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Guest Keli Gwyn: 3 Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Author Bio

I’m thrilled to welcome my good friend and writing partner Keli Gwyn to the Ruby blog!  She’s got some fun tips for making our author bios the best they can be.  Welcome, Keli!

 

Is your author bio boring?

Mine was—until I took a workshop from social media guru Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. She taught my fellow workshop participants and me how to make our bios lots more fun.

 

I think of it as taking a plain vanilla bio and turning it into a delicious sundae with plenty of yummy toppings. Here’s how. . .

Kristen gave us 3 great tips, which I’m paraphrasing.

1. Remember who we are.

We’re writers. She said that all too often when we novelists draft a bio we seem to forget we’re fiction writers. We’re used to making up cool stories that captivate readers, but when we approach our bios we go all factual and miss out on the fun.

2. Remember who our readers are.

Who reads our books? Drum roll please. Readers!

Yes, readers read our books, but our bios often sound like little more than a recitation of our writerly accomplishments. Sure, I’m a member of RWA® and its FH&L, TGN, and SVR chapters along with being a member of ACFW, but what reader cares about that? Do they even know what the acronyms stand for? Are they all that interested in the fact that I finaled in the GH and won the Launching a Star, Maggie, Emily, etc? I doubt it. And if we’re honest, do they really care that much about my family?

Nope. They want to know one thing. Can I tell an interesting story?

Kristen said we can include the writer-related facts and a little about our families, but she suggested putting that type of information at the end of the bio and keeping the beginning fun for the reader.

3. Remember that our job is to market ourselves.

If we want to reach readers, we need to give them what they want: good stories. We do that by keeping our bios fun, showing readers what types of stories we write, and giving them a taste of our voices.

Our bios are our opportunities to sell ourselves as writers of stories readers want to read.

 

Confession Time

My publisher asked me for a bio, which will appear on the back cover of my debut novel. I sent it to the lovely editorial assistant I’ve worked with at Barbour Publishing, Linda Hang. I’d worked on it for days, tweaking it until every word was right.

And then I took Kristen’s course.

After learning the tips above, I got really brave and read the bio I’d sent to Linda. Guess what? It was Boring with a capital B. Since I’m being honest here, I’ll tell you that I lifted portions of it directly from my query letter. Talk about plain. It was diet vanilla ice cream.

I applied the tips Kristen taught in the workshop and came up with a bio that has more pizzazz, is geared toward readers, and is no longer filled with a litany of my writerly affiliations and educational mumbo jumbo.

 

Examples

Since I’m a fan of show, don’t tell, I’ll let you see the before and after. And although I’m sure you could improve upon my “after,” it does represent me and my voice. I’m not exactly a sundae person in real life. I’m more of a chocolate chip ice cream drenched in Hershey’s® syrup kinda gal.

Before, with editorial notes included:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America®. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism. [Are you yawning yet?] A California native, she lives in a historic Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. She enjoys her frequent time travels to the 1800s, where she spends countless hours with her characters while fueling her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. [Better, but why put the more interesting stuff at the end?]

After, with editorial notes following:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a California native who lives in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her stories transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. She fuels her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two skittish kitties.

Notes: Since my debut novel is set in California in the heart of the Gold Country, I chose to include facts intended to show the reader that I’m someone they can trust to know the area. I mentioned the kind of stories I write. I added a touch of humor since that element is in my stories. I did mention my family briefly but included a fun description of our cats.

• • •

What are some fun facts about yourself that you could include in your bio?

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Thanks so much for the tips, Keli!  One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Keli’s debut book, which releases in just 3 days…

Widow Elenora Watkins is determined to provide for herself and her daughter without relying on anyone else. Can she run a successful business after falling for the competition? Miles Rutledge finds himself willing to do anything to keep Elenora in town. But can he win her heart while putting her out of business?

P.S. – Keli has a gorgeous new website. You really should check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

54 responses to “Guest Keli Gwyn: 3 Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Author Bio”

  1. Wow, what a great post! I had to really think the first time I wrote an author bio. I did know enough NOT to do it in first person. thank goodness, but that was about it. You have some great tips here, Keli! Your bio is fantastic!!!

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  2. […] Ruby Slippered Sisterhood ~ Guest Post and Book Giveaway […]

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  3. Anne Barton says:

    Writing an author bio can be so hard and I have a difficult time finding something original or interesting to say. These are great ideas, Keli!

    I really like reading author bios, especially after I’ve just finished a book that I loved. It’s cool to get some insight into the person who’s crafted an amazing story and feel a little connection to them.

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Anne,

      Thanks so much for inviting me to guest post here on the Rubies blog. What an honor.

