From writers of everything from portable generator reviews to generation spanning epic fiction, most publishers request a profile or “bio” of some sort. I don’t know where those writers get the inspiration from or suggestion on what to include, but for those in the world of fiction, sometimes the end results leave me completely mystified.
On one’s own site, or website profiles which have more than a maximum of 140 characters allowed, writers then have the decision of what to include for mere browsers but more especially and hopefully for potential readers (buyers) to make them attracted enough to take a chance and spend their money.
So what’s your preference? What kind of author profile do you like?
Thinking back to my earliest days of reading (if it was available) the addendum in a book which included the writer’s information, most of what I read was a listing of the author’s more notable works. This is in print form, mind you. Also it might have included their country of origin, university experience or perhaps the reality of a spouse.
In the electronic age, it is less limited in the space you might include such info. But how long? How much? Witty and eclectic or educated and bibliographed? Of course, it would certainly depend on your genre, because you wouldn’t include the names of your potted plants on a educational and heavily peer reviewed journal article of psychology.
Even if you are writing in the fiction genre, for me, reader interaction should be very simple. An offering of relevant or interesting information about yourself should be “real” not just something which might seem clever to a certain demographic yet considered inane and irrelevant to others.
Ah! But maybe one’s author profile/information is about assuming who you and your writing will appeal to.
A short list of my pet peeves in author’s profile?
1) The mention of their potted plants names. (Curious and suggestive of a quirky personality but what’s the relevance?)
2) Of how many cats they have or how “human” they are and what observations they make. (That’s like believing everyone thinks your children are as cute as you do)
3) Ones which don’t really say anything at all or are completely irrelevant in a certain way: “So-and-so is a writer who lives on the edge, drinks coffee six times a day and believes there is life after death.”
When I first wrote my webpages at GLBT Bookshelf, Smashwords, my Facebook fanpage and other locations, I included information which was superfluous and although I thought it pertinent to help a reader understand me more, for many it could just as easily have pushed them away. Certainly someone might have questioned the necessity of the info, and still question some of the info I currently include.
My thoughts on intercultural perspectives and even why I began writing were points that didn’t need to be made. Although I don’t have a problem with someone being passionate about ideals or causes, in a general posting, on a general website…there wasn’t a need for me to say any such thing. I simply needed to introduce myself.
Be assured I do not discount or think slightingly of a person who chooses to do, nor would I try to offer correction unless they specifically asked my opinion. That attitude is what I personally experienced from writers who were more “established” in the market, both by their own words and egos.
People are different. That’s all. And how they express themselves shouldn’t be judged hastily without knowing them. Nor should assumptions be made as to what they’re trying to say or the “ascertaining” of some kind of underlying meaning. I am a psychology graduate student and even from the more than average studies I’ve made into personality assessment and observation, I wouldn’t even begin to try to “judge” or categorize someone without having spend considerable time speaking with them. I am not discounting the instinctual or gut feeling some people tend to make about others, known or unknown, but even those things must needs have an open mind attached to them and a frame of true knowledge/reference or they are essentially useless.
I like a more detailed biography of an author if the application allows. Somehow it speaks to me of their personality, of themselves and their intentions. Within those words they do reveal incalculateable things about themselves for good or for ill. I seldom find it ill, however. When a writer’s profile seems to deliberately set up a kind of subterfuge to distract the reader, I find that off-putting.
Most of my fictional writing involves gay characters or themes in a life situation which includes both understandably difficult times but also periods of joy or camraderie. My works take into account and includes the very real life experiences I’ve had. I want my writing to speak for itself, but in this age of electronic book saturation, most readers have so much they have to wade through to actually reach the kind of books they wish to read. Many wish to be able to make a decision on what to purchase without having to “jump through hoops” or read a psych profile.
Some readers rely on recommendations from friends or others (something I rarely do) or they return to authors they’ve previously purchased and been entertained by. It seems less people are willing to take a chance on newcomers who don’t “do a certain seductive and directed dance” even though the price of downloading one eBook is often less than 80 or 90% of what they would spend for new hardcover release. I don’t blame them, because with the technological age almost anyone can publish their imaginings but it doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or enjoyable.
After requesting from Mark Coker that information about my review site Flying With Red Haircrow be listed at Smashwords I recently had an influx of requests. I was thankful for each one, and hoped they’d read my author profile and why I do reviews. Yet the outstanding aspect of the emails I received was the author information, all of which had included some sentences except one. Including author info doesn’t influence what I may think about their work after I read it, but it revealed something about me of their “person”. Some were general profiles which certainly were posted elsewhere online, but some were typed out. They were willing to take a chance to tell themselves about me. They trusted me with their work, their creation. To me that’s a sacred trust.
I’ve have someone in stages of reviewing work of mine instead of simply dismissing something or some situation they didn’t understand, choose to write and ask me a few questions. Instead of assuming what someone named Red Haircrow might write and the reasons for it, even if they’d read my profile or bio on various sites, they wanted a greater insight beyond “word count”. From their own view of why they thought someone might be writing such a story, they were presented with the reality of what the story and characters were representing. They choose to actively view the story, setting and author from a wider angle than what they went into the story expecting. That is exactly my point in writing anything, to try to expand the reader’s view of the world or actually introduce them into the world I’ve lived.
These days, some readers don’t seem to understand they are reading an author’s work, not JUST an entertaining story which has been geared to entertain them. Sometimes it seems from other reviews I’ve read, some readers have lost the literary aspect of what books mean. But, just the same, many writers write now just to cater to a certain niché of readers. It’s a profession. It’s something to do more and more of to gain fans and revenue. I can’t fault that, everyone is different about why they write. I don’t question it either because many publishers are saavy to the razor’s edge sharp. They, of course, want to turn out which will draw, keep readers and make them money. Even established readers of one genre have found themselves presented to the reality by agents/publishers they must write about vampire or shifters characters because that is what is the hottest thing going these days, though m/m fiction is strongly trending.
So in some ways, a simple thing like an author’s profile can be reflective of genre markets also. So many want easily breezeable books (or those who cater to their personal tastes) they can readily identify with. Books descriptions, if even slightly ambiguous, are those many might pass on for more predictable offerings. With an author’s profile, if it’s superficial, flippant, or obviously funny/sexual/provocative, many just go with it. Just as they seek a pointed yet still light read, heavy on drama, light on literary aspects, they may pass on author who chooses to present more than just “reality TV” banter.
It’s a balance writers have to make at some point, although it can be changed or modified later. First impressions can be de rigeur with many and keep the more superficial reader from researching more about an author or reading their work.
I don’t regret anything I’ve posted or later modified for that matter. I am who I am. I am, on average, and not from my own opinion, more candid than most. Yet I’ve become more cognizant of what some people might think about me BEYOND what I’ve posted on my author profile. I am me, but it would be entirely stupid not to consider what might be said or misinterpreted about me which could affect many things. Sales are not my concern although of course it can also be a measure of those considering my writing, and what someone thinks of me…that’s something I know I can never change or influence if someone chooses to be think badly of me.
Give the names of your potted plants if you must, and provide those quirky affectations of your furry friends if the need moves you. It must be popular and acceptable because so many writers, high sales and exposure down to the new kid on the block, continue to do so.
Make your author profile what is really you, even if it is only 140 characters alá the Twitter requirement for “tweets”. Take into consideration the suggestions of your agent or publisher or those you consider more experienced in the profession, but never lose your own persona. Never lose yourself or present something which does not reflect utterly which is you.