What would your real bio say?

Sunday, October 01, 2017
I was reading an author's bio today and misread it.

What the bio said: Suzy Q is the pen name of an author whose work has been published internationally by a number of respected journals. She is a professional submissions adviser. You can follow her on Facebook here:

What I thought it said: Suzy Q is the pen name of an author whose work has been rejected by a number of respected journals ...

When I first read this, it made me think (incorrectly) that the person was being totally honest and forthright. I was impressed that she was brave, and it made me want to be brave. Then I reread it (correctly). Oh. And it hit me that although she has been published in a number of respected journals, she probably also has been rejected by a number of respected journals.

In communications class, we talk about the fact that people usually put the best image of themselves online for people to see. It's sometimes called managing your impression. And there's nothing wrong with that.

If you want to sell books, then the audience probably wants to know which books you've already published and sold. Readers may feel like it's less of a gamble to buy a book from someone they've never heard of if many others have read the book and tout the author's ability to write well.

It's also pertinent if books have won awards, or received glowing reviews from people for whom the book is intended. Managing your impression is like going to a job interview, or on a first date, because people may not know you, but you want them to know that first and foremost you are qualified and should be given a chance.

But, what if we were honest? The fun thing about letting others see you for who you are is that they get a glimpse of the real you. The one who isn't perfect. The one they can relate to. The one who sounds like a lot of writers they know, which may make you seem familiar enough to buy your book.

So in my own bio I may switch out a few items:

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, a guide to writing that more (but not a lot more) than a few dozen people have read. She also has been rejected by many prestigious literary journals, including The Missouri Review, Boulevard Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House, and The Masters Review. Thank goodness for her day job as a communications instructor.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--You made me laugh out loud this morning. I love your new bio. Your honesty (and levity) will probably inspire me to write an honest (and hopefully mildly funny) bio if I ever have a book published.

Yes, writers who are not full of themselves... writers who poke fun of themselves... writers who are honest with their readers--those writers are people that readers can relate to.

Mary Horner said...

I agree, Sioux. I can relate to all the warts and fails!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I think your bio is great! And clever. :) It could actually do the opposite. I just skim bios, and if I skimmed yours, I'd assume you've been published in all those prestigious literary journals. LOL

Margo Dill said...

HAHA! Mary, I am not laughing at your rejections, etc, but I love this idea. Mine would have to say something about how I follow no advice about branding and write and try to publish in as many different genres and for as many different age groups as possible so my following is basically my friends and family! LOL

Anne M. Beggs said...

A funny spin. Truth and humor are so much more memorable.

Mary Horner said...

I'm glad you all could relate! I appreciate the comments, and Angela, I never thought about it going the other way, I like the way you think! Margo, I have that same audience, and truth and humor are often the way to go in many situations, Anne!

Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Mary,
I am one of the writers who has read your book, and learned a lot from it. There's one tidbit about interviewing that I have used.
Love the funny bio. I try to tailor mine to the publication where my work appears or the event where I'll be speaking, but maybe I will try to jazz mine up and make it humorous.

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