How to Write a Bio That Attracts the Media … and More!
…by Suzanne Falter Barnes
1. Stack the facts up front. Begin with your most impressive facts. “Mary Louise Green is a nationally known painter whose work has appeared in numerous major gallery exhibits.” (Mary Louise has, in fact, only shown in four galleries, but they were in different parts of the US, so that counts as ‘numerous\’ and ‘national\’.)
2. Don\’t ramble on about passions and purpose. This bio needs to sell you, not your philosophy. You can mention it in passing (“which helped her discover a deep love for teaching art.”) Generally, your bio is a tool for media bookers, agents, editors, etc., to get a handle on who you are and how they can sell you to their bosses or clients. So they just need to know your most impressive facts.
3. Be selectively honest. There\’s always a temptation to fudge the facts a bit with bios. I think that\’s acceptable as long as you don\’t blatantly lie, and done by most bio writers. The key is to be honest, but still think big and impressive. For instance, if you\’ve done fourteen workshops for ten people each, can you say that you\’ve worked with ‘hundreds of participants\’? I say, yes, IF you\’re planning to keep right on doing those workshops, and accumulating experience. Realistically, you\’ll be using this bio for at least the next year, so presumably by year\’s end, your total will be up around 300 or so. On the other hand, using these same figures, you\’re not entitled to say you\’ve worked with thousands of participants. But not to worry – “hundreds” sounds ample enough.
4. Add a line that defines your expertise. When I published my first book, I was described in bios as a ‘creativity jump starter\’. Look for a quick active phrase that spells out your philosophy and work in a nutshell. Imagine this as something radio jocks can say when they introduce you.
5. Maximize your experience. We all feel like one student of mine, who complained while writing her bio: “But I\’m just a little person in the middle of nowhere who\’s done diddly-squat.” As it turns out, she was a cancer survivor, writing a book for cancer patients. So that\’s what she put in her bio. Qualifications don\’t have to be strictly academic or professional.
6. Keep it to a paragraph of two. No need to go on forever. Make it pungent and specific. The basics are that you want to illustrate your expertise, your pertinent life experience, and distill what you do down into an essential sentence.
A Good Example Here\’s a fun bio I found recently at the end of an article on the website, http://www.publicityhound.com/ (great stuff there, by the way!):
Gladys Edmunds was a single teenage mom in early 1960s Pittsburgh. She posed as an adult to make money by doing other people\’s laundry, whipped up chicken dinners in her grandmother\’s kitchen for taxi drivers, and stared down snarling dogs to sell fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds, 52, is an evangelical entrepreneur preaching the value of self-employment. The founder of a successful travel agency, Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, she is the author of There\’s No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published in February by Viking.
Doesn\’t that just make you want to spend time with the author?
Once you\’ve written your bio, pass it by some supportive friends and ask for feedback. This is a critical piece because somehow we\’re never as good at evaluating our own bios as we are those of others.
After you\’ve got a great, un-boring bio in hand, post it on your media page with all relevant contact info and, of course, your very best headshot.