How to Write a Literary Bio

K.I.S.S. Guide: No bullshit, breezy guides to the elusive odds and ends of submitting literary(ish) works brought to you by Chill Subs.

There are two things to remember when writing a literary bio:

  1. Don't stress about it.
  2. You will stress about it.

So, first, let's have a little therapy session. Some roleplay. You're a snazzy literary agent at a swanky New York party full of people doing snazzy and swanky things. Now, who walks in?

Well, it's your client: You!

Look at you. Fuckin' yum.

Time to make your elevator pitch. Be simple. Be succinct.

  1. Who is this stellar new writer you've got with you? Tell me in one or two sentences.
  2. What are some of the best magazines they've been published in?
  3. Do they have any accolades? A best-selling novel? An MFA? Or do they just make really great toast?
  4. Where can I find more of their work?

There. Therapy over. Now, take that information, mash it together into a paragraph, and slap it into your cover letter. Boom, bang...boing? Whatever. You're done.

If you're new to writing, pretend you're a narcissist on a date. Talk about yourself in the third person and leave out the bad stuff.

But always (always) check through a lit mags submissions guidelines for what they say about bios. Some will ask for them to be super short. Some don't care. Some want them to tickle. (For example, The Molotov Cocktail just wants two clever sentences.)

Best method: Read five or six of the bios of writers they've published (They're found below each of the stories you absolutely read because you read every magazine you submit to. Right?)

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