Query Letters: The Author Bio

This marks the fifth installment of an ongoing series on query letters. So far, we’ve covered:

Today we will talk about the Author Bio. Most query letters finish with a single, short paragraph outlining the author’s credentials. This is much more straightforward if you have conventional writing credentials, such as previous publications or writing awards.

If you don’t think you have writing credentials, think again. In lieu of publications or awards, consider the special skills and knowledge that went into your manuscript. Every manuscript has unique elements; that uniqueness reflects who you are and what you know about the world. Consider this question: Why are you the best person to write this manuscript? The answer will give you insight into your credentials as a writer.

It can be helpful to mention your manuscript has been vetted, say through a writer’s group or by a writing coach, but this isn’t necessary. Agents and editors will assume your manuscript has been critiqued by others, revised, and polished – multiple times – before you reached out to them.

Pro Tip: If your manuscript hasn’t been read by anyone else but you, STOP right now. You are not ready to query. You may think you’ve written the best novel in history, but trust me: No matter how talented you are, that’s a sloppy piece of work you just finished. Do your precious gem a favor, and fix it. Join a critique group, find a critique partner, get a writing mentor or coach, hire an editor…You don’t have to do all of these things, but take the manuscript through at least one full round of revisions before you submit. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time, as well as the agents’ time, if you query.

Once you know what credentials you will list in your author bio, organize the paragraph so the most important material is mentioned up front. Resist the temptation to tell your life story. Instead, focus on concrete credentials that speak directly to you as a writer and to the work you are submitting. The author bio is also a good place to mention any writing-related social media accounts. Provide links and handles as appropriate.

Remember it’s okay if your author bio is short. In fact, it’s better to keep this paragraph short. While an agent or editor may take your writing credentials into account, what’s really going to matter is whether they like your story idea and your writing style. For ideas on how to pitch your story idea, visit my previous posts on the Query Letter via the links are at the beginning of this post.

And that concludes my brief series on query letters! You now have the tools you need to write a professional query that can get your foot in the door and hopefully find a home for your manuscript.

Not surprisingly, I have more to say about querying, so I will probably come back to this topic soon. Until then, write on!

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