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Biography: The Fine Art of Bragging

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When submitting your text to a journal or publisher, expect to include a brief biography along with your proposal or query. While this shouldn’t matter as much as the quality of your writing, you want to make sure your “bio” doesn’t turn them off from the start.
Even if you sometimes suffer from impostor syndrome, you have an unfettered right to brag about yourself and your achievements in your bio. However, that doesn’t mean you have to list every publication you’ve ever been a part of or every award you’ve been nominated for, even if you’re very proud of that essay contest you won in fourth grade. Biographies like these make you look unprofessional or insecure.

Detailed view and path of a peacock portrait

First, there are two golden rules: always stick to the word count and always use the third person. If you write in multiple genres, you’ll want to have bios for each genre. For example, if you’re a poet and a travel writer, you’ll want to have separate bios, each depending on the type of publication you’re pitching to.
Why multiple BIOS? Let’s say you’re approaching a high-end market like Conde Nast Traveler to write an article about the best places in Paris for honeymooners, and the editors want you to include a bio with your piece. They want to know that you have experience as a travel writer. They are not interested in your poetry publications. They can really diminish your credibility as a travel writer.
Here’s a simple template to make sure your bio is as professional as possible. Unless otherwise noted, accept a 50-word limit.
YOUR FULL NAME is the author of YOUR BOOK TITLE. His/her/their writing has appeared in (list up to three journals/magazines) and numerous other publications. LAST NAME lives in (city, state/country) where he/she/they work (job).
That’s all. Short and sweet.
If you don’t have a single book, don’t worry. Just remove the first sentence from the example above and start the journal publication section with your full name. Three or four specific credits will be appropriate if you are not listing books. The magazines or journals you choose to list in your bio are up to you. You can list the ones you think are the most famous or high profile, or you can list the ones that have the same vibe or theme as the magazine/magazine you represent.
Some magazines specify other things in their bio requirements. For example, they may ask for a sentence of inspiration for an article they are publishing, or they may even ask for some personal details. The latter might include a funny or interesting hobby, like collecting letter knives or the number of chickens you have in your backyard.
Most publications specify the length of the biography. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the golden rules. Stick to it! If no length is specified, keep it short – 50 to 75 words.
At the end of your bio, if you have space, you can also include a note about where readers can find you online, for example – “Connect with him/her/them on Twitter @YourHandle. Or you can direct people to your website or online portfolio – “Read more about what (last name) writes at www.yourname.com”.
After taking the time to create a short bio, you’ll want to save it so you don’t have to rewrite it from scratch every time you submit an article to a new journal. Write a couple of versions – one under 50 words and one under 75 words – and update them regularly to replace older writers.
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BIO: Bernadette Geyer is a writer, editor and translator from Berlin, Germany. Her writing has appeared in FundsforWriters, The Writer, Oxford American, and others. Geyer has edited or translated more than 20 books and teaches the workshop “Simplify the Book Writing Process with a Book Style Guide” through WOW! Women in writing. You can learn more about her through her website at https://bernadettegeyer.com.

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