms. Come and take a seat as Dr Judy L Mohr explains the world around us in a way we can all understand.

Notice how every one of the above short bios finish with a call-to-action; the first two provide links to Twitter and my personal website, where the third encourages people to listen to the radio show. These call-to-action statements are your marketing statements, but not worded like a pushy used-car salesman. It's subtle: hook and entice.

The Long Bio

The bio on your website will be an expanded version of your short bio, adding a few more quirky details. If you have more than one site (as I do), ensure that the emphasis of the bio is slanted toward the purpose of the site that it appears on. The bio on my personal site, although similar, is different to the bio on Black Wolf, where the latter places emphasis on my editing background.

The length of a long bio shouldn't be any longer than 1 – 2 scrolls of the page. If you have written so much that you need to scroll down 5 times to see the full bio, then you have written WAY too much. Remember that this particular variant of your bio will most likely only ever appear on your website. There is no need to turn it into an essay of its own.

Bios for Querying

For those who are looking at submitting to agents and/or publishers, the bio section of your query letter is an entirely different beast to the bios presented above. In this case, your bios will be of a short bio variant, but written in first person, focusing on your accomplishments and qualifications. You don't bother with the answers to Questions 1 or 4, and your answer to Question 2 should be restricted to only those aspects that are directly related to the project you are querying. Only mention what you do for a day job if it has direct relevance to your story. If you don't have any publication credits, just stay silent about it. However, do mention any memberships that you have to writing organisations or big conferences that you have attended. (They show your dedication to writing.)

I know that's a lot of information to absorb. As such, I have created a little checklist to help remind you of the key elements of the micro, short and long bios. The link to the handout can be found below.

In the meantime, remember that you are a writer, and as a writer, you have the skills needed to make your bio glitter like gold.

Bio Checklist

Bio Checklist

Bios have different lengths for different purposes, but there will be common elements across all forms. This checklist will remind you of the differences between the micro, short and long bios. No specific detail is provided in this document as it is meant to be used in tandem with The Hidden Traps of a Writer's Online Platform, due to be released August 2017.

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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

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