Anatomy of my crappy author bio
...and my strategy to change it!
The other day I was tweaking my long bio for my Amazon author page and I got to thinking, Wow, this is a really pathetic bio!! Oh, WHAT was I thinking? Here, for your inspection, this is actually what I had:
Carolyn Crane began writing at age 7 with a poem about earthworms during a rainstorm, which she can still partially recite, but ONLY under dire threat.
[NOTE: who cares? And I opened with that? A childhood anecdote? In UF?]
Ever since then she's dreamed of becoming a real author, scribbling on various fiction projects while working menial jobs, and later graduating to ad agencies and the freelance writing life.[NOTE: Basically, I work hard at writing. Shouldn’t every author? And I have a job that relates to writing. Uh, the more I examine this, just…uh! This is not an interesting or cool bio!]The trilogy that begins with Mind Games takes place in the fantastical Milwaukee/Chicago of her childhood imagination (she grew up in suburbs of both cities).[NOTE: not terrible, but could be cooler]Today she lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daring cats, and when she's not writing novels or day job stuff, she can be found reading in bed , running, helping animals, or eating Mexican food - or at www.authorcarolyncrane.com, along with sample chapters, contests and extras.[NOTE:I guess some of this is okay. I mean, it’s true personal stuff. I think a bit of that is good.]
I’m so going to change it. Probably after I write this post. Versions of this are on my site, Goodreads, all over. Below is the short bio from the back of my book and the part of the Amazon page I can’t change until book #2:
“Carolyn Crane lives in Minneapolis with her handsome husband and two daring cats. She enjoys reading and running and loves animals of all kinds. For more than a decade she’s made her living as a freelance writer. This is her first novel.”
What was I thinking?
So, I was casting around to look at other cool author bios to get inspiration, and I came across this fine article written by Barry Eisler on an author’s bio as part of an author’s marketing.
A bio is part of an author’s brand. It helps to sell the book. (If you’re unpublished, this is a good thing to consider for your query, too, on a small scale.)
You know what is really hilarious? Take a look - I’m actually a freelance advertising writer. Part of my job is to try to get companies to think about what their personality is, and why it makes them different and better, and I write their communications in a way where that shines through. That is my job, but I never applied it to my own author bio.
There’s a reason for that, of course. In my mind, novel writing is my personal anti-advertising zone. In advertising, I’m strategic and goal oriented; in fiction, I get to play and be wild and free. In advertising, people tell me what project or concept to work on, and it pays the bills; in fiction, I decide what to write, and the money comes out to like 10 cents an hour, and then I turn around and spend it on promo. In advertising, I have a certain decorum. In fiction, I can swear and make up words and write smutty and it's all about enjoyment and entertainment. Advertising is a job; fiction is a labor of love, and never shall they meet.
So anyway, I am going to revise my bio. Being that this is a writer’s site, I thought I would share the way I’m planning on approaching it. Because a lot of people talk about keeping your author brand consistent across social media and all that, but what the hell IS your author brand? How do you determine it?
Below, I’ve modified some actual client branding questions I use in my day job to fit to an author bio project. Maybe somebody has already done this author bio/author brand discovery sort of thing, but I couldn’t find it. You don’t have to use every bit of material you generate here; this is more about getting pointed in the right direction.
The “don’t be pathetic like Carolyn Crane” author bio branding questionnaire.
2. What do people tell you they like about your work? Your detailed knowledge of x? passion for y? irreverence? your fun sense of humor? shocking crassness? For example, (sorry to seem to toot my own horn, but I’m actually in this process now) people like the plotty inventiveness of my book, and I have always loved puzzles and psychological intrigue and the hidden workings of things. I wrote the book the way I did because I have a passion for that sort of thing. So I might try to work in an angle like that. It’s something about me that is relevant to why people might like the book.
3. What are 5 words you would want people to associate with you and your book? This overlaps #1 and #2. Not like these words have to appear in your bio, but think of them as the fertilizer for it. For example, I even see some authors write really imaginative bios, like, raised in the woods by wolves, etc. This tells me the author is fun and creative, without the author actually saying “I’m fun and creative,” which would be a boorish thing to do.
4. Realizations, inspirations, defining moments: if you look around, a lot of companies have a little story they tell. The founders of Caribou coffee were inspired by a hike in Alaska. Another client of mine woke up in the hospital and decided quit her job and start her own business in what she loves. Another made and lost fortunes two times over and now he coaches CEOs through crises. A little anecdote like that would work for a writer, too. (Of course, a lot of companies make theirs up. Sometimes they hire me to help them do that. LOL. Don’t make yours up, though.) I don’t actually have a defining moment. I’m pretty boring.
UPDATE: So here is my refurbished long bio. Which I of course want to change yet again.
Images: Monster of wall, a public domain image by an anonymous artist, from Wiki commons.
Man: 1970's JCPenney cataolog, Ship: personal collection.
Man: 1970's JCPenney cataolog, Ship: personal collection.