      I can’t wait to see your bio in your debut novel in January. What a thrill that will be–one of many. I’m sooo happy for you!!!

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  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    Oh thank you thank you. I need to write a new bio for the new series. (I also need a new head shot which scares me even more.) So this is coming at a very good time. Wonderful post. (And beautiful new website!)

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Hope,

      How fun that you get to come up with a new bio for your new series. I wish you well on that.

      I found the key to great author photos is twofold: hiring an excellent photographer and–drum roll please–Photoshop. Bye-bye age spots, wrinkles, etc. Hello to a new and improved you. 🙂

      Thanks for the compliments on my website. My web designer is awesome! Jason Walker of Website Ministries totally outdid himself.

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  5. Super fun–so glad you shared your bio process. I had such a hard time writing my bio. I haven’t gone to college and have no writing background so since I pretty much have a BA in diaper changing, I had no idea what to say in my bio. I tried to think of something romantic and it suddenly felt like the perfect fit 🙂

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  6. Rita Henuber says:

    Great sdvice and timing. I’m redoing my bio now. Thanks for the post.

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  7. Elisa Beatty says:

    Hurray, Keli! So lovely to have you here, and so wonderful to watch your writing dream come true!!

    I’m very excited to get my hands on A BRIDE OPENS SHOP….

    Enjoy every moment!

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  8. What a fabulous post, Keli! I love reading author bios, but always hate having to write one of my own. I don’t find myself all that interesting, so how do I expect others to? LOL. I think I’ll be playing around with my bio a little bit to see if I can give it more flavor.

    A BRIDE OPENS SHOP sounds like a *wonderful* book–just the kind of story I love to read–can’t wait to pick it up!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Cynthia,

      I didn’t say this in the post, but those of us in the class helped each other tweak the bios we’d come up with on our own. I suggest having someone help with a bio. Others who know us well are more likely to be able to point out interesting things about us we could add and boring, er, make that not-so-interesting things we might consider removing. My awesome CP, Anne, has helped me LOTS when I needed to polish things like a bio or blurb.

      Thanks for the kind words about my book. I hope readers enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    What timing! Just yesterday, I received a request from one of Sourcebooks’ associate editors asking if I’d like to revise a very old, very boring bio for use in SB’s seasonal book buyers catalog. From the editor: “Feel free to liven it up a little with your personality if you want. I don’t know that book buyers will necessarily be enthralled with your membership in RWA ;-)”

    My attempt, in 60 words or less: “Tamara Hogan loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her partner Mark and two naughty cats. When not telecommuting to Silicon Valley, she enjoys writing edgy urban fantasy romance with a sci-fi twist. Her debut, Taste Me, won a Daphne Award, and was named a WisRWA, PRISM, and RWA Golden Heart Finalist.”

    Aubrey’s response? “Love it! I’m so glad I emailed you!”

    So, great minds think alike, Keli!

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  10. Dani Wade says:

    Awesome post!!! What a lightbulb moment to think about this from the reader’s perspective. I can’t wait to go check my bio out for comparison!

    Thanks, Keli!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Dani, I, too, was surprised when Kristen told us most writers write bios geared toward other writers when what we really need to do is think of our readers–at least when the bio is for our books, websites, social media sites, etc. I do tweak my bio when I’m touting my writerly accomplishments for a RWA chapter website and such.

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  11. June Love says:

    Keli, thanks for your post. I’ve always viewed bio writing as ugh, ack, yuck, and all of those other unpleasant words for an unpleasant task, but thanks to you, the job doesn’t seem so daunting. Maybe I’ll be able to hang on to my fingernails after all.

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      June, when Kristen said to make a bio fun, some of the yuck factor diminished, and writing one suddenly seemed less of a burden than before. I’ll tell you one of my tricks. I pretend I’m writing the bio for someone else, because if I were, I’d go out of my way to make that person sound as interesting as possible. Since a bio is usually in third person, I’m able to do a decent job of playing my little game of make believe. 🙂

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  12. Congratulations on your upcoming release, Keli. That website of your is truly beautiful!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Thanks, Laurie. I’m pretty excited about my release! And I’m over the moon happy with the awesome work my website designer did. He. Is. The. Best!

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  13. Amanda Brice says:

    Great post, Keli!

    can;t wait to read your book!

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  14. Sherrinda says:

    Wow, I have never read a blog post about an author bio before! This was GREAT, Keli. Something so many of us pass over. Thanks for the tutorial!

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  15. Jan Nash says:

    Great post! Guess what I’m doing tonight? Congrats on your release and thanks for insight.

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  16. Hi Anne and Keli,

    Timely post! Thanks for having Keli on your blog, Anne. I’m looking forward to browsing your blog to learn more about you and your writing.

