How to Create Your Bio


How to Write a Killer Book Proposal


Lesson Info

How to Create Your Bio

And now we're going to talk about your bio and I believe that someone else should write your bio for you. I believe this for book proposals. I believe this for everything. I feel like you can create an outline, you can give some bullets, you can give them all the raw materials, but then you hand it off. You need someone who is objective, who can vet your accomplishments, and somebody who is perfectly comfortable openly bragging on your behalf. I feel like a lot of people when they're writing their own bio, they either don't go far enough or they go a little too far or they highlight the wrong things, things that feel important to them aren't necessarily important in the specific context. So a lot of times, you want to hire this out. Get a little help with it so that you get the best possible bio that you can. So if you're compiling it yourself against my advice, you do want to talk about your accomplishments including statistics, dates, as Christina said, you don't want to just dig int...

o your CV and talk about all the jobs you've had. But you can talk about your career a little bit. You can talk about any awards you've received, volunteering you've done that's relevant to the book topic that you're treating. It's totally fine to pull some of the stuff from your LinkedIn profile or anywhere online. I had a question about whether or not this needs to be completely written from scratch. It doesn't necessarily. If you have a fantastic professional bio, bits of that can go into this bio for sure. Then, this is the real purpose of your bio. What you're doing is explaining to the person on the receiving end why you are the perfect person to write this book. What is it about your life experience and your knowledge base that makes you the ideal person for this? Is it your relevant experiences? If so, talk about those. Is it your deep expertise? Have you studied for decades and decades and been in practice for a really long time? Include that here. If it's tremendous passion, that is an asset. You don't need to back off and say, you know, part of the reason why I am the person for this book is because I love this topic, it's my passion, my lifelong passion. You can include that in your bio. Now there is where things get a little dicey. If you have an impressive social media footprint, you can include that here in your bio. Impressive is a relative term, I realized. As far as I understand it, impressive starts at about 10,000 followers per medium and then goes up from there. So if you have 5,000 Facebook followers and 200 Twitter followers, you might not want to say that here. You probably wanna just gloss over it. The more followers you have, the more shares you're likely to get, it's free marketing basically. So if it's present already, if you've already cultivated that audience, bring it up. If not, low social numbers are not actually gonna help you. They might work against you, so just skip it entirely if it's not gonna work here. I really recommend including some funny personal details in your bio. Your pets, your kids, your hobbies. Agents review hundreds and hundreds of proposals every single week, and honestly the details that make you memorable might be these details. It might be that you have, you know, a three-legged dog or you dye your hair a different color every week. So don't be afraid to get a little bit personal. So the bio section should be, I've seen variation in this. I think it should be about a page or 500 words. It can be a little bit longer depending on if there are aspects of your experience that need to be specifically highlighted, but I would say around one page. So for our examples here, I'm gonna show you two contrasting examples of bios that could go into a book proposal. The first one leans very heavily on the author's accomplishments and how much she has achieved in her career, and also her writing, the writing that she's already done as a professional. The other one is a much more sort of heart-driven bio for someone who's never written a book before but still would like to get his book published. So you can see there are different ways to position your bio depending on what you want to emphasize and who you're speaking to. All right, mucho text here. This is from my extremely impressive colleague, Christina Wallace. "Christina Wallace is the Vice President of Growth "at Bionic, an enterprise growth solution that installs "startup ecosystems into large enterprises, "enabling them to discover and build the future. "She is also the co-host of The Limit Does Not Exist, "a Forbes podcast focused on the intersection of STEM "and the arts, and a freelance writer, "including as a contributor to" ♪ Impressive ♪ "Prior to joining Bionic, Christina founded "BridgeUp: STEM, a new educational division at the "American Museum of Natural History with a mission to "captivate, inspire, and propel "girls and women into computer science." So as you can see, this is very much positioned to say, "This person has done a lot of really cool things already." But it also inserts some of her passions and some emotional content too. She wants to captivate, inspire, and propel. That's not all, "I did impressive things," that's, "This is where my heart is, that's why I've done these things." All right, next. "Previously Christina was the founding director of "Startup Institute New York, the co-founder and CEO "of venture-backed fashion company Quincy Apparel, "a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, "and an arts manager at the Metropolitan Opera. "She holds undergraduate degrees "in mathematics and theater from Emory University "and an MBA from Harvard Business School." So she continues to highlight her achievements so far. "Originally from Lansing, Michigan, "Christina is pleased to sit on the alumni board "of Interlochen Center for the Arts, "is a Forte Foundation Ambassador, and is a member of the "Women and Technology Leadership Group of MIT Solve. "In her free time", personal, "she sings with "Ensemble Companio, embarks on amateur travel, "including summiting Mt Kilimanjaro "and trekking to Everest Base Camp, "and is an amateur athlete, with 22 half marathons, "3 triathlons, and 3 marathons under her belt." So this is an edited version of Christina's incredibly impressive bio, there was more. But I was really pleased to see that she included the really beefy section on who she is as a person outside of her achievements. And you know, you want this to be a case for you as an author. So that definitely does include what you have accomplished. That shows that what you're going to accomplish in the future is going to be equally impressive or even more so. But you also want to talk about who you are as a person, because that counts and it's memorable. Now let's take a peek at this. This is for the fellow who wrote The Immigrant from Sierra Leone, for his memoir. Now note