Thursday, September 20, 2012

Getting the author bio right by Clive West

For many authors, getting fame is as least as important as getting fortune. A vitally important step on the way to achieving that goal is the feature blogspot. You know, the one where you get to 'virtually' stand in front of a 'virtual' camera while holding your 'virtual' book. You’re quietly content because the book’s your pride and joy and you're rightfully proud of it.
Unlike with a newspaper, TV or radio interview, when you do a blogspot review you're usually left very much to your own devices over how you describe your book and the person who wrote it - you. The book part is probably the easiest - you explain the plot, the principal characters, the location, how realistic it is - that sort of thing. However, the bio part is far harder because it’s not straightforward like the book which is self-contained because it tells a story beginning and ending within the book's covers.
Your story is much more complicated and a heck of a lot longer. I'm not suggesting you do it, but I’m sure you could easily produce a substantial autobiography that would fill at least one blockbuster-sized publication and here you are having to summarize your life in one or two paragraphs.
Not only is it difficult to précis your existence so drastically, these few paragraphs can easily make all the difference between selling and not selling, good reviews, no reviews and bad reviews, getting return free publicity and being dropped like a hot coal.
If you analyze the idea of a bio, what are you being asked for? What's the principal reason for sticking a mugshot and 50 to 100 words of seemingly irrelevant text in a novel or at the end of an interview?
The answer is that it’s to personalize the book. We may be on the internet interacting with people we're never likely to meet but we still like to think we're dealing with the friendly old shopkeeper on the corner. We need to feel that the book is 'for us', that there's a connection between us and the author and that we're both on the same wavelength.
That's basic human psychology.
The bio needs to be split into two halves: firstly saying who you are in such a way as to appeal to readers and secondly tying yourself to the book.
The part about yourself needs to be easy to read and interesting. Think of something idiosyncratic about yourself. How many times have you read something as dreary as '... worked in a variety of jobs before taking up writing'? It's dull as dishwater. If you really can't include something more exciting, use some inspirational verbs such as 'was so captivated by, was driven by,' etc. Something which says you've a little fire in your belly and that simply compelled you to put your fingers to the keyboard.
Obviously what exactly you should or shouldn't write is going to depend upon your particular background but it's important that you keep the general idea of what I'm saying in mind.
As to the second part, that needs to justify why you've written this novel. Is it a crime novel which draws on your experience in the police or forensics? Is it a romance in a setting which you grew up in? Is it a war story based on your period of active service? I know it's obvious but the reader wants to feel that they're in good hands and, by showing them your ‘qualifications’, you're doing just that.
After all, books aren't cheap and we don't like the feeling of foolishness which occurs when we've chosen badly. Use the bio to (gently) sell yourself to the reader. If they've got that far, they’re hooked on the book; now reel them in - slowly.
Bio of the blog’s author
Clive West first started in publishing at the age of 16 when, as a result of lack of parental support, he was compelled to leave school early. He joined a large local printing company but put himself through night school in order to later qualify as a civil engineer. Despite working in construction, he has always been involved in the marketing side of the businesses he worked for – everything from producing brochures and writing sales literature to drawing up contracts and constructing a wide variety of legal documents.
On becoming disabled, it was a natural step for him to move into commercial writing but his true desire was to be a successful fiction writer. Approaching conventional publishers, both Clive and his fellow author wife, Damaris, were shocked at the seemingly non-commercial and off-hand responses they received. As a result they set up their own Indie Publishing company called Any Subject Books Ltd. As far as they are concerned, talented new writers are always welcome.

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