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Author Bios Poll

Authors Bios Matter

  • Not at all (46%, 162 Votes)
  • Somewhat (38%, 131 Votes)
  • Love them (16%, 56 Votes)

Total Voters: 349

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Nearly every author has a biography in their book.   Does that make a difference to you?   I’ve got my thoughts on that and I’ll be talking about that on Tuesday.   Let me know your thoughts.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

33 Comments

  1. Christine
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 23:43:37

    It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other if an author has a bio printed in her or his book. If there is one, though, I always read it. I think because I’m a people person, I simply like learning a little something personal about individuals: where they live, where they went to school, a little something about their interests, family or lifestyle. It’s just nice.

  2. Angelia Sparrow
    Oct 30, 2008 @ 23:52:42

    I don’t much care for author bios. I like Parke Godwin’s in Waiting for the Galactic Bus and The Snake Oil Wars, because they were funny. (died of eating rubber chicken at a SF con banquet)

    And I hate writing my own. Naomi’s and my bio pages include phrases like “state of feline servitude,” and “Plans to grow up to be Errol Flynn or Orlando Bloom, whichever.”

    An author bio won’t influence me to buy the book.

  3. Lori
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 00:00:47

    I have to admit that the cutesy bios I read (quoting directly from the book on my desk in front of me she realizes the most valuable asset a woman has for coping with men is a sense of humor. Not to mention a large trash bag and a pair of tongs. make me want to scream.

    That was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s bio, by the way. But a lot of bios are like that it seems and it makes me squeamish because it’s usually not cute, not endearing, not funny and not professional.

    I just hate stuff like that because it’s so high school. And the ability to write a book takes so much hard work that it just seems degrading to try and cute it up.

  4. SonomaLass
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 00:22:32

    Most bio blurbs don’t interest me; they are usually either generic or “cutesy” (or both). I don’t read them until I’ve started the book, at least, so they won’t influence whether I get it or not. Some details do interest me, though; for example, I like to know when an author is a fellow academic, and where he or she teaches. I enjoy knowing where in the world the author lives, too.

  5. Moth
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 01:02:55

    I only care if I really like several of their books and want to know more about them. Then the bio is just the tip of the iceberg, followed by a trip to their website, a look at their blog, etc.

    Again, I don’t even bother reading the things until I’ve read probably SEVERAL of their books and liked them.

  6. Jenre
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 07:51:30

    I don’t mind author bios as long as they stick to general facts, ie. where the author is from, family life and interests. I don’t like ‘cutsy’ bios or those that give author opinions. I also don’t like author photos, especially those where the author is posing, looking thoughtfully at the camera – it’s just so false – and often taken from several years before! If I want to see what an author looks like I can look them up on their website.

    I judge the books I read on the strength of the writing, not on author appearance or on what the author thinks I need to know about him/her.

  7. Noelle
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 07:59:16

    I think it can be informative sometimes. If I’m reading a novel set in the south or that has a southern character and I think OMG this is such stereotypical crap and then I see in the bio they grew up in NYC and now live the the Pacific Northwest then I think “Bless her heart”. Or if the book deals with a particular subject matter and the bio says they worked in that field or taught in that field then I feel more confident that the details are accurate.

  8. theo
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:05:33

    I guess I’ve never paid all that much attention to them and never realized it until you asked the question. Is that a bad thing?

    I have to say, what I’d really like to see is a picture of what they looked like while writing that particular book. Was it Heyer who wore the flowing robe and pink boa? Though, come to think of it, I sit in my VS jammies to write, my hair a mess and no make-up so maybe that’s not such a good idea after all…

  9. Jane O
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:09:43

    I really don’t want to know anything about the author. I would prefer to think of the book as springing full-grown from the head of Jove.

    If there must be a bio, please keep it as neutral as possible -‘ I don’t want to know the author’s age, marital/parental status, views on pets, etc.. I would just as soon skip the author photo as well.

    I must be in a very small minority, since publishers wouldn’t insist on this stuff if it didn’t help sell books.

  10. Sarah W
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:19:33

    I like the bios most of the time–I admit to wanted to know if the author is from a specific part of the world–especially if they are writting about that area.

    What I HATE are author pictures–particularly if they are on the back of the book. I like to think I’m reading the book without the author looking over my shoulder–or if I’m reading in the tub, the last thing I want to see is the author’s face!

  11. theo
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:23:40

    I must be in a very small minority, since publishers wouldn't insist on this stuff if it didn't help sell books.

    But I have to wonder if it really does sell them. I buy an author, not for her/his bio, but for the story they craft. Where they come from, what their family is like, none of that sways me to buy or not.

