Recently, I’ve been working with several new authors, helping them beef up their online presence. One thing an author needs to have handy is a bio. But a person’s bio varies, depending on how and where it’s used. So this week, I posed the following question to my fellow bloggers: “You’re the headline speaker at a writers’ conference, and you need to submit a short bio for the program. What will you include?”
No, I am not scheduled to speak at any conferences. And no, I have no aspirations toward doing so, although I have done presentations for my local writers groups. As an author who seeks out promo opportunities, I am often asked to describe myself, and I thought that if I took this opportunity to think about and create a public speaking bio, then I’d be prepared if and when the need arises.
So, let’s start with the basics. I’ve studied the bios of many of my colleagues, and took note of the things authors include. I also checked out author bios on various websites that feature books and authors. Some are extremely short, while others go on for several paragraphs. Here’s what I found:
Most contain something about where they’re from and where they are now (some are less specific than others). My info would say that I was born in Japan, moved to the American Midwest as a baby, and continue to live in the western part of the Mitten State – also known as Michigan.
Many bios contain stuff about education and professions other than writing. I studied music education, spent 28 years teaching elementary students, and another 15 years teaching university students.
Authors often acknowledge family members. I have a husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and all but one live within fifteen miles of our home.
Then there are the writing accomplishments. Depending on the audience for which my bio is intended, I might mention my academic works (musical plays, academic teaching units, and a short section in a college text) or my romance fiction, especially those that had achieved “best-seller” status at one time or another on Amazon. I’ve also seen some bios in which the author compares his or her writing to that of someone famous.
Since my scenario involves being a speaker, I guess I could include my few experiences presenting at various meetings – music teacher groups (did one on Japanese children’s songs), writing groups (presented on using social media to build a platform and another one on building tension and emotion in writing). None of these required me to provide a bio, since everyone at these meetings already knew who I was and what I’d done.
I’ve noticed that a few authors include a bit about the message or purpose in their writing. Debbie Macomber, one of my favorite romance authors, includes this statement in her bio: In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope.
I do realize that a bio for a speaking engagement is going to be a bit different from one on a website or blog. I found a website full of advice for speaker bios, and the examples there focused more on qualifications, earned accolades, and what listeners could expect to learn from their presentations. They’re also a lot shorter – one example containing 300 words was deemed “long.”
After much consideration, I decided to combine as much as I could into a succinct paragraph. Would you be inclined to book me as a speaker?
Patricia Kiyono is a multi-published author who honed her speaking skills during a 40-year career in education. Her presentations on using writing tools and promotional strategies reflect experiences gained while keeping up with her continuously multiplying progeny. Patricia’s romance stories have been compared to those in Hallmark TV movies, minus the commercials. She is a two-time finalist for the short story category of the RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) awards, and spends most of her time ticking off items on her ever-growing to-do list.