If you’re sending out your poetry or short fiction for publication in a magazine, online or in print, you’ll want to include a short, third person biography with your submission. Not only is this a professional approach, it also shows consideration to the editor/s since not chasing you for the information will be one less administrative task for them. Even if they don’t accept your work, your professionalism and your name will have been noted which is never a bad thing in the competitive world of writing.
What sort of information should you include?
I’ve been thinking about this recently because a few poets who’ve had work published on my poetry site (And Other Poems) have mentioned that their bio there is now out of date. The site will be three years old this August and it features over 300 poets so, clearly, keeping all the author biographies up to date would require more woman hours than I’m able or willing to offer!
It isn’t possible to make a (living) author bio completely timeless but there are a few common sense things you can do to preserve its lifeline. For instance, include information that won’t change, ie your year of birth rather than your current age, your place of birth rather than your current place of residence. If you’re mentioning time and dates at all, better to be specific ie “Her pamphlet was published in 2014” rather than “Her pamphlet was published last year” or “In 2015 he co-edited the Spring issue of Aardvark Magazine rather than “He’s currently co-editing……..”
Personally, I think shorter biographies work best, especially if you’re submitting to an online publication, and print magazines usually have limited space as well. Rather than mentioning EVERY competition win or listing, include only the most recent and/or most impressive. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to list every single magazine that’s published your work but you should mention the most prestigious ie “is published or forthcoming in many magazines including The Rialto“.
Although I suggested aiming to include information that won’t date, it’s always worth taking advantage of the extra publicity for any upcoming events you’re involved in, ie “Will be performing at Trumpton Village Arts Festival in August 2015.” Include a link to the event. If you’ve published a book, include a link to your publisher’s website or a link to a place where the book can easily be ordered.
But you won’t be able to include every single publication, award win or event, and a limited word count is all the more reason to own your own website or blog, a place people can easily find you, where you can write and keep updated as many autobiographical details as you like. Readers need only to click on the link to your site to find out all about your recent competition wins, new publications, forthcoming readings or workshops, and recent accolades. If you include pictures, they can also see what you currently look like.
Do you have any tips for what makes a good bio? Want to share yours?