Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to write an author bio that will sell children’s books


Have you ever READ an author bio?

Probably you have.  That’s because you’re a writer, so you’re interested in other writers.  At least, I know I am.

Here’s the thing:  you’re not a kid.  Let’s be honest:  it’s not kids who will be reading your author bio.

Most kids couldn’t care less about who wrote the book, unless they’ve finished one and are looking for more of the same.  So it’s probably parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians who will be reading the author bio. 

There are two kinds of people who are reading your author bio:

  1. People who aren’t sure whether they should buy your book
  2. People who have read your book and want to know more about you

In both cases, a little honesty can go a long way.  In both cases, you want to make a connection that is friendly and personal (not commercial!).  You want them to trust you and – maybe, just maybe – to like you.

Let’s look at ways we can make the bio as appealing as possible without being crass.  What you don’t want is for your bio to sound like marketing copy.

Here’s the trick:  you want your bio to be relatable, which means not too weird.  But you also don’t want it to be so tedious that you are ultimately forgettable.

What should you call yourself?

For some writers, the hardest part of creating an author bio is describing themselves in the third person.  As tempting as it may be to say “I’m a mom of 4, a SCUBA diver and a cat lover,” resist. 

Suck it up, and keep yourself in the third person.  It just looks and sounds better.

The best advice I can give you is to read 5-10 bios of well-known children’s authors before you sit down to write your own.  I think it’ll inspire you, offering hints as to voice and how to streamline your message effectively.

Go long or stay short?

Especially for beginning writers – keep it short and humble.  Yeah, you can brag a little, but if you go on past three or four sentences, picture my eyes glazing over as I read.  You’ve lost me in your brags.

This isn’t the place to tell your life story.  For the most part, keep it relevant to your book. 

The tone of your bio (and everything on the back cover) should reflect the book’s contents. If it’s a serious book, don’t joke around too much in your bio; on the other hand, if it’s a funny book, don’t get too grim in your bio or elsewhere on the back cover.

Your bio gives people a “taste” of your writing, even if they don’t know it.  In that way, it’s helping you sell your book.

The One-Quirk Rule

This is a personal rule I use to guide myself, but I think it’s worth considering.  So that you don’t risk crossing over from “quirky” into “weird” territory, choose at most ONE irrelevant / fun / quirky detail about yourself for your bio.  This could be collecting cats, running marathons, cooking Chinese, etc. 

Of course, we’re all unique bundles of quirks; that’s what makes us special.  But you want readers to relate to you, so don’t make yourself too quirky.  Pick one and leave out the others.

(Mine is usually:  “she lives in Northern Israel with her family” – maybe this doesn’t sound like a quirk, but for many English-language readers, the concept of living in a non-English-speaking place is definitely too weird for comfort.)

Should you list awards?

YES, absolutely!  With a caveat:  only if they’re related to your book.  And only if they’re real awards.

If you paid a lot of money to enter a contest where (almost) everybody wins and you get to buy a roll of “prize” stickers for your book, then absolutely not.  Readers’ Favorite is another organization that, while they do offer free reviews and digital “stickers,” is not a real contest.  I don’t like seeing authors brag that they are a “Readers Favorite” prize winner.  Most of us are.

It would be ideal if readers had actually heard of the award, but that’s not likely since short of the Caldecott, most readers don’t know what prizes exist for children’s-book writers.

Should you list your academic credentials?

Experts disagree, but my stance on this is simple – don’t.  (Unless they’re relevant to the story.)

If your book is about fairies, and you happen to have an M.D., keep it to yourself. On the other hand, if your book is about eating disorders or childhood diabetes, I would definitely list the M.D. on the front cover, while touching on your related work experience very briefly in the bio. (“She’s spent ten years helping teens in the Massachusetts Eating Disorder clinic.”)

What about previous books?

I’m going to suggest that you not list them here unless they’re relevant.  To use the eating disorders example again, if your book for kids is about eating disorders, you could mention in the bio that you’re also the author of What Parents Should Know About Eating Disorders.  But not if your last books were Butterflies for Beginners, Crochet in One Day and Hounded to Death: A Sherlock Holmes-Style Mystery.

(If your book is part of a series, you’ll probably mention that elsewhere on the cover.)

A few more bio-writing hints:

  • · Don’t brag; just state facts.
  • · Don’t number your books (“This is her seventh picture book for children.”)
  • · Don’t be too humble (“She hopes a few people will enjoy her books.”)
  • · Don’t mention your writing career (“She only began writing seriously when she retired last year and took a course in memoir writing.”)
  • Because grownups are the ones reading your bio, don’t get too cutesy:  write for grownups, not kids.

Statement of Faith?

One last warning – you can feel free to disregard it if you like.

Be very careful about proclaiming your faith in your bio unless it’s related to the topic of your book.

You may feel that it is a lovely touch to credit Jesus, or God, or Allah, or Buddha, or any other higher power, with the strength to keep going as you wrote your book. However, you should know that this may cause others to skip your book, either because they hold different religious beliefs or out of concern that there will be similar proclamations inside the book itself.

Looking for more help?

Here are a few other sites that offer useful tips and information about creating a winning author bio that readers will enjoy and connect with.

Even if you’re hoping a traditional publisher will pick up your book and take care of all the cover copy for you, it’s a good idea to hone your author bio.  You can always use part of it in your cover letters and when you’re communicating with other writers.

So go ahead… think about what makes you not only unique, but also relatable.  How will you make me like YOU enough to read your book???

Did I miss anything?  Have a few tips of your own?  I’d love to hear them in the Comments!



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