What Makes a Good Bio?

bird watercolorArtwork © R.L. Herron 2011

Ron Herron is a writer who has mastered graphic design, watercolor, photography, speed-reading, publishing, a great variety of computer apps and many other glorious pursuits of diverse ingenuity.

Humility he still needs to work on.


Quite often, when I look at things I’ve written, it occurs to me my bio frequently sounds something like that above. And, in case you’re wondering where I’m going with this, that’s not a good thing.

An awful lot of good people write bad bios for themselves. Every indie author (and a great many other people, too) wants to sound erudite and just this side of awesome … but what they need and what their ego makes them say are generally different things.

I’m guilty of it. Like I said … often.

But by following a few simple rules you can write a good bio for yourself in less time, with less effort and everyone from you, to your mother, to your spouse, to your reader wins.

Impressive People Have Short Bios
Trust me (I have it from the highest authority … my sweet wife), no one is likely to be impressed by a long series of unimpressive things. The shorter your bio, the more people will remember it.

In fact, if you have a great one sentence bio, people may be curious enough to find out more about you. On the other hand, if you have a long, tedious, overly self-aggrandizing one they are almost certain never to want to discover anything more.

They might not even finish reading it.

If you’ve written a New York Times best-seller and are famous enough to appear on TV, your byline will probably only be a few words long: Author. Lecturer. Pulitzer-Prize Winner.

Keep this in mind. I just went through the exercise trying to craft my press release. The goal is to make your bio shorter, not longer.

Invert Your Pyramid
Put the important facts first. Assume with each word fewer and fewer people will be reading. It’s a great assumption because it’s true. It’s something you learn in Public Relations 101.

Don’t try to be clever, unless you’re absolutely sure you are (are you listening, self?). One bad joke can permanently ruin your image.

A sad trend, probably born of Twitter (sorry Twitter), are bios where people self-describe themselves with a multitude of traits (sort of like what I just did above).

Quite frankly, this often backfires and makes you look like either an egomaniac or someone who probably sucks at everything. Just state one or two traits relevant to the audience you’re trying to interest, and let it go at that.

That’s it. You really don’t need any more than that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me one more time, I have to go pass the draft of my latest bio attempt past my most vocal critic, before she gets started making us lunch.


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7 Responses to “What Makes a Good Bio?”

  1. Marny Copal Says:

    Hm. It’s not a link, but it works for me when I cut and paste. Let’s try this: http://marnycopal.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/three-cheers-for-versatility/


    • Ron Herron Says:

      Thanks, Marny. I still can’t get the other to work for me. I’ve cut and pasted it into Explore, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox and it doesn’t go anywhere! 😦


  2. Marny Copal Says:

    Great ideas here. It seems I have a few bios to rework. Ron, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. No obligations. Here’s the scoop: wp.me/p1PqyL-61 🙂


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