    Keli, I’m so excited for your book release.:) I’m also about to write my first query, which includes a basic bio, so I’m thankful for the info you’ve shared and its timeliness. I will put it to good use. 🙂

    Love and Hugs,
    Kerry

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Kerry,

      Anne is one of the sweetest people I know. I’m beyond blessed to have her as my critique partner, but she’s so much more than that. She’s a priceless gem of a friend.

      Kudos to you on preparing your very first query. I wish you the best as you polish it and am glad the info I shared is useful to you.

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      • Anne Barton says:

        Awww, thanks Keli! *sniffle* It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years since we met each other in San Francisco–I’m going to miss you at Nationals this year. 🙁 But, I’m so happy that your debut book is almost on shelves. Woo-hooo!!!

        Kerry,thanks so much for visiting the Rubies, and best of luck writing that first query! What a big step. It’s fun and nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time, isn’t it? 🙂

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  17. Helene says:

    Great post, ladies! Writing about ourselves has to be the hardest thing an author needs to do and yet it is soooo important. I’ve tried channeling my heroines for a couple of recent written interviews because it’s so much easier pretending to be someone else!!

    Cheers
    Helene

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Hèléne,

      I like your idea of pretending to be someone else when we write our bios. It would be much easier to write one for another author. The fear of sounding stuck-up wouldn’t be an issue then. I’d just be helping someone present herself in the best light possible.

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  18. karenk says:

    a great posting 😉

    looking forward to reading keli’s debut novel 🙂

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  19. Those are great tips, Keli! It’s been four years since I wrote the bio for my blog and that means it’s long past time for an overhaul. I’m not an ice cream sundae kind of person either, so finding a balance between being myself and being interesting will be a challenge. I’ll give it a try and call it practice for the day when I’ll need a real author bio. 🙂

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Carol,

      I’m sure you’ll do a great job with your bio. I like the ideas some have shared about pretending we’re writing our bios for other people. It might be fun to ask a writing friend to write one for us and see what they come up with, too.

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  20. Pia Thompson says:

    Time to rethink my blog bio. It’s much too cumbersome. Great tips, here. Kristen Lamb’s book sounds like it would be helpful. Must’ve been nice to be her pupil. Looking forward to your book, Kelli.

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  21. Amy Campbell says:

    Great post! Can’t wait to read your book!

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  22. Great bio, Keli! Love how it links your writing to you–where you live AND your personality. Your bio made me even more eager to read your book. And a what a beautiful cover too!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Jacqui,

      Thanks for the kind words. You know how to make me smile. =)

      My publisher, Barbour, did a great job with the cover, didn’t they? I love how the model they chose captured the determination of my heroine, Elenora.

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  23. Fedora says:

    How fun, Keli! Thankfully I’m NOT a writer, but even writing a resume calls on some of the same skills as throwing together a bio! Some of the basic facts are just kind of boring, but a few more interesting ones are that I’m a dancer (not a terribly good one, but that’s a different story!), have enough books to fill a room, and do feel extremely comfortable with the business end of a red pen (yes, that editing background is hard to shed). Congrats on A Bride Opens Shop–how exciting to be making your debut!!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Fedora,

      Wow! I didn’t know you were a dancer. What kind of dance? Ballet? Modern? Ballroom?

      In my book, editors rock. Mine helped make my story the best it could be, and I’m sooo grateful to them.

      As an author, I love hearing that you have enough books to fill a room. Readers. Are. The. Best!

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  24. Just visiting from Keli Gwyn’s FB page… I’m so excited for her that I’m following along 🙂

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Dianne,

      It’s so cool to see you here. How does it feel to be hanging out in Writerdom? We’re a nice lot, I promise.

      Thanks so much for your support. You deserve a faithful fan award or something. I know. If you’re free on July 15, you could come up to my area and enjoy some Dreyer’s ice cream and awesome entertainment (barbershop choir, string quartet, and folk music) at my Launch Party and Old-fashioned Ice Cream Social. I’m sure your kids would like the ice cream, especially when they see how many toppings I have. 🙂

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  25. Madeline Olson says:

    I’m going to follow your advice, Keli! Special thanks for providing your Before and After bios!

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    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Madeline,

      How cool to see my local Sacramento Valley Rose RWA chapter president here. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to drop by. I’m glad you found the tips helpful and would love to see your bio at our next meeting.

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  26. Anne Barton says:

    A huge THANK YOU to everyone who visited and left a comment for Keli! I apologize for being late with the prize drawing. As thanks for your patience, I’m thinking we need to give away TWO books!

    The randomly selected winners are: Jan Nash and Jacqui Nelson. Congrats, ladies! I’ll be in touch!

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