How to write your About Page
And why getting it right is so important
When I asked an author client for the blurb for her About page recently, her one phrase reply said it all. And I’m guessing she’s not alone is feeling that writing about yourself is harder than writing a book. It isn’t easy knowing what to include and what tone to strike.
Your traditional author bio – the one on the back of your book – is not enough to give your website visitor what they’re looking for. If you’re attached to it and like the rather distant tone that these things tend to use, I’d ask you to consider adding some more about yourself as a writer in other sections on the page. You could use an FAQ section drawing on the kinds of things people ask you at events or in interviews, or you could write an alternative bio to use in conjunction with the official one. One way or another you need to give visitors what they’re looking for and that’s not the bare facts about where you studied or where you live.
The good news is that if you take the focus off yourself and onto your reader, you’ll do a much better job of making this page work for you. There’s no easy formula that’s right for everyone, but here are a few ideas that can help you create something that’s individual to you and relevant to your readers.
1. Think about who are you writing for
There are two types of reader who can land on your About page.
a. The potential or ‘cold’ reader
They’ve seen your name or one of your books on a social media post or in the press and though they’ve never heard of you they are interested enough to click the link. They land on your home page or book page and then click About to find out who you are and whether you sound like the kind of person who writes stuff that would interest them. The About page is very likely to be the second click any visitor to your site makes so you need to use it to inspire ‘cold’ visitors to become readers.
b. The ‘already warm’ reader
They’ve just finished one of your books. They’ve been immersed in the world you’ve created and didn’t want it to end. They want more – another book, more about the one they’ve just read – and, they want to know about you. Who is this person who created this story that gripped them and transported them to another place? Your author bio on the flyleaf will have filled in the basics, but this is your chance to make more of a connection.
2. Think about what they are looking for
Whether they’re new or already warm readers, they are looking for an experience and the blurb about you is one of the key places they visit to check out what it is that you deliver. So you need to be clear on what it is that your books, in particular, have to offer.
Try to go beyond the kinds of words that publishers or reviewers use, such as ‘thrilling’, ‘gripping’ or ‘page-turning’ and go deeper. Write about themes you explore that might resonate with your potential reader. Mention the kinds of experience are you interested in exploring through your characters. Let them know what kind of world you open up for them.
So if your protagonist has something of Jack Reacher about them, talk about your interest in exploring what it means to be the ultimate rolling stone, a self-reliant urban cowboy with no responsibilities and a Bond-like skillset. Talk about your interest in what constitutes natural justice and the value of an old-school sense of honour that functions outside of the law.
If you’re writing about Plantagenet queens you might talk about your interest in women’s success and struggle in an era of massive oppression. What you have to say may resonate with a reader who may share the feeling that though women have come a very long way, there is still some way to go.
Your Amazon customer reviews are a good place to look for comments on themes and reading experiences that your readers have enjoyed. Use these as a guide to the kinds of thing you could talk about.
3. Is there anything about who your are or your life experience that lends your writing credibilty?
If you’ve done some interesting things in your life mention them. Maybe you spent a summer being a clown or riding across the Gobi desert on a camel. Perhaps you always wanted to be a pathologist or work for MI5. Give people a glimpse of the real you. Even better if you can share events or experiences which have directly informed your writing.
If you’re a criminal justice lawyer writing crime novels, your first hand experience lends credibility your writing so talk about it. If you used to be a vet and now you’re writing about a serial killer, explain how your knowledge of anaesthetic drugs helped you create the perfect murder. Keep it short, but give a glimpse of the life behind the writing.
4. Share something of your journey to becoming a writer
Readers are interested in why you write. The details of your writing practice are the subject matter for a full length piece on your blog or in your newsletter, but there’s room on your About page for a few sentences about how you ended up being a writer.
5. Share what you like to read and what books have inspired you
There’s likely to be at least a year between publication of your books and if readers have enjoyed your latest offering they will look to you for recommendations of what to read while waiting for your next book to come out. Whilst this isn’t the place for a full run down of your favourites, it is a good place to share books that have shaped who you are.
6. Feel free to brag
If you’ve been on a bestseller list or been pick of the year in the press or sold all over the world, don’t hold back. Readers are looking for proof that your books are good. But keep it short – a long list of achievements is tedious and you’ll end up distancing people when you want to make a connection with them.
7. Reverse chronology is a must
Start with the reader and with what you’re doing now, not with where you were born or where you live.
8. Don’t list all your books
On your flyleaf author bio or on your Amazon page or your publisher’s author page it might be helpful to go through your backlist and let people know when each book was published. But if someone is on your website, all that information is there on other pages. Use your About page to talk about what interests you and motivates you to write about it rather than plot outlines.