Recently, I spoke at StokerCon at the Queen Mary in Long Beach and the Sisters-in-Crime conference in Sacramento, about developing your brand. There are some key elements into doing that. They include writing a strong bio, creating an interesting personality on social media, having a professional headshot of yourself, and mastering an overall tone that marries you with your books.
First, and foremost, it should be written in third person. I’ve seen many, and when I fist started wrote mine in first person, but when sending out to professional publications, and organizations, please, please, please, keep your biography in third person.
Secondly, the length of the bio is also important. In the age of hurry up and wait, our attention spans have shortened considerably. Most writers I’ve come across are the best skimmers in the world. It’s why my good friend, and President of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) always barks that writers don’t read. In itself, that’s a conundrum. We read to inhale, and write to exhale. The entire process of reading work, and then writing our own is how most writers breathe creativity.
A professional bio can be up to three paragraphs of four to five sentences each. However, most publishers and literary agents prefer one short paragraph in a query for them to review your work.
Just as the rule of thumb (before you master writing and can break the rules) is that you never, ever use adjectives and adverbs in your novels and short stories. That also applies for your bio. Gimmicks or adjectives about how incredible your story is, won’t impress, but rather turn off the reader of your bio.
If possible, include your achievements in one or two sentences, tops. Of course, if you’ve published in one or two major print publications, include that, but if there are many, then summarize your body of work in a sentence that best details it. Always include any awards your books or novels have won. Some authors like to keep a humorous tone to their biography, and that’s fine. Personally, I feel that if it reflects your writing, it’s appropriate. If not, subtly match the tone of your writing. Branding yourself means continuity.
For this, I only have one rule: Never argue with anyone on social media. Additionally, when I had dinner with Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Robert J. Sawyer, a couple of months ago, Jerry said to me that its better to not talk about your books as much as keeping the focus on you. “The more interesting your life,” he said to me, “the more you can expect to sell books.” I try not to spam everyone with my work, but that’s a hard one. It’s why it’s truly better to do book and blog tours; the word of mouth is spread by others.
Please spend a few bucks at Sears (so sad, so many are closing) or hire a professional photographer at no more than $150, and get yourself a good headshot. I’m so tired of seeing writers’ photos of them on their websites and promotional swag of them in front of a garden with their cat, or somewhere where clearly, everyone knows he or she used their iPhone and a few Instagram filters to deliver that less-than-professional picture. Continuity is key so match the tone of your book with your look. This is branding. Even if you write about gardens and cats, get your pics done professionally. Writing is not only something you do, it’s your business. Invest time and money into your writing business and stamp your brand on the world.
Ace Antonio Hall (born July 4th, 1966) is an American urban fantasy and horror writer. He is best known as the creator of Sylva Slasher, a teenage zombie slasher who also raises the dead for police investigations, which includes novels and short story collections. He was born in New York, but grew up in Jacksonville, Florida with his grandmother, Sula G. Wells. He is the youngest son of artist and jazz songwriter, Christopher Hall and RN Alice Hall (Thomas). A former Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan Learning Center, Hall earned a BFA from Long Island University. While teaching English, he studied to be a certified ACE personal trainer with the Equinox Fitness Club one summer, but never pursued it professionally. Hall currently lives in Los Angeles with his bonsai named Bonnie.