When people read your book, they read you.
When I read a book, I seek out the “about the author” page. Many one-paragraph author bios are not especially enlightening or entertaining, and I don’t expect a full scale memoir, but even the briefest can tell me something about the author’s relationship to the book, and sometimes give me a reason to search out their other titles.
Consider offering the reader more than just the usual name, city of residence, occupation and when you started writing.
In one blog post, writer TA Sullivan recounted waffling about whether to write a bio for her own book, then reflected how she scanned the bios of other writers as she chose books at a store or library. “Nowadays, I still check out the author’s bio when looking for a book to read. Clever bios, witty bios, or even sincere bios can help me connect with the author, which then makes taking a chance on their book seem not quite so chancy. An author’s bio can help remind the readers that you (the author) are a person, too,” she said.
Her point has statistical backup at Smashwords. The giant ebook distributor said on its website, “In 2011 when we surveyed ebook buyers and asked them their most common decision factor that guided how they discover and purchase books, the #2 answer, accounting for 18% of respondents, was that they first look for books from their favorite authors. This speaks to the importance of author as brand. Your "brand" is what you represent to your readers, and how your readers perceive you and your ability to write great stories.”
In typical Smashwords fashion, it used that information to make available to authors an “interview” page containing sample questions you can use or discard, with the option of adding your own. (It’s a self-interview.) It’s an easy-reading and low-stress way of connecting better with readers.
“The secret to creating a great Smashwords Interview is to ask yourself questions that prompt honest answers that address what readers would want to know about you (even if they don’t yet know they want to know it), and what you want readers to know about you. You want to find that common intersection where what you want to share matches what your target readers might enjoy knowing about you,” it said.
That’s good advice. The idea of searching out points of common interest with readers is much like what skilled politicians do on the handshake circuit: “Oh, you like boiled cucumbers? What a coincidence – so do I.”
The many places on the web where authors can and should list their books, from Amazon to Goodreads to Bowker (home of the ISBN numbers) and many more, almost all have free space for authors to enter biographical information. I’ll admit to sometimes rushing through and leaving some of these blank when I’m in a hurry. Now I try to keep a standard bio handy for cut and paste, so the work of posting your name and story around the web only need last a few seconds.
You can do more than this on your author website. Most websites of traditionally published authors do carry longer bio material on their “about the author” page - more at least than usually appears in a print book. Does your author page have maybe one or two paragraphs of background information about you? The author site bio for Gillian Flynn, who wrote Gone Girl, runs nine paragraphs. That is not overlong but enough to provide some color to her story and add links to her previous books.
I’m experimenting on my site with something longer still, a “mini-memoir” more than twice as long as this post. It’s not that my life has been so engrossing to the average stranger, but that added insight into me may give some readers a better idea of who I am and what we might have in common, and something in it may trigger the memory of my name more easily when the next time comes to pick up a book. A video may be coming next.
Sullivan explained when writing about her own author bio, “I admit to finding it hard to ‘brag’ about myself. I don’t consider myself all that interesting . . .” I get it. Most of us can sympathize.
But we’re writers: Making it interesting is what we do.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.
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