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Your Author Bio is your Business Card

I'm pulling together the final bits and pieces for Sprawl and it got me thinking about author bios. Sprawl is going to be the flagship book for Twelfth Planet Press at Aussiecon 4 in September. It's the biggest anthology we've done to date and I think it is also the strongest. With a very strong Australian suburban voice, it will aim to present to a world stage some of the finest Australian short fiction writers of right now.

Including bios for all the contributors was always part of the project brief. It's a chance for each writer to take 10 secs with each Sprawl reader and tell them something about themselves, their writing and most importantly, where else that reader should go to find more of their work.

At Last Short Story, we have had the opportunity to read A LOT of author bios over our time. For something that seems quite flippant - one paragraph after maybe 7000 words of writing - it can be the most memorable part of the experience. There are times when the author bios are the most entertaining parts of an anthology or magazine. That usually says a lot more about the anthology or magazine than the bios but it brings forward something really crucial, I think.

I often ask for bios to include in projects and make no comment about what is submitted in return. An author is entitled to provide any information they like to promote themselves. But the key word in the last sentence was "promote". Afterall, these bios are directed at the reader. And as a reader, I love reading author bios. They can be entertaining and tell me the kind of setting the author lives in, who they live with, what kind of pets they have and whether or not they like to knit. And after reading a paragraph like that I might think, "Aww that's nice, isn't it? They have three furry cats and they're all called Bob. Cute."

Whatever. Because that author has missed a vital opportunity. If I enjoyed a writer's work, I am reading their bio to find out where I can find more of their work. And if I bought the work I am currently reading their bio in, chances are, I am more than likely to go away and buy something else, be that a collection, an anthology or a novel. I can't do that if all the author has told me is their favourite colour and whether they are a cat or a dog person. They have chosen to end our relationship because they didn't leave me their calling card. And more importantly, they have told me, as a publisher, that they do not take every single opportunity they get to promote their work.

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Comments

stephbg
May. 28th, 2010 07:42 am (UTC)
There's a difference between a bio and a resume, and a big difference between writing for your audience and writing for your current or future publisher. It seems a bit much to expect all that from one little paragraph.

As a reader I am firmly in the "I like to know if the author has cats" camp, although it doesn't hurt to squeeze in some key publisher names if you have them. If I want to know everything they've published (which might be more since that particular bio was printed), I'll google them, or look up the web site that they've provided in the bio ;-)
twelfthplanet
May. 28th, 2010 07:44 am (UTC)
*If* they provide a website in their bio ...
stephbg
May. 28th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
Absolutely. If they have no online presence when I go looking then they're dead to me.