too that Christina's bio was in third person. This is in first person. This is a heart bio. This is where someone wants you to say, "I may never have done this before, "but I'm gonna do it this time and "I'm gonna do it with my whole heart and soul." So this is what he says. "I am a humble retiree living in Texas. "I have always dreamed of sharing the incredible story of "my life with an audience beyond my own friends and family, "which drove me to write My Book. "My story is not entirely unique, "or unquestionably heroic, or universally inspiring. "But it is a story full of adventure and wisdom, "learning and loving, struggle and triumph. "It illustrates how spending year after year struggling "to survive can teach one to stand firm in all undertakings, "regardless of counter influences, "opposition, or discouragement. "It proves that a determined, earnest boy "from a poor farming community in Sierra Leone can fall, "and rise, and travel, and change, "and reinvent himself completely. "I live in San Antonio with my wonderful wife, Evelyn. "We have three children: "Our oldest boy works as a film producer in Atlanta, "our middle daughter is in the army, "and our youngest boy is attending Texas State University. "Preserving my history for them, "and for the children I hope they have, "was a driving force behind this book's creation." So you can see this is all very deeply personal. He doesn't have any writing credentials to tout here. So instead he's talking about why writing this book was incredibly important to him, what it's going to do for him, and why it should be out in the world. And he admits right up front here: "Although I have no formal training as a writer, "I am dedicated to making My Book a unique, "inspiring, and arresting memoir. "My life story proves that I am "a determined man who is not easily dissuaded, "and the path this book has taken offers more proof. "I wrote my first draft many years ago entirely by hand, "had it typeset, and shopped it around to local bookstores. "The people I spoke with told me my story was fascinating, "but that the writing needed some polish. "I've worked for more than a year "with a professional editor to shape and refine My Book, "and am proud of the finished manuscript. "Whatever happens next, I know that I will find a way "to bring this book out into the world." So that's a true story about this author that's incredibly compelling. He is driven to share his tale with readers. And again, my guess is that a lot of the audience here in the studio and online, you are folks who have some professional writing experience already, so you won't necessarily need to craft something that is more about who you are as a person, and instead is more about who you can be as an author. But I wanted to show you that this is possible. This is a compelling bio, this is perfectly appropriate to put into a book. So if you are someone who has just never written anything before, then don't be afraid to create a bio that's more along these lines. So shameless self-promotion time. I love ghostwriting bios, it's one of my favorite things to do. If you would like me to help you ghostwrite your bio, you can email me, and I would love to talk to you about how to make that happen. Regardless of whether you end up working with me or another ghostwriter, I wanna tell you what you should give someone if you're going to hire a writer to do your bio for you or to do it in collaboration with you. Doesn't hurt to give them your resume and a list of your accomplishments, degrees, publications. Hey, if you've done a Ted Talk, might want to include that. Awards, if you've gotten any coverage in the press for things that you've done already, include that. Panels or conferences that you've appeared at, speeches, anything like that, definitely your ghostwriter is gonna want those things. Since the purpose of your bio is to set up the case for you as an author, give your writer a few sentences explaining why you personally, singularly, are the perfect person to write this particular book. Just drum up a few sentences, give it your all. Give you ghostwriter your social media stats. I know we talked about how you may not actually want to include them in the bio. This person may see things that you don't in your following and may be able to highlight certain aspects of your audience and your following. So break it down into each medium and give them those stats, just see what they can do with them. And then personal details. Did you grow up on a farm? Are you related to somebody famous? Do you have an unusual hobby? Are you an athlete, like Christina was? Make yourself memorable. And if you struggle with this, a lot of us do. If someone came up to me and said "Hey, what makes you unusual?" I would say, "Uh." So ask your Facebook friends. They will probably provide you with a wealth of embarrassing information about you that you can then filter through and decide what you're going to provide to your writer. But our friends know, our friends know us. And they know what makes us interesting. All right, so, and then examples. It never hurts to give them some examples of bios that you like. So poke around the Internet, see who's got a bio that you think, "Oh, that's what I want my bio to sound like." Send them a couple of links. That will help them understand the tone that you're going for, some of the format, just give them a little bit of guidance.

Class Description

You might have an amazing book or idea to sell, but the only way you’ll be able to seal the deal is with a strong, persuasive book proposal. Much more than just an introduction to your book, a proposal gives literary agents and acquiring editors the information they need to make the tough decision to take on your work.

Writer, editor and consultant Sally McGraw will teach you the six essential elements of a solid book proposal and how you can make your case in the most creative and convincing way possible.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Persuade rather than summarize.
  • Figure out your target audience.
  • Create a market analysis and choose comparison titles strategically.
  • Write a bio or have someone else write it for you.
  • Define your author platform and explain what you’ll do to make your book a success.
  • Create a chapter-by-chapter outline.
  • Write a short, sweet and attention-grabbing query letter.


Beth Howard

Sally's presentation was excellent. She is articulate, professional and informative. I learned some great tips about adding statistics (and how/where to find them.) I especially appreciated her guest speakers, two seasoned literary agents who added helpful perspective. More classes from her, please!

Lee-Sean Huang

I am currently in the process of preparing my own book proposal. Sally's class is concise and super helpful in breaking down the elements and considerations needed to be awesome. I feel like I will be coming back to re-watch this while I prepare my proposal.