Top 5 Author Biography Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

author-biography-mistakes

You're putting the final touches on your work of art and don’t know what to include in your author biography. You want to build credibility, not break it. Maybe you fear you don’t have enough experience to highlight. Or maybe you do have experience but want to avoid coming across as pompous.

Whatever your background or book topic, don’t make the top five mistakes so many authors make when writing their biographies.

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Who are you and why does your audience care? If you are an astute author, you know that, ironically, a biography is more about the audience than it is about you. Which leads us to the first mistake:

1) Talking Only About Yourself (It’s really not about you)

Although the subject is you, the target is your audience, so your biography should serve to explain what you can provide them. When potential customers or business partners come across your book, they’re already intrigued. Maybe it was the book title, maybe your book topped their Amazon search, or maybe you even handed it to them in person. They have your book in front of them and the topic is relevant to them.

Yet you must beware that many of your prospects will decide whether to buy your book, call you for an interview, etc. based on your biography alone. Bomb your bio, and you risk tainting your life’s masterpiece.

The key is to remember the WIFM factor (what’s in it for me?). Write about how you can help your audience. Don’t write, “Steve is a software designer.” Write, “Steve has been creating custom software solutions to help both small and large businesses sell more products for nearly a decade.”

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and they will be drawn in.

2) Writing in the First Person

Seasoned speakers are always introduced by someone else before taking the stage. The audience listens intently as the introducer rattles off notable accomplishments and experience that position the speaker as an expert. By the time the speaker appears, the audience is already impressed and excited to learn from this respected authority.

Now imagine if the speaker introduced themselves, proudly listing the same achievements and expertise. The speaker would likely project a quality of arrogance. People dislike bragging and are quick to dismiss someone in their mind if they don’t like them.

The same rings true with your book biography. If you speak in the first person, you risk coming across as haughty or embellishing. But simply write in the third person and suddenly you are a star. So, be sure to change, “I am an expert” to “Kira is an expert.”

3) Touting Irrelevant Degrees, Jobs or Experience

Don’t include any degrees or certifications that are irrelevant to your topic. If your book is about baking, leave out your degree in computer science, even if it a Ph.D. Don’t even try to justify a parallel between cupcakes and computers. They’re unrelated. Plus, you risk annoying your reader. Remember, you’re striving for likability.

This goes the same for unrelated jobs or experience, even if you did intern at the White House. Stick to your book’s topic.

If and when you do include college degrees, you’ll probably only want to include master’s degrees and above. A bachelor’s degree traditionally do not warrant inclusion in your bio. Finally, degrees belong at the end of your bio to underscore the substance of your valued skills and experience.

4) Undermining Yourself

On the other hand, you don’t want to diminish the value of your book simply because you do not have a degree or deep experience related to your topic. Readers need to know that they can trust you if they invest the time to read your book.

Why are you qualified to write on this subject? Why should readers believe you?

Ignore any lack of degrees; your readers will never notice. Be bold and cite specific reasons you are qualified to speak on your topic.

For example, don’t write, “While Taylor stopped short of completing her college degree in advertising, her work experience has helped her consider some great ways to market products.”

Try, “Taylor’s sharp rise to success as owner of Kitchen Gadgets Plus can be attributed to her company’s unprecedented industry sales figures, which exposed her underlying brilliance for effective advertising to household chefs.”

While you’re at it, don’t mention you are a first-time author. No one has to know that, nor does it really matter. Be sure to steer clear of terms like “amateur” or “freelancer.” There are certainly talented freelancers, but that term often insinuates “unemployed.”

Your potential readers are rooting for you. Believe in yourself and they will, too.

5) Being Afraid to Brag

While we have urged you to avoid sounding too conceited or long-winded, you’d be foolish to exclude your major achievements and awards even if you are the shy type. If you were ranked on any published list, won an industry award or have an enormous blog following, be sure to highlight that evidence of success.

If you were ranked among the top 40 fitness trainers in your region, you bet your prospects will want to buy your book to read your advice on how to lose that belly. If the Food Network featured your quiche on their latest airing, boast that and your readers will be lining up to discover more of your breakfast recipes.

When it comes to the success of your book, creating a meaningful and engaging biography matters. Write carefully and intentionally with your audience in mind. Build your credibility without abandoning your dignity. Be memorable and be human. Make it matter, because it does.

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