Note: I did this post last February for a blog that is now broken and defunct...it's still out there, floating, but it's like one of those spacecrafts on Star Trek that don't respond to hails, and when the crew of the Enterprise boards it, everybody on it turns out to be dead. Nooooo! Anyway, I'm reprising the post here before it disappears altogether.
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.]
“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.”
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
What in either of these bios would make a person go, wow, I
would love to read a book by her?
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
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
1. Why are you the best person to write a book like this? Do you have any insights, personality traits or
life experiences that make you a natural in the world of (Urban Fantasy,
mystery, writing about girls’ boarding schools or whatever.)
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.
Hopefully this article has been helpful to avoid
the sort of bio I wrote above. Does anybody have any other bio writing and
branding hints? Feel free to leave them!
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.