A gentleman at a conference came up to me and asked how he was supposed to include a bio in his query letter to literary agents when he had not published. He had a couple of stories in anthologies, and his day job had nothing to do with his writing. He kept catching himself making excuses in his bio.
I told him never to talk negative in a query. I spouted off a few rules I’ve learned over the years to use in bios, and here are some of them:
1) Never say your age. You never know the age of the person on the other end and what their prejudices may be. Instead, be “Every Man” or “Every Woman” so that age doesn’t even come into play.
2) Never say your publishing history unless it’s accomplished. If you have not published, just don’t bring up the subject. You want your writing and query to make the statement. By giving the initial impression you do not know what you are doing, you again prejudice the reader on the other end.
3) Never give your life’s story. If your profession means nothing to the query, then leave it out. I once heard an agent at a conference state she refused to sign on attorneys because they are usually already married to a profession, and writing is secondary to them.
4) Pick and choose what in your life matters to this potential offer. For instance, the gentleman in question once had an established career in engineering, but he made a conscious effort to start a business that manages fleets (cars, trucks, buses) for nonprofits so that he had more control over his own time. He on purpose worked four days a week so he had three-day weekends to write. That is worth saying.
5) If you don’t have a lot to say about your bio, then don’t. Better to have no bio than a wordy or lengthy one that gets in the way of the query.
The point of a query is to, first, sell your work and, second, sign you up. Of course the work must grab the agent’s attention first. Leave them curious about you, the individual, unless you have something that has the potential to grab their attention along with your writing style. If that means a two-line bio, so be it. If you don’t have that hook and that means no bio, again, leave it off. The initial impression isn’t about you… it’s about the book.
BIO – C. Hope Clark is author of two mystery series, two nonfiction books, and editor/founder of FundsforWriters.com