Tackling the Bio Portion of the Query

One question I’ve been asked quite a few times (or at least more than once) is what do I put in the bio section of my query letter?

Most people know that the bio section is where you put publishing credentials. This can include previous publications, awards, relevant degrees or course work, online platform (if you have one) and writing-related jobs. For instance, I use the following as my bio:

I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in linguistics, with research related to YA fiction. I’ve spent two years interning for a literary agency and assisting author Rick Walton with his publishing industry class. I also have a growing online platform with my site kyramnelson.com.

But I also have a lot of people ask what to put in the bio if they don’t have any credentials. In truth, not much. The bio doesn’t need to be long, and if you don’t have publishing credentials, one sentence ought to do it. Just enough to let the agent know that you are a real person with a real life. If I didn’t have publishing experience, I might say

I’m a Montana native currently studying at Brigham Young University.

You should also consider putting in information that’s not relevant to publishing if it is relevant to your character or story. If you are writing about an aspiring equestrian and you have been riding horses for ten years, mention that. This lets the reader know that you know what you’re talking about when you write your character.

This is especially useful if you are writing diverse books. You can say something along the lines of “Like my main character Penny, I am Japanese American” or “My experience counseling teens with anxiety inspired me to write this story.”

In short, though, don’t sweat the bio. Keep it short and simple. Use what experience you have effectively, but don’t stress if you don’t have a lot of experience.

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Query Critique 61

Dear [Agent],
 
I am currently seeking representation for my supernatural novel, DEAD WRESTLERS,  which is complete at 90,000 words. I noticed that you are interested in books with a “fantastical or magical element,” and books that are “often quirky, sometimes funny.”
 
When Mark Chapman was just twelve years old he accidentally killed his little sister with a wrestling maneuver, a maneuver that would bring forth twenty-one years of remorse, regret…and the frequent company of the ghosts of deceased professional wrestlers, many of whom want him to save the lives of their living peers. This is an awesome hook.
 
Mark is now thirty-three and his grappling ghosts are engaged in a bitter battle over whether he will travel to Georgia to stop the Benoit murders of June 2007. Mark chooses not to, and wrestler Chris Benoit, having killed his wife and son before committing suicide, appears in his ghostly form at Mark’s job a broken man. The wording in this sentence is just a little bit awkward. Also, do we get a clue why Mark would choose not to stop these murders? During a wrestler-saving mission, Benoit causes an accident that nearly kills Mark and his friends. As a result, Mark’s friends and ghosts all bail on him, not wanting anything to do with Chris Benoit. There are, however, still lives to save, and, as Mark chases Billy Lincoln, a local guy who wrestles as Corpus and who Mark knows will die any day, there is a chance that the life of Mark himself could be in jeopardy. This sentence is also worded a little bit awkwardly.
 
Told across twenty-five years via flashbacks, DEAD WRESTLERS is the story of a man trying to save his favorite wrestlers from dying, to maintain his relationships, and to forgive himself for what he did more than two decades ago. I’d be wary of mentioning that there is a lot of flashback in the book, as that is something that is often a turn off to agents.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
 
Sincerely,
 
Smash Hit