    Maybe the question is then, not do we like or dislike them, but how likely we are to buy the book based on them?

    Just FFT…

  12. Victoria Janssen
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:46:15

    So far as anthologies go, I don’t think I’ve ever sold a story where the editor didn’t ask for a brief bio. I do like them, and often read the bios of the contributors before I even look at the stories. I like to know what they’ve published and where, because I’m curious if we’ve been in the same publications, etc.. Before I was a selling writer, I was curious about their other markets as clues to what might be a viable market for me. However, if I hadn’t been a writer myself, I likely would have read bios much differently.

    So far as book bios go, I prefer the plain and simple, but it gets boring to write those over and over, so I have been guilty of getting cute once or twice. “She’s the only writer she knows who’s published a story that includes giant people-eating turtles.” I mean, it’s TRUE, but, well, guilty.

  13. Jody W.
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 08:56:53

    Huh, I had no idea so many readers (if you can base it in the few comments here) actively disliked bios. Does everyone dislike them only in books or on websites, too? Or do websites have more leeway with bios, photos and general cuteness? Not that authors have much of a choice as to whether or not to include a bio in a book, but still.

  14. Marianne McA
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 09:13:07

    Nick Hornby wrote a short story :’J Johnson: A Writing Life’ which was published in the Guardian.
    It was just a succession of very short author bios, but even though each was only two or three lines long, he made them tell a story.

    Individually, each bio is bland and uninformative and tells you very little about J Johnson – just dry facts like he ‘…lives with his wife in Brighton’.

    Cumulatively, however, they tell a story – ‘lives with his wife and child in Brighton’ … ‘lives with his wife and children in Sussex’ … ‘lives with his partner in London’.

    None of that is actual quotation – I didn’t keep a copy of the story, although I wish I had. In very few words Hornby tells you a suprising amount about J Johnson. Made me look at author bios differently afterwards.

    I would read author bios – my gut reaction to the question is that they only matter where there is a question about the expertise of the author. Sometimes they’re interesting: I loved ‘Swish of the Curtain’ by Pamela Brown when I was a child – and when I bought a copy of the book for my children I was suprised to read in the author bio that she’d written it as a 14 year old. Doesn’t matter, but it was interesting to know, and interesting to read about her later career.

  15. Kathleen MacIver
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 09:16:18

    I voted “Somewhat”… simply because it was in the middle. Do they matter? No, they don’t. But do I like to read them? Yes, I do. I always read them, if they’re there. I don’t really know why, though, because I’ve never thought of putting a book down based on the bio. I guess I just like to know a little about the person who wrote the book.

  16. MS Jones
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 10:30:53

    I think mini-bios are irrelevant – they’re never going to include information that might make you reject the author (like, this person is a raging homophobe), so to me it’s a waste of space. If the choice is between photo and/or bio on the back page, or a plot synopsis, I’d rather see information about the book.

    Usually the bio wouldn’t put me on or off an author anyway, although I do confess to not being able to read a certain highly sucessful mystery writer after I learned that she and her best friend murdered a woman.

  17. Jessica
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 11:10:36

    If they went to my alma mater (undergrad) or law school, then I’m hesitant to read them. If they’re lawyer written books, I sometimes avoid them because they get the law wrong for me, excepting Julia Spencer-Fleming

  18. Jane
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 11:12:23

    @Jessica – did you read Julia (Julie?) James book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive? I thought the law parts were spot on even if the author took some liberties with timing.

  19. Meljean
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 11:18:22

    At my last signing, I actually sold a book because my bio made someone laugh — it was the same bio that was irreverent enough that I wasn’t even sure if I should use it.

    Since then it has been cut down (to make room for the UPC info on the inside cover) to just basic info: Meljean is the author of X and X, and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter.

    My sense is that the region is sometimes important — either because it lends an authority to the subject matter and characters, or because readers like supporting local authors. I’ve gotten several e-mails of the “You live in Portland? I’m in [local area]!” variety, so there is definitely a connection made through location. Not for everyone, of course, but for some.

    So my feeling is that they are somewhat important. For those readers that care, they are available … and for those that don’t, it’s relatively easy to skip over the info or ignore the picture (er, unless it is one of those huge pictures on the back cover instead of the inside cover.)

  20. Helen Burgess
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 12:16:37

    Theo, shame on you, Ms Heyer would spin in her grave at the thought of pink boas, I believe you are confusing her with Barbara Cartland. For myself, the less I know about the author the better. I have stopped reading books because the author decided to do something stupid, even though I liked the books.

