Self-important author goes to the check-in and demands a business class seat on the plane.
The young lady dealing with repetitive idiot-work for a living puts on her best regretful expression and says: "Sorry, Business class is full, but there is space in cattle class..."
Mr Bumptious (NYT bestselling Bumptious) leans over the counter and says: "Do you know who I am?"
The check-in lass smiles brightly at him, and says: "Oh, I am so sorry, I didn't realise. Hang on a moment and I'll see what I can do to help."
Bumptious leans back on his heels with a self-satisfied smile on his lips, as she picks up the microphone for the PA system and announces: "We have a gentleman here at check-in who doesn't know who he is. Can anyone help him?"
Yeah well. While some of us may be vain enough to delude ourselves that all and sundry will recognise us - possibly from the mugshot - perp 245345 common assualt on the English Language - on the book cover (ha. Most of these relate to someone a lot younger and thinner for some reason. Must be that posing for studio cover pics has a terrible aging and plumpifying* effect on us.) And maybe in some other better organised world business-class would be something we could afford (I probably wouldn't spend the money anyway, because of ingrained Scots Calvinist waste-not, want-not genes) but it does bring me to my topic for today. Sooner or later you will have to tell people who you are. Probably repetitively because as they say: 'once is never enough with a girl you.' I don't think that was orginal sentiment of the song, but it seems to apply to me, because I think I've written about 50 bios by now. Heh. Am I that instantly forgettable? Should I change my name to 'Watchamacallit Thingamagig... You-with-the-skew-nose-and-hairy-knees', just so people can get it right?
Seriously - biographical inserts are something you will have to do, and, because of the nature of publishing you will have to do in a major hurry, although the book has been in prep for 7 months and with 20 minutes in hand before the cover absolutely has to be in (or the text for the short stories need to be at the printer) they have suddenly discovered they don't have it. This is normal. If it doesn't happen prepare for some other even more awful disaster. Trust me on this. So: wisdom has any writer at least thinking about the subject before it is flung at your head, because when it is done on the spur your bio tends to be short, factual and boringly instantly forgettable.
And you cannot afford this.
Like it or not, the reality is NAMES sell books and stories. Part of your job is (no matter how self-effacing and humble you are) is to make readers remember your name. Your name is your trademark, your potentially most valuable property. And your bio is your one brief chance at doing something for yourself, not the publisher, distributor, retailer, or any of the other normal major beneficiaries. Grab it.
Almost all short stories will require a bio from you. Typically they will give you a word-count (often 200 words IIRC). You do not have to write all 200. You do not get paid per word of the bio. You just have to be remembered. If you have some other work out, it pays to advertise. But otherwise I try to tie it to the story, and make the reader smile if not laugh. And I never use the same one twice. Here are a few examples:
For PIRATES OF THE SUARA SEA: Freer grew up as a fisherman's brat, spending his time in trouble on the boat and in the harbour (sometimes the wet part of it) or diving for spiny lobster with other reprobates. He went on to become an Ichthyologist, ending up as the Chief Scientist for the Commercial Shark Fishery in Western Cape, South Africa. This actually meant he spent a lot of his time at sea with people just one step from pirates. (Not sure if it was a step up or down). He drifted into writing because he heard the spelling requirements were easier. They lied. Since then he's authored or co-authored more than twenty works of shorter fiction in various anthologies and leading magazines, and written nine novels some with Eric Flint or Mercedes Lackey, with the tenth, SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS coming out in October. You can find more on www.davefreer.com
For SOOT (about a cat): Dave Freer is a former Ichthyologist/Fisheries Scientist turned sf/fantasy writer. He now has ten books in print, a number of which are co-authored with Mercedes Lackey and/or Eric Flint. He is also the author of about twenty other short stories, and a teens novel. He lives in Zululand, South Africa, where he is permitted to serve four cats. They say he wastes entirely too much time on other things like the writing, cooking, cuddling his fellow cat-slave Barbara, and of course we will not even mention the dogs. Yes, cats do talk.
For the Poet Gnawreate and the Taxman:
Dave Freer: "Hello, my name is Dave and I'm a poet."
"Don't be ashamed Dave. Here at Poets Anonymous you're among friends. And with the sonnet programme and accepting that you were in the grip of a muse greater than yourself, you can free yourself."
"Um. Okay. I used to write meaningful epic poetry during class at school and inflict it onto my unfortunate girlfriends. Yes, friends, there really are such sick people at large out there. But I'm reformed now and with 10 sf/fantasy novels in print which I have either written or co-authored with Eric Flint, or Eric and Mercedes Lackey. I also accept moral responsibility for an increasing number of short stories. All of the above I blame on my cats. Or even in extremis the Old English Sheepdog. I would blame my sons, but they're taller than I am now. What about rock climbing as an excuse? Or having been a Fisheries biologist? Perhaps I can claim it was the influence of the African sun that I live under?"
"Part of freeing yourself of the grip of poetry is accepting responsibility for your own actions."
"Really? Well. I... I like writing. I love amusing and entertaining readers. And writing about the living dead was just perfect for me. They say you should write about what you know about, and until the third cup of coffee I am a zombie."
Anyway, I don't know if those are good or bad examples (I am a wonderful bad example. It is my purpose in life. Every night I can go to bed, satified, knowing that somewhere out there a mother just said to her obnoxious offspring: "If you don't eat your delicious boiled brussel-sprouts you'll turn out like Dave Freer." An awful threat that is followed by frantic gobbling and gagging noises.) I've always hated talking about myself, but the reality is 1)it has to be done. 2)if you want to sell books, people want to know about you. Some of your privacy just left the minute you put that story in the mail.
So: what do you want to see in a bio? Do you read them?
What are the best ways to get your readers to remember you, and uh, to care who you are?
*Of course it's a real word. You just read it didn't you? You aren't a submeson quark only reading unreal words are you?