It’s every aspiring writer’s conundrum: you can’t write for magazines because you haven’t been published yet, and you can’t get published because you haven’t sold any articles yet. Fear not; I have good news! Learning how to write your author bio – even if you’ve never been published – may be easier than you think.
Not having writing experience (published clips or a portfolio to show editors) isn’t just a problem for writers; it’s the same problem many job hunters experience when they’re looking for work (and you – as a freelance writer or blogger – are looking for work. Don’t forget that). You can’t get hired without experience, and you can’t get experience without working.
So what’s a writer to do? You can’t lie about your experience, or “fudge” the facts to make it seem like your author bio is more robust than it is. You can’t tell the truth, and say you’ve never written for any magazine. If you don’t have a blog or online writing experience, you can’t even point editors or publishers to your platform!
One of the first steps, which may seem obvious from what I’ve just written, is to start a blog that publicizes your writing skills, interests, education and experience. Why? Because if you truly want to become a freelance writer or published author, you need to start somewhere. Starting and regularly writing for your own blog is a great way to get around the “how do I write an author bio when I’ve never been published?” conundrum.
You’re not alone. Here’s what two aspiring writers said on How to Write an Author Bio to Accompany Your Byline:
“What if someone has no credentials, hasn’t written anything impressive, missed out on an education?” asked Craig. “What if this person has just an obsessive desire, learning as much as he can, and practicing with every comment he leaves? How does he write an author bio if he’s never been published in magazines or even on a blog, much less in a book?”
“I’ve been wondering how much money I can charge for my articles once I have proven myself with my ‘gratis’ article that I have been asked to write for a new magazine,” said Trish. “Freelance writing sounds like the perfect career to me and I love that you make it out to be so doable. Like Craig, I was wondering what I can put in my bio as I don’t have any published experience as yet. I have a blog but it isn’t quite ready for release to the public yet! Thanks for your help!”
5 Tips for Writing an Author Bio When You’ve Never Been Published
I just came back from the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference; in the workshop on writing nonfiction book proposals I learned several tips on how to write an author biography. The workshop was for aspiring writers who want to write books and become published authors.
These tips aren’t directly from that workshop, but the facilitator gave me a few ideas that I expanded on. This is how I wrote my own author bio before my books and articles were published.
1. Learn something about who you’re pitching to
Are you querying a literary agent about a nonfiction book proposal? Maybe you’re pitching an article idea to the editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, or sending a “how to write an author bio” blog post to a professional blogger for her website.
How you slant your author bio depends on who your audience is. Not just the readers of the magazine or your book, but the editor, publisher, or agent. So your first job is to learn who will be reading your query letter, nonfiction book proposal, or blog post idea. You need to focus your pitch so that it appeals to that person – and his or her audience.
If you want to write for a popular lifestyle magazine, read 10 Things You Need to Know About Writing for Reader’s Digest
2. Highlight your non-writing, non-published strengths
What type of freelance writer do you want to be – what’s your speciality or niche? This is an important consideration for aspiring freelancers who are just starting their careers.
If you’re writing a nonfiction book proposal, then your author bio has to highlight your non-writing experience on the topic. Are you an expert on whatever you’re writing about? Great! Focus on that when you’re writing your author bio. Don’t focus on the fact that you have no publishing experience. Point in the other direction.
For example, Frances Bula is a Vancouver-based political writer and blogger who gave a talk about niche writing at a conference I attended a million moons ago. She strongly encourages freelancers to specialize in a specific area, because your career will build on itself as you become known in that niche. I share her tips in Should You be a Niche Writer? 5 Reasons to Specialize as a Freelancer.
You don’t need an extensive author bio with lots of writing clips to get published! The most important thing you need is a strong idea for whatever you’re writing and a compelling pitch or query letter to the editor. And if you can send just one interesting, well-written article that you wrote in the past as a clip, then you’re golden. Thousands of people write magazine articles, newspaper articles, and blog posts – and they’ve never been published before. Their author bio might simply read, “Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a theology student in Vancouver, BC.”
If you’re planning to specialize in and write about, for example, blogging for Christian writers, then your short author bio may read “Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time freelance blogger and preacher who has been writing theology articles since Jesus walked the earth. Her most popular article is 11 Most Popular Types of Magazine Articles – Print & Online.”
