Isn’t it fun to write about yourself? Wouldn’t you love to make a career out of coming up with new ways to talk about how interesting you are? Me neither.
Can author bios sell books? If you believe that a great cover, glowing reviews and a spot-on book description can sell books, then you’ll believe me when I say yes. The author bio is a featured data point all over the web. If a reader loves your bio, then imagine what they can get out of an entire book! Yeah, author bios sell books.
The fact is, author bios are the best way to make yourself compelling to a complete stranger who’s thinking about buying your book. Very few authors over the years have enjoyed crafting bios. But we still need them.
And we need to write more of them! For example, you need to tailor unique bios for your marketing efforts. Blogs, newsletters, deal sites, listings… many of them want a unique bio and book description when you submit. It’s frustrating but it makes sense. They don’t want their audience (or Google) to see them as redundant.
So here are some best practices that I’ve discovered on my journey. They’ve saved me time. They’ve made promotion just a tad bit easier just when I needed it most. And they’ve sold a few books!
Author bio tip 1. Your bio isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Okay, technically that’s not true, but think about it. You’ve caught someone’s attention! That’s a big win! Don’t lose it by taking your eyes off of your goal here.
So make the bio appeal to your target audience. If that means showing off your snappy, friendly and entertaining self to sell your kids book, then cool. If you’re going for insightful, deep and intelligent for your paranormal romance then let it fly.
But please, whatever you do, don’t neglect your bio. It’s not below you. Some readers consider it a key part of their decision to buy, so treat your bio with the respect it deserves.
While all five of these tips will help you make a better bio, tips 2 and 3 are the best advice for how to write an author bio that sells books.
Author bio tip 2. Write the bio for the site where it will live, and mention your reading interests. As I’ve advised before, you should dig into the online store that you’re selling on. Even a smattering of research can yield insights that will help focus your bio.
What kind of books do you enjoy? Mystery? On Amazon you get the following drop-down results when you type that term in the search window:
My advice for this genre is to mention you like “mystery series” on your B&N bio. Mention you enjoy “mystery books” or “mystery and thriller” on your Amazon bio.
See what I’m doing there? I’m leveraging the site’s search engine to tell me what customers search for. All the terms that you see in the drop-down are arranged by popularity, so it’s great info that you can use to connect with readers.
I’ve written on this method of finding your target audience before, so I won’t belabor the point.
But one last thing, don’t get bogged down on this step. Really, what you should do is…
Author bio tip 3. Be passionate. When you write about your passions, your writing gets better. So mention your passions — hobbies, family, travel stories. It will help you connect with the reader.
Author bio tip 4. When you do finally get in the mood to hammer your way through your author bio, don’t just write one! Hey, you’re on a roll, so take advantage. Write five to ten quick and dirty bios that you can adjust later. Keep it in one file, somewhere safe. Then when you run into one of those sites that requires you to give them a unique author bio, you’ll have some fresh ones to choose from. Tighten it up and you’re done.
Author bio tip 5. First or third person? Great question. More independent authors are choosing first person. I think the reason for this is two-fold. One, it’s more comfy. Two, they want to convey their brand in a more casual way.
The counter argument is “first-person is amateurish and third person is professional.” The bios you read on books in the bookstore are rarely in first person, after all.
But I think most bios sound dull. And I’ll bet they’re dull because they’re written by authors who aren’t comfortable writing about themselves in the third person. Or they’re written by a hired hand who doesn’t know the author. Either way I lean toward first person myself because that’s what comes naturally.
How about you? Go ahead and paste your author bio in the comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to write an author bio that sells books!
By Ben Zackheim
I’m not sure if this is great or terrible timing as I just updated my bio on my website and Amazon yesterday, using a lot of the same ideas. I’ll go ahead and post mine as you suggested as an example you or anyone else can critique. Maybe it will help others as well.
Tyler Scott Hess is an engaging Christian fiction author determined to follow the footsteps of C.S. Lewis as a master of various genres, writing with the heart of a Christian dedicated to entertaining and putting forth the light of the world based on his faith.
Educated at Oregon State University and Calvary Chapel Bible College, his studies enhanced and life experiences have increased his desire to reach both those within and outside of the church, leading to various ministries in his home church, as well as crafting stories to stimulate greater thought and care concerning the spiritual world.
The Dream Saga is a three book series of novels on the forefront of inspiring contemporary Christian Fiction examing the life of a man desperate to rid himself of the world, find himself in Christ, and walk with God under disastrous circumstances.
Adelaide Martin is the heroine of the young adult series portraying a teenager fresh out of high school who has always imagined herself going to Nashville to become a famous singer. She finds herself thrust into the spotlight when she joins her best friend’s band in their moment of need. Adelaide takes a journey through the music scene as she must find out who she is in the face of internal and external pressures in the music industry.
What I really like about your bio is that it’s focused like a laser on your target audience. You’re appealing to folks’ passion for their faith. I’m not sure what your experience has been reaching out to fellow Christians. Has it been fruitful? Do you find that speaking of your passion has helped you connect with readers? I also like that you segued into describing your series. I do that too, with limited success. I’ve actually moved Shirley Link’s origin to the front of my bio instead of to the end. Since doing so I’ve averaged two more downloads on Safe Case per day, though I don’t have enough data to verify that it was the bio that did it.
I just went to your amazon bio…I like how it cut straight to the point about your books, that’s an interesting approach and it makes me wish I thought of it first! What I did is look at a bio of another author who writes about blogging and mimic her approach a bit, connecting my relevant interests to my most popular series. To answer your question in a round about way I discovered that it is best to be as clear as possible about the faith aspect of my books so readers know a little bit of what to expect going into it.
How are you feeling about having Safe Case perma-free now that it has been so for awhile? Has it been worth the loss of sales on that one book in order to promote the rest of the series? I’ve been considering doing that for The Dream when the third book in the trilogy comes out this summer.
I’ve had mixed results with my perma-free strategy, but I believe that’s due to one thing: incorrect category placement. For a long time I ranked in the top 5 of free teen mysteries and I got a lot of downloads but also got a lot of mediocre reviews from readers who were disappointed in the more children’s book tone. As it turns out Shirley is better for the 9-12 year old crowd than she is for the 14-17 crowd. I’m in the process of moving the book to a new category so it will find its real audience. Late last year I tested it out in another category for a week and the move destroyed my download numbers. I switched back to teen mysteries so I could think things out a bit more. I still plan on changing categories, but I want to do it right.
Bottom line is that perma-free definitely saw my book downloaded and read by more people. Too bad I chose the wrong category and disappointed my audience! Lesson learned. As I’m sure you know, it’s also critical to make sure you handle the back matter upsell to other books in your series. I think the 1-2-3 punch of a quality perma-free/perfectly categorized/wise upsell ebook is powerful. But, as of now, that’s speculation. I got 2 out of those 3 right but that won’t cut it!
First person or third person? Good question (and good points). I think it depends on where *this* bio is being posted.
On your website and social media: first person, as third person looks odd (it’s her Facebook page, yet she’s talking about herself in the third person. Isn’t that a little strange?)
On your book cover: third person. That’s what readers expect to see. First person (IMO) looks amateur.
On retail sites: it depends on your brand.
I like the advice to write several versions of your bio. Go one step further, and write several each in first and third person, then you can pick which is most appropriate for the specific use.
Excellent points, Iola! I love your breakdown of what type of bio belongs where. It makes sense. I agree that a bio on the book cover that’s in first person could be odd. But what about a bio on the inside of an ebook? Some people combine their bio and their upsell to other books on the same page.
And YES, such a good idea to have several bios in both povs!