  21. joanne
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 15:32:32

    Ah Theo, you made me laugh for the first time on this never-ending Friday: Georgette Heyer in a flowing robe and pink boa… OMG, thank you! And yes of course Helen Burgess is right, it was Barbara Cartland who wore that stuff and laughed all the way to the bank.

    As for the bios, not so much unless it’s a wall-banger and I want to see who the hell is this person? What planet is he/she from?.
    I agree on the cutesy stuff being weird and I’d much rather have a short piece on the author’s history with his/her writing rather then finding out if they have a dog. JMO

  22. theo
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 15:38:42

    **sheepishgrin**

    Helen, what can I say? I’m old… *snort*

    But I knew it was someone not currently en vogue…

    And joanne, I’m glad I made you laugh. My job for the day is done ;-)

  23. cecilia
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 21:08:34

    Weak as I am, I find that I am always compelled to read them, but I’m grateful when they’re not there. Anything that makes me feel like by reading the book I’m getting a view into a lonely person’s fantasies just makes me way too uncomfortable. I don’t really want to know that the author of the saccharine book about the saccharinely perfect family lives with her cats in an isolated town. If I find out the historical that has a ton of errors was written by a History Ph.D, I am filled with indignation (more than I would be if I felt the author might have an excuse).

  24. SusanL
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 23:03:16

    I voted “somewhat”, but I am content with the basics in a bio.

    If you polled for on online personality, I don’t know how I would vote. I like a lot of author’s blogs and and comments, but I hate finding out someone I read and enjoyed is a total asshat

  25. Ann Bruce
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 01:13:46

    Bios should be edited, so authors don’t come across as…well, stupid when they say things like “I’m a 3rd degree black belt in Korean karate.” Either the author is lying and her research skills are sorely lacking (karate is Japanese; Korean martial arts include hap ki do, tae kwon do, etc.) or she’s being ripped off by her school because those instructors shouldn’t be allowed to teach.

    EDITED because I Googled the author again and had to make a correction.

  26. Catherine
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 14:37:11

    Like Sarah W I HATE those author pictures that take up the entire back cover.

    When shopping for books, I usually have a latte in one hand and a pile of books cradled in the other arm. There’s room at my local bookstore to put my latte down on the shelf, so I can grab the next book that’s caught my eye and turn it over to read the back blurb. It really pisses me off, when there is no back blurb. If I have to find somewhere to put down my pile of books in order to open the book to read the blurb, 99% of the time I won’t buy the book.

    What IS the rationale behind no back cover blurb? It’s bothered me for years.

  27. Ann Bruce
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 16:02:55

    What IS the rationale behind no back cover blurb?

    I think this is done when the authors are big enough that their fan base will buy anything with their name on it. Frankly, I’m not a fan of it either, but I rarely go into bookstores anymore. 90% of my reading purchases are done online.

  28. RfP
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 17:17:54

    a lot of bios are like that it seems and it makes me squeamish because it's usually not cute, not endearing, not funny and not professional.

    It’s not easy to write about oneself, but it’s part of how the author presents her style to the world. If an author’s bio is a trying-and-failing-to-amuse overshare, it makes me doubt that her sense of humor and mine will match up. Just this morning I decided against buying an e-book because of a badly-written bio. (I hadn’t sought out the bio; it was the first thing I found on the sales site.)

  29. Anne Douglas
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 18:16:04

    Not a fan of no back cover blurb as well. Bios both alternatively fascinate and annoy me. Sometimes, when I’m struck by a story I’m curious to find out just what sort of life the author has lived to have written such a story… but then others I’m disappointed to find out it was written by a little old lady who lives in a shoe with her 2 cats, 3 dogs and a skink, all who go by the name ‘fur baby’. Ack.

    As for writing the damn things, hate it! Mine is probably the one RfP read and was horrified by ROFL!

  30. RfP
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 18:42:34

    Nope :) No one I’ve seen here.

  31. Noelle
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 20:10:30

    You know the one and only person who’s picture a saw in the back of a book and thought “yep that sex librarian look and that smirk look exactly like who I think should be writing this book” was Emma Holly. In a tiny tiny way the look for her picture I think might have even helped the sale a little. But she is the exception that proves the rule.

  32. Jessica
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 21:06:57

    I’m neutral about author bios, and only notice photos when I am sure they are as unfairly unflattering as it is possible to be, which is too often (I mean, jeez, I can get a better photo with my Photo Booth than some of these unfocused, off center, plastic posed things!).

    I also think there is a list of stock phrases and sentences which should be forever banned from author bios, and my first pick is the omnipresent “Sally wrote her first book when she was in kindergarten. It was about a purple dinosaur of course.”

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