When I began the query game a few years ago, it was with my first novel, BLEEDING HEARTS. I wasn’t a schooled writer with an MFA. I wasn’t an author with a string of published books or an enviable platform. I was a pharmacist and a mom who woke up one day after having a really odd dream and set out to write that story. Writing was an extension of daydreaming. It was an escape from my glorious day-job and from the tortures of 24-7 Nick Jr. My novel started out as a hobby.
It didn’t remain a hobby. Writing that manuscript made me want to write more, write better. I read articles and amassed a library of writing craft manuals. I edited and revised and found that I not only wrote a story, I wrote a novel worth reading. Eventually I found my way to Query Tracker and realized what my next step was: to find an agent.
The Query Tracker boards and blog were instrumental in refining my query letter. I ended up with a query that got more partial requests than my first letter and ultimately attracted my first agent. Despite the amazing powers of the QT phenomena, one part of my query was still completely up to me to fix: my bio. My sad, empty bio.
Debut authors, by definition, don’t necessarily have a list of previous publications. However, that doesn’t mean our bios have to be malnourished limp-haired patches of pity.
Network. Networking isn’t purely digital: it’s personal. We build bridges to other writers, to readers and agents and editors. A network is a structure of connections that lead to greater support than any single unit alone. That support helps each of us to succeed.
Tricia Schneider is a debut author at The Wild Rose Press. We had our first interview together recently. By networking, I wrote an interview and she promoted her new book. Together, we send our awesomeness out into the world with a force greater than what we’d do on our own. Networking builds name recognition and a bigger audience.
How does this translate to your bio? You get to plug your blog or blog appearances.
Write the small stuff. We writers need to write often, constantly create, and unrelentingly work on our craft. Why not structure our exercise and use the results to fatten our bios at the same time? Poetry and short stories aren’t novels but they take just as much effort to write. They are also great for writer’s block repellant. Writing the small stuff helps to percolate the problems we encounter with our manuscripts. It stirs the think tank. Sometimes, you end up with a slice of mini-awesome that is deserving of publication. (Goody. More work. =)
Bonus is that the small stuff is way easier to sell. My favorite website for this purpose is Duotrope.com, a free listing of thousands of markets. The end result? A bio that contains a list of publications.
Enter a contest. Get judge feedback, win a prize, and rack up some bragging rights. I’ve gotten some fantastic feedback on BLEEDING HEARTS this way. For more on this topic, you can read my article. If your book can stand up to the competition, you end up with a bio that lists an impressive recognition.
Join a writer’s group. It’s worth the fee. You gain a network of writers and resources, you may get a chance to conference, and you give your bio a serious shot of plumper. As a Pennwriters Published Member, I get a slew of benefits–including a promotional package. Belonging to a major group shows that you are serious about this writing stuff. That’s glorious bio fodder. (Please note: This last bit is a shameless plug to recruit new Pennwriters so, by all means, share this article around!)
See? Building your bio is going to take work but it’s work that you can do. Build your bio while you are cultivating your craft. Measure your levels of fortune and fame with Google hits and token payments. Make yourself an impressive catch and one day, you just might add another line: I am represented by…
Sweet stuff. It’s worth the effort.
Pushcart Prize nominee Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer whose first novel, Bleeding Hearts, was a finalist in several national writing contests. Her publishing debut in Spring 2009 featured poetry in Poe Little Thing; her work has since appeared in dozens of other journals including Niteblade, Ghostlight Magazine, Silver Blade, and Expanded Horizons. As a member of Pennwriters, she is co-editor of the Pennwriters Area 6 WordPress blog. Ms. Krafton resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region and maintains her Spec Fic Chick website at http://www.ashkrafton.com. Currently, she’s marketing Bleeding Hearts but, as you can see, her bio is still pretty cool even without a debut novel to plug. =)