What does a reader want to know about an author? How about an agent? An editor? A librarian? As writers we're often asked to submit a bio, and the question arises, what should it include?

Not the same things in all cases. As a reader BSW (before serious writing) I really didn't give a thought to the author at all, in fact didn't pay attention to names unless I really liked the book and wanted more by that person. This resulted in some embarrassing moments when I began meeting authors at conferences, because I had this blank look when their name was mentioned. Usually if their protagonist's name was mentioned I could say, "Oh, yes, I've read that." But who knew David Morell from Lee Child back then? So a bio written for fans should be an interesting but not-too-personal introduction. Some suggest including the most intriguing thing you can come up with about yourself: "Author Jones captures Kimodo dragons in his spare time." I guess if you have something like that it creates interest, but if it doesn't relate to your writing, I can't see how it sells books.

Of course some readers want to know everything, including what you had for breakfast this morning. You have to decide how much of yourself you'll share with fans. Most authors (unlike certain "personalities" on television) give away little of their personal lives although they're generous about sharing their creative processes.

What's important is to keep in mind who's asking the questions. Agents, for example, want to know if they can count on you if they take you on as a client. Will you complete your deadlines or make excuses? Editors want to know if you can take criticism, accept guidance, and work with them on a quality product. Neither of these groups care if you like stained-glass art as a hobby, unless your books center on a stained-glass artist who solves murders and gets into lots of trouble doing it. Bios for queries and other submissions should focus on your writing skills and your ability to get things done.

I find conference bios the most fun to write. They're short and force me to boil my life down to a short paragraph or two. Here I concentrate on potential contacts who may read the bio. There may be an agent, but there may also be a person who sets up speaking engagements for a library or a club. They'll get that I'm a writer, but I also want them to think: "She might be fun to have at our dinner meeting in September."

The answer to the question I began with, then, is that different people want different things. I don't believe in using the same bio for everything. I have one on my website that is generic so that users can grab it when they need a bio quickly, but when I submit something myself I tailor it to the people who will read it. I like the idea of a fresh approach, because what they want to know is where I am now, not where I used to be. And believe me, I'm never standing still.

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