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Do These Things Belong in My Query Letter? (Part 2: Author Bio)

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My apologies for the long break over here! What I love about summer is all the events with family and friends, but I must admit it’s harder to get in front of the computer.  : )

Today I’ll address another question about query letter content: Do you need an author bio?

Technically, no—it’s one of those optional parts. I’ve seen any number of successful queries that concentrated on the all-important pitch and never got into the author’s personal information. But a well-written bio can definitely enhance your query. Aside from the voice you demonstrate in your pitch paragraph, it’s the best way to give agents a glimpse of who you are as a writer and a person. It can also show the agent why you’re qualified to write your book.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Save your biographical information for the end of the query, after you talk about your book. The exception to this rule is when you have major publishing credits or other experience that could make a significant difference to the agent; for example, the fact that you currently work in publishing. That type of information usually carries weight (it shows you’re a savvy writer who knows the industry) and should go in your opening paragraph to ensure the agent doesn’t miss it.
  • Keep job or life experience relevant. If you’re an M.D. writing a sci-fi novel about a doctor who discovers a virus that makes people invincible, you’ve got great credentials. Here’s an example from NLA author Courtney Milan (back before she was a tremendously successful published author, that is). Or if your commercial literary novel is set in Bangkok and you spent half of your childhood there, that’s relevant as well.
  • Ditto for interests and hobbies. Is a penchant for bug collecting the quirk that makes your main character interesting? Then go ahead and mention your South American beetle collection. Just go easy on the details!
  • Keep it short and sweet—one short paragraph is plenty. Unless you are already a star in the book world, your emphasis should be mainly on your story.