3. Write guest posts for blogs and online magazines
When I first wrote this article (How to Write an Author Bio When You’ve Never Been Published), the Yahoo Shine website was accepting guest posts. Are they still publishing new and inexperienced writers? I don’t know – but it’s your job as a freelancer to find out! Pitch article ideas to big and little blogs, websites, online magazines. Start little; gather more and more clips and writing experience.
After you’ve written one online article – even just a short guest post – you can write this author bio: “Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen has been published on the popular Writing Blossoms blog series. Her most popular article is 11 Most Popular Types of Magazine Articles – Print & Online.”
But writing one or two guest posts for blogs or free articles for online magazines isn’t enough. You need to amass more clips than that! Which leads me to my next tip…
4. Get writing experience – forget the author bio for now
Thinking about these tips for writing an author bio when you’ve never been published helped me realize that I’m steering you in the wrong direction. Creating an author bio should NOT be your focus if you haven’t yet written an article! Instead, concentrate on getting solid writing experience and clips. Learn how to write for magazines and online websites. Your author bio will grow naturally and organically.
So, instead of fretting about writing a bio when you’ve never been published, focus instead on writing good articles that an online editor or blog owner can’t refuse. Start by giving away your articles and blog posts. Keep track of every website, blog, or online magazine that posts your work – and before you know it, you’ll have your author bio written because you’ve been published in more places than you can count.
Here’s a great article on getting published as a new freelancer, by Jennifer Roland: Need Writing Experience? How to Get Clips and Get Published.
5. Pitch full-length articles – not query letters
Here’s an example of how NOT to pitch a guest post idea or a query letter for a magazine article. I get emails like this every day:
How’re you doing?
I’m Author New-Writer and a passionate blogger. I had the pleasure of going through your blog and the content there was just amazing. The distinctive art of presenting your readers with such useful information was just so impressive. I think you guys are doing a fabulous job. I’m a big fan of you, keep up the good work!
I would love to be a part of this unique venture of yours and would be highly honored if I get the chance of writing a guest post for you. I think my knowledge and research would captivate your audience. I don’t have an author bio and I’ve never been published but I know what your readers like to read since I’m one.
Please let me know if it sounds good to you so I can start writing right away. Cheers!
One of the problems with this query letter is I have no idea what the writer’s niche is, what the topic of the blog post is, or what experience the writer has. Plus the writing isn’t good.
If you’re pitching article ideas, you don’t have an author bio and you’ve never been published – even if you’re hoping to write a free guest blog post – send a fully written article. That increases your chances of success dramatically, because it gives the editor or blog owner an idea of how you write and what you’re writing about. (Don’t send me your guest posts, though. I don’t publish other writer’s articles anymore).
Feel free to share your author bio in the comments section below. If you don’t have a blog or writing experience, now is the time to go public. What are you waiting for?
If you want to get published…
Freelance writing – and even getting one book published – is a job. Aspiring writers will only become successful if they adopt the “I am an entrepreneur” mindset. Freelance writers are self-employed, and need to learn how to boldly share their ideas and words with the world.
Writer’s Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published is a must-have for any freelance writer.
Writer’s Market has thousands of publishing opportunities for writers – including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards, and literary agents. This book also has sections for writers who want to niche into playwriting and screenwriting. These listings feature contact and submission information to help writers get their work published.
You’ll also learn about the writing business, marketing your work, how to make money covering live events, and how to support yourself as a writer.
My updated author bio
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, M.S.W, is the author of Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. She has more than 25 years of writing, teaching, and social work experience.
Laurie created the She Blossoms blog series in 2008 and has been writing full-time since then. Her blogs get an average of 70,000 unique visitors per day (over 2,000,000 unique page views a month). She has sold more than 5,000 copies of her “She Blossoms” ebooks. Her most popular one is How to Let Go of Someone You Love: 3 Secrets (and 75 Tips!) for Healing a Broken Heart.
As an experienced freelance writer, Laurie has been published in magazines such as Reader’s Digest, Women’s Health, and More. Her undergraduate degrees are in Psychology and Education, and she has extensive professional and personal experience with loss, letting go, and blossoming. To learn more, visit The Adventurous Writer.
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