Learning how to write your author bio – even if you’ve never been published – may be easier than you think. It’s a classic writer’s conundrum: you can’t sell your articles to magazine editors because you haven’t been published yet, and you can’t get published because you haven’t sold any articles yet! I get it. I’ve been there. And I got through it – and so will you.
Not having writing experience (clips) 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 a job hunter! Don’t you forget that.). You can’t get hired without experience, and you can’t get experience without working.
So what’s a writer to do? Especially if you think the worst part is that your author bio shines a spotlight on your lack of experience. Your author bio is a snippet of your resume, and if it’s not shiny and awesome, then you’re not likely to get the writing assignment.
You’re not alone. Here’s what two freshly planted but not yet Blossoming writers said on How to Write an Author Bio to Accompany Your Byline….
Craig said: “What if someone has no credentials, hasn’t written anything impressive, missed out on an education? 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?”
Trish said: “I’ve been wondering what I can charge once I have proven myself with my “gratis” article that I have been asked to write for a new magazine. 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 most awesome Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference; in the workshop about writing nonfiction book proposals I learned several tips on how to write an author biography for writers who aren’t yet published authors.
These tips aren’t directly from the conference, but the nonfiction author planted a few seeds that I’m growing and Blossoming here…
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.
2. Highlight your non-writing, non-published strengths
What type of freelance writer do you want to be – what’s your speciality? This is a valuable consideration for freelancers starting their writing careers.
If you’re writing a nonfiction book proposal (like I am), 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-famous 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 – and Blossom – as you become known for 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! All you need is a great article that is well-written. 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 preacher in North 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 leading people to Jesus through her famous Blossom blog series for 75 years. Her most popular article is 8 Tips for Starting a Christian Blog – Inspiration for Believers.”
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.
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 website.”
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! Rather, getting solid writing experience and clips should be your focus right now. Then your author bio will fall into place.
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
I get emails, such as this form letter (aka spam), every day:
How’re you doing?
I’m Author New-Writer 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. Big fan of you guys, keep it up!
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 know what your readers like since I’m one.
Please let me know if it sounds good to you so I can start writing right away. Cheers!
The problem with this query letter is I have no idea what his niche is, what he’d be good at writing about, or even who he is.
If you’re pitching article ideas – 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 accept guest articles because I just don’t have the time.
What do you think? Share your comments below! Even better, practice writing your author bio. Just try it; you may be surprised at how easy it is. Include your name, your specialty, your location, and even your writing goals.
Help for New Freelance Writers
I can’t overstate the importance of reading as much as you can about freelance writing! When I first started out, I read as many books as I could about freelancing.
Read The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman.
In this book, you’ll learn how to earn hourly rates of $50-125 or more – even though you haven’t been published yet. You’ll see if you have what it takes to create a freelance writing lifestyle most can only dream of in the lucrative field of commercial freelancing – writing for companies and creative entities.
What sort of writing does Bowerman teach? Marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail campaigns, web content, sales sheets, case studies, white papers, trade articles and dozens of other project types. In short, any writing project a business would have to execute in the normal operation of their business.
My updated author bio
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, M.S.W, is a writer with 25 years of teaching, social work, and Bible study experience. She created the How Love Blossoms blog series in 2008 and has been earning a full-time living as a blogger since then. Her blogs get an average of 70,000 unique visitors per day (over 2,000,000 unique page views a month), and she has sold more than 4,000 copies of her “Blossom” 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.