Sunday, May 5, 2013

What's In A Biography

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

During a conversation at the RT 2013 convention, the topic of Biographies came up.  From there it got me to thinking about what makes a good biography (in my opinion anyways).

So I figured I would share my thoughts ... feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with me. : )


1. DO write in third person.  I know, it may seem silly to write about yourself that way, but really - it just makes the biography sound better.  Just avoid the royal "we" where possible. : )

So instead of saying "I love to write ______", it should read "Michelle loves to write ________"

2. DO mention interesting things about yourself.  If you have traveled to an exotic place, especially if you found it inspirational, mention it.

3. DO share some small details.  Now I am not saying give a full run down of your entire life from birth to the present.  At the same time, readers like to feel like they are connecting with an author.  So if you love to hike, or to cross-stitch, consider mentioning it.  Just avoid going into the 'too-much-information' category. Some things are private - and should stay that way.  *wink*

4. DO have fun with it.  I love to read biographies where the author had a little bit of fun writing it.  It should never come across to the reader that you felt it was a chore to write - even if it was.

5. DO include your website URL.  I can't stress this enough!!!  The purpose of a Bio is to share a little bit about yourself with readers - but also to let them know where to find more.  It drives me nuts having to goole for an author's website, and sift through the mountain of links for their books on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.  I want to find the author's website where I can see information they provide about their books.  (Speaking of author websites - if you haven't already, check out my Top 5 DO'ES for websites post'.


This section I not so affectionately call the 'what were they thinking' tips ...

1. DON'T ever give dates in your bio.  What I meant by that is, if you have a new book in your series coming soon - don't give the exact release date for when it will be coming out.  The reason for this is two-fold.  One - delays can and do happen.  Two - it dates the biography.  If you put a date in your biography, once that date has passed - then it should be updated.  Problem with that is, most publishers don't have the time to upload a new bio for all of their authors each time a new book comes out, and you are certainly not going to want to go to all of the websites you have your bio up on and do the same.  So save yourself the headache and don't go there.

If fact, I have found that shying away from the whole mentioning of the new books coming out, how many books your have available, etc.  Again, just details that will get out of date and require the work and hassle of updating your bio at numerous websites.

2. DON'T be too specific.  Don't give too many clues as to where you live, etc.  Stalkers can and do happen.  So make sure to protect yourself with a general "mid-Missouri" or whatever.  You might have a contact address on your website - but you don't want it out there on every book, promo, review, etc. site in existence.

3. DON'T mention books released with another publisher.  This one can be tricky.  You want to mention awards and best-sellers and yet you don't want to mention books out with another publisher on another publishers website.  Because let's face it, it is a little bit rude to say "Best-selling author of ____ book, and have the bio up on a different publisher's website.  Kind of like having your prom pictures displayed at your wedding - when your spouse was not your prom date.

So how do you get around that?

There are a couple different ways.  You can go the route of "published with ____, ____, and ____".  Pitfall there is, you have to change all of your bios if you add or remove a publisher.  I speak from personal experience here when I say it is a pain and a half to deal with.

Alternatively, you can create a tweaked bio for each publisher.  To do this, you would create the generic bio you have on your website, and then for each publisher delete the details for other publishers that are not really appropriate.  Then add in small details you want to highlight.  Problem here is, then you run into issues with websites where your releases with numerous publishers.  In those cases, generally the first publisher to upload a bio is the one shown for all releases.

My personal suggestion - a generic, one size fits all bio.  And if you have a release you want to highlight, maybe consider a simple, check out my website at _____ for latest fan-favorite and best-seller information.  That way you get in the URL for your website, a mention for your best-sellers, and still keep your publisher happy.  Then on your website, you can highlight whatever you want to, without anyone's feathers being ruffled.  Plus - when you only have one bio, it is very easy to copy and paste when submitting to a different publisher.

4. DON'T write a novel length bio.  Yes, you want to give details.  Yes, you want it to be fun and engaging.  But you do not want it to take up more than a page of text.  I'd say stick under 350 words.  500 words should be the maximum.  Go for succinct.

