Who Am I—in Fifty to One Hundred Words
By Amy Lane
Maybe someday, when the shame has faded a little, I will write a full article of all of the sins I committed when I was self-publishing. I have lots of excuses—I was naïve, I was desperate, I was easily led astray—but the fact was simply this: I had not yet figured out who I was.
It was stupid, really. All I needed to do was look at my author bio.
Your author bio says, in a very tiny space, what people can expect not just from your books but from your online persona. Since most m/m authors work not just in the publishing industry but in the e-book industry, you need to choose your words, your anecdotes, your list of accomplishments with the idea in mind that this is your billboard—you can paint it any way you like.
Think of it like this: if you were going to get three tattoos where the whole world would see them, what pictures would you get to symbolize who you are?
Now, for me, this isn’t just a hypothetical question. On my arm, I have an elaborate tattoo that’s a pictograph of my children’s names, and on my shin I have one that represents Merlin the Teacher. When I look back at my bios—and I’ve got several, for different publishers and spots on the web—my family is the first thing I mention, and (before it was taken away from me) my erstwhile profession is the second. I’ve wanted for nearly a year now to get the elf from the cover of Litha’s Constant Whim put on my unadorned shoulder, and when that happens, I really will be a walking advertisement for the things I am proudest of.
And my bio says it all.
It also says I knit, my house is a disaster, and there is usually some sort of reference to or implication of my squirrel brain, and this is good too. It means you can expect to find these things in my stories a lot, and that if you talk to me online, I’ll be earnest but not humorless, and sometimes, I will shout “squirrel” in a crowded room because that squirrel is shiny and interesting and everything else has faded into the background.
And this entire accretion of details also tells people I am not particularly smooth and am craptastic with subterfuge and shiny appearances. (Back when I started, it should have told me that the hard sell and writing my own reviews and suggesting to every fan that they review me on the Internet and fighting them for that last star is not who I am, but honestly, it didn’t take me long to figure that out on my own.)
And did I mention these details should say that I like to make language sit up, roll over, and go get the thing, the thing, the glorious thing? Well, at least I hope that last part is true—in spite of the candor I work very hard at maintaining, I hope my bio doesn’t portray me without cleverness or some sort of skill that makes this writing thing a good fit. That’s important too—whether it’s a display of verbal acuity or a helpful list of awards for work well done, you want to give people a reason to have faith that your work will be entertaining. That is why people read, yes?
So that’s a lot to cover in fifty to one hundred words. My suggestions for getting it done?
Well, that tattoo thing is a real possibility. If you were going to make your body your billboard, which pictures would you choose? What would you say about those pictures that you want people to hear?
You could also list the five very most significant things about you personally—and then elaborate.
If that doesn’t work, think about the things that impress you about people and then look and see which of these qualities you possess and can put in your bio.
And no matter which technique you try, your finale is always the same: Revise. Revise, revise, pass the bio around, and revise again, and then put it away for a day and revise some more. Hone, whittle, tinker, sand, and smooth until absolutely every word of those few allotted is chosen like a stone for the crown of the Goddess herself. If you choose the words that represent you carefully, you won’t have to make those stones shine—they’ll shine by merit alone.