Skip to main content

What Should You Include in Your Bio for Agents?

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Q: I’ve recently finished my first novel and have begun searching for an agent to represent me. Some of the agents ask for a writer’s bio. Could you please tell me exactly what information I should include in this bio? What should be left out?—Terrie Smith

A: Writers are often advised to write bios that read like jacket copy, but catching the eye of an agent is about convincing her that you’re just as marketable as your book is. You also need to clearly show why you’re qualified to write your proposed book. In any bio, you want to focus on your job qualifications.

“Your bio should highlight any features that will hook readers’ interest,” says Katharine Sands, an agent for the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. “The rule of thumb is to convey in one paragraph that you can be successfully published. Of course, you want an agent to fall in love with your writing but, to an agent, your query letter is actually your interview for the job of book author.”

According to Sands, there are four pressing questions you need to ask yourself before writing your bio:

1. How have you and your work been noticed up until now?

2. What professional achievements or personal interests serve to make you, along with your project, an intriguing package?

3. Does your background show special insider knowledge that would enable you to transport your readers to an interesting world, such as backstage in Hollywood, behind the scenes with Washington power brokers or a behind-the-headlines look at your subject?

4. How is your work informed by personal experience, such as meticulous research, surviving a catastrophic event, cherished family lore or travels to exotic lands?

“As an author, you must be an impassioned ambassador for your book,” Sands says. You should also consider including ways you can promote your book to readers (e.g., do you have access to mailing lists? Can you set up seminars or workshops to promote yourself?).

If you have blurbs from published writers, literary awards and/or reviews, include them. List your participation in readings, events and book festivals to show you’re not publicity shy.

While this sounds like a lot, most first-time novelists are lucky to have a few of these to include. If your bio is running a little thin, it’s best to leave it that way. You don’t want to include unrelated personal information, negative setbacks or rejections you’ve logged in your writing life.

“I don’t need to know that your aunt knew Elvis or you love cats or you make great lasagna,” Sands says. “Agents tend to short-circuit if too much information diffuses the message that this one work could work.”

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Elizabeth Shick: On Research Through Immersion

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Shick discusses the complete rewrite she devoted to her debut novel, The Golden Land.

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

6 Habits Writers Can Learn From Athletes

Author and athlete Henriette Lazaridis shares six tips and habits that writers can learn from athletes.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Last Chance to Nominate Your Favorite Writing Websites, Our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce the deadline to nominate your favorite writing websites, our Historical Fiction Virtual Conference, and more!

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use faint vs. feint in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples. Plus, we answer whether it's "faint of heart" or "feint of heart."

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter | Book Recommendations

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

Here are 6 book recommendation perfect for winter reading.

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch shares 12 things all writers should consider when attempting to write effective fight scenes in fiction.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character turn out to be less than they seem.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 15th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.