Who Am I? – About the Author


The author biography section in a book proposal seems to be one of the least anxiety-provoking sections, yet I often see areas that could be improved. Here are a few ideas on how to make your author bio section the best it can be.

Include a portrait

When I was an intern on Capitol Hill, one of my duties was to open the mail. On one occasion, we received a resume that included a portrait, which was not the common practice at that time. The portrait wasn’t large, and if you looked like this man, you would put your picture on everything, too. But the office manager said, “I would never hire him. He’s an egomaniac.” Now, maybe my office manager was jealous. (And no, I don’t think he’s reading this). But I thought including a picture was a great idea. On proposals, Steve Laube recommends including a portrait in the author bio. And no, no one will think you are an egomaniac. I have put together many proposals under our banner, and I can tell you that including the visual is helpful. We like portraits that are about the size of a postage stamp. Most pleasing is to have the picture on the left hand margin, with the text wrapped around it.

Speaking of text…

Always write in third person. At first, writing about yourself in third person will feel strange, and maybe even a little arrogant. But don’t dismay. Once you get the hang of it, writing this way is fun. The reason why we ask that you write this section in third person is because your proposal is being presented by your agent, not you. So third person makes sense.

So what do I include?

I like to see a snippet about your life that gives me an idea about who you are. It’s fine to say you live in God’s beautiful country of (name your state — we all think we live in the closest place to Eden), with your spouse/kids/pet monkey named Ivan and you enjoy reading/teaching Sunday School/skydiving. This can be a good place to tell me about your education unless you want to list that under a separate heading. I’d like to see why you are passionate about writing about romance/the Amish/fatherhood/Saturnites.

Special Qualifications

If you are writing about a topic that requires familiarity and expertise, such as the Amish, it’s fine to put your special qualifications here, because this is about yourself, and about your life. Say you worked on a ranch every summer during high school, and your novel is set on a ranch. You can include that information here. Not all proposals will include this section.

Professional Organizations

This listing can appear in the marketing section, but in my view, the organizations you choose to join are really more about you and your professional development than marketing opportunities. One exception: if you are a member of organizations with the sole mission of marketing books, then it would make sense to include those under your marketing helps section. I recommend writing out the names of the organizations rather than using just acronyms, and include the links to their sites. Truly, CBA agents will know major groups such as ACFW immediately, but it’s still professional to include the complete information. I remember once receiving a proposal where the author listed about twenty (no kidding) organizations, using nothing but acronyms. I wonder if the author knew what all the initials stood for. With that many organizations, I’ll admit a few of them stymied me. Not only that, but the author appeared either to be addicted to joining clubs, unfocused, or worse. Better to choose one or two excellent organizations and devote yourself to those rather than racking up memberships, thereby diluting your effectiveness in them and their benefit to you.

Next time…

I hope to blog about marketing helps. In the meantime, enjoy writing your author bio. This is one time you can brag without worrying about making your sister in law jealous.

Your turn

What special qualifications do you have to write your WIP?

What is the most challenging part of the author bio for you?


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The Keys to a Great Book Proposal

“I think book proposals are one of the most difficult things to write, second only to obituaries.”

When I received this email from one of my authors, Sherry Gore, (and yes, I have permission to quote her), I could relate. I’ve never written obituaries, even though writing one’s own is a popular goal-setting exercise. But I have written and read many book proposals so I know they aren’t easy to write. Sometimes they aren’t easy to read. So how can you make your book proposals easy to read? When my assistant and I are scanning proposals, here are the key points we first notice:

1) Format: Is the overall look of the proposal easy on the eye? A poorly-formatted proposal won’t be rejected if we are wowed by the content, but proposals with a pleasing appearance make a great impression.

2) Title: Tell us immediately what we are viewing: Fiction/nonfiction? Series/standalone? Genre? Historical/contemporary?

3) Hook: What is the spirit of your book?  Fried Green Tomatoes meets Star Trek? Or A Systematic Approach to Spiritual Spring Cleaning?

4) Back Cover Blurb: In two or three short paragraphs, make me want to buy your book. Take the time to make this sparkle, because great back cover copy will help sell me on your book, then the editor, then the pub board, then marketing, then your readers.

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7 Ways Agents Measure Social Media

Guest Blog by Thomas Umstattd

In the old days all you had to do was tell an agent or publisher “I’m on Facebook, Twitter and I have a blog” and they would be impressed with your online presence. Now publishers are getting more sophisticated in measuring your online presence. They are realizing that not all blogs are the same and that the size of your Twitter following does not directly correlate to influence.

This post goes over 7 ways agents and publishers will measure your social platform in 2012. You may also want to check out 7 Things Agents & Publishers Look for in Author Websites (2012 Edition).

1. Number of Facebook Likes

What is it?

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Fresh Formulas

Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.

These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.

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Your Brand is Not a Limitation

It is All About Expectations

What if you bought a recording from a music group expecting their usual collection of ballads, only to hear guitar anthems? Or what if you picked up a book with a pink cover that promised a love story but ended up reading a novel where hapless and nameless victims suffered gunshot wounds on every page? You’d be disappointed, right? I would be. You don’t want to disappoint readers, so branding has become a consistent topic.

Your Best Friend

Some writers find the concept of branding to be limiting. When they think of branding the TV show “Rawhide”  and Cattle comes to mind.  And despite the awesomeness of such a theme song, they want to keep their options open.

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Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

Book trailers, if done well, can be a cool component to the marketing of your project. If done poorly or if done cheaply they do very little to impress a potential reader.

Most authors love to see their work done this way. In some ways if feels like the story has made it to the “big screen.”

But does it sell books? When was the last time you clicked and then bought because of the trailer?

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