5. DON'T stress the process.  A lot of authors I know hate three parts about writing: the proposal, the publication info (writing the blurb, filling in a cover art form, and stuff like that), and writing a bio.  Like I said before - try to have fun with it, but if nothing comes to you, go for simple.

Just telling the reader that you  started out as a neuro-surgeon and then started writing when you were forced to take a vacation in a remote cabin in the woods (while hubby was hunting, fishing, etc - or due to ulcers, stress, and so on) and were without internet and phone.  That's fine.  You fell in love with the creative process when you actually had down-time and could think.

Maybe you started writing when your husband was deployed and the kids started school.  That's cool too.

Or it could simply be a matter of you love writing, and have always done so.  You started our writing in a journal, and in high school penned your first novella as a class assignment and it all went from there.  Perfectly fine!

Remember the K.I.S.S. process.  Keep It Simple Silly ...


So the first thing you are probably thinking right now is, well fine Miss Opinionated - what does your bio look like?

Author Michelle Houston/ Cover Artist Michelle Lee:

Born to ride on the back of dragons, to journey among the stars in a ship traveling faster than light, or to dance the night away in the arms of a mysterious vampire, Michelle Houston willingly shares the worlds in her mind in an effort to bring them to life.

Writing everything from short and sweet stories, to hot and spicy tales of kink, from contemporary tales of erotic romance to erotica romances featuring Greek gods, vampires and were-creatures, she has crossed sexualities and has gone wherever her mental muse has guided her, a journey she has never regretted.

For her alter-ego, Michelle Lee, creating graphics is a labor of love.  As much as she may complain about creating covers for certain genres - there is a simple joy in putting a face to a story.  With her covers, she hopes to provide the wrapping for the gift an author creates.

Beyond that, Michelle has a love of the natural world around us (except for insects, spiders, snakes, scorpions, and she reserves the right to add more at any time).  She's one of those people that actually liked Biology in High School, and enjoys learning about all things science.

In other words, she is an ordinary woman with an imagination that is only held in bounds by how fast she can type.

You can find out more about Michelle Houston on her author website at: or her graphics site at 

Now that you have seen my bio, how about some good examples from your fellow BWL authors.

These authors have (in my opinion) nice bios.  I just kept hitting random authors pages until I found a couple good examples.  So if your bio isn't here it doesn't mean anything ...

~ * ~

Jenna Byrnes could use more cabinet space and more hours in a day. She’d fill the kitchen with gadgets her husband purchases off TV and let him cook for her to his heart’s content. She’d breeze through the days adding hours of sleep, and more time for writing the hot, erotic romance she loves to read.

Jenna thinks everyone deserves a happy ending, and loves to provide as many of those as possible to her gay, lesbian and hetero characters. Her favorite quote, from a pro-gay billboard, is “Be careful who you hate. It may be someone you love.”

For the latest news, visit Jenna’s website at

~ * ~
Being born in Bristol, England, Victoria Chatham grew up in an area rife with the elegance of Regency architecture. This, along with the novels of Georgette Heyer, engendered in her an abiding interest in the period with its style and manners and is one where she feels most at home.
Apart from her writing, Victoria is an avid reader of anything that catches her interest, but especially Regency romance. She also teaches introductory creative writing. Her love of horses gets her away from her computer to volunteer at Spruce Meadows, a world class equestrian centre near Calgary, Alberta, where she currently lives.

~ * ~
By day, Keira des Anges has the distinct pleasure of assisting teenagers with disabilities find employment while helping empower one life at a time. By night, she is a writer and avid reader of anything spooky, magical and totally out of this world.  

Keira is always a mother and a wife. Her children are her biggest inspirations and her husband is the rock that holds everything together while she continues writing and pursuing her dreams.

Find Keira on Facebook:

~ * ~
Ann Herrick grew up in Connecticut, where she graduated from The Morgan School and Quinnipiac University.  She now lives in Oregon with her husband, who was her high-school sweetheart.  Their wonderful daughter is grown, married and gainfully employed, and has given Ann her only grand-dog, Puff, a bloodhound-rottweiller-beagle mix.  While she misses the East Coast, especially houses built before 1900, she enjoys the green valleys, fresh air and low humidity in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Ann loves cats, walking, the Oregon Ducks and working in her back yard.  In addition to stories and books for children and young adults, Ann also writes copy for humorous and conventional greeting cards. She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted through her web site:

~ * ~
Jamie Hill was born and raised in a beautiful, mid-sized town in Midwest, USA. At various times she wanted to be a veterinarian, teacher, cheerleader, TV star or a famous singer. The one thing she always wanted to be was a writer. Starting at about age ten, she penned romance as she envisioned it in one spiral notebook after another.

 When she's not working at the day job she loves, Jamie enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and watching movies (the scarier the better!) In her ‘spare time’ she can often be found writing, editing, or doing something more mundane like housework. After that, she's probably taking a nap. She loves to hear from readers, so feel free to drop her a line.

 Find more about Jamie at these places online: 
Website  ~  Facebook

~ * ~
Multi-published author Rita Karnopp knew at a very young age she wanted to be a writer – and penned her first story at age sixteen. She is drawn to the history of the Native American and strives to bring alive the authenticity of a time past.  Whether writing suspense, Indian historicals, or contemporary romance, Rita enjoys bringing excitement and the enduring power of love to her stories. 
Rita currently resides in Montana with her husband and their loveable Cockapoo named Gema. 

When she isn’t reading, writing or doing research, Rita enjoys making dream catchers, gold panning, crystal or sapphire digging, rafting, fishing, canoeing, and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Also find Rita at:

LinkedIn: rita karnopp
Contact her at

~ * ~

Born way too many years ago, in a tiny community off the west coast of Canada, Jude Mason learned to love the outdoors and anything to do with the ocean pretty much as soon as she could walk. Married, at the ripe old age of eighteen to her high school sweetheart, they live very happily, still on the coast and in a small town.

Jude loves to hear from readers so feel free to drop her a line.


Newsletter group on Yahoo:

To be added to her mailing list:  

~ * ~
I hope that this post has helped on the topic of BIOGRAPHIES.  I know I personally hate writing the things ...

Remember, this post is just my opinion.  Mileage may vary.  So feel free to comment if you agree (or disagree) with my take on things.


  1. Great post Michelle. A good bio is like a good blurb- gets the reader interested and intrigued. Thanks for sharing! (I've always loved your bio, BTW. Very cool.)


    1. Thanks Jamie. It took me a years to get my bio to where it is today. ; )


  2. Super article, Michelle . . . you should have jet-lag ... and be exhausted ... tying to catch a few extra zzzzzzzz . . . :) Rita

    1. Nope, no jet lag. I drove in. KC is really very close to me, so it wasn't a long drive at all. Road construction was my big concern.

      As for tired - well, it is finals week, so I will exist that way for the next five days. LOL

  3. Hi Michelle,
    What a terrific post, very informative. I will dash off now and check my bio.



  4. Hi, Michelle,

    Excellent post, as others have noted. I have multiple versions of my bio for different situations, but they generally fit the rubrics you've proposed here. I've definitely been bitten by bios that go out of date!

    I really admire people who can create humorous bios, though. I think those really stick in reader's minds.

    1. Oh yeah - out of date bios *shudders*. Been burned by a few myself, and bios that list my publishers - those I am STILL dealing with.

      Live and learn ... and share my own mistakes to try and help others avoid them. That's kind of my purpose with these posts.

  5. Thanks for the tips, Michelle. I'll go revisit my bios, and read your article about websites.

  6. Thanks for sharing your valuable insight, Michelle. I keep going back and forth with my bio. Time to go back once again and rewrite :-)

    1. Kathy - the good news is, once you find a format you like, then you are done with it. : ) I really like that, not having to constantly update mine.


I have opened up comments once again. The comments are moderated so if you're a spammer you are wasting your time and mine. I will not approve you.

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