Thursday, June 06, 2019

Required bio fields on portal querying

Many agents are using an online query manager (vs. email), with standard "fill in the field" required questions, one of which is the ubiquitous "Tell us about yourself and your many achievements" biography.

When a fledgling writer - with no credentials to her name - puts said potential agents in a tidy bucket and sets them aside for "future" attempted queries...and the future arrives e.g. it's time to quit pansying about and actually query them, what is one to do?

The straight up question is: What is the expectation of a biography, when there is no useful biography to be had?

In conventional queries, I simply skip it - and close with title and word count, etc. The online variety doesn't allow for that. 


My first choice is always to be funny, but that's often not the best choice.
Agents understand that many writers are not leading headliner lives, and that's ok. Or that you haven't been published before, also ok.

What's absolutely required: almost anything other than "I don't know what to say here, I'm dull" will do the trick. It's not so much what you say about yourself it's that you say something.

Something can be where you live and your job if you have one.  (Do NOT let me hear you say you're a "boring" stay at home parent!)  Your dogs/cats/geckos are always a nice touch.

"Instant requested full when you  mention me, of course"--Duchess of Yowl

If you don't have that, tell me what kind of books you like to read.

You're introducing yourself at a noisy cocktail party. Tell me something about yourself that you'd want to know about me.

My knee-jerk response to required fields is "and the horse you rode in on" but that's not at all helpful.

No Janet, it isn't helpful, and what did I ever do to YOU?

A mailing list sign up once asked for something like ten pieces of information. I filled it out with nonsense, and I'm STILL on the mailing list. I do NOT recommend doing that here.


Kitty said...

The most difficult thing for me to write is the blasted bio.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I dread this section only slightly less than I dread putting together a legible synopsis. I will put something down that will include the pug and the daughter. Probably. Who knows?

Leslie said...

I have been published (articles in my field) and I still hate the bio portion.

As for jibberish answers, I once took a driving safety course and the quiz questions were to check off from a list of possible answers. At least half the answers were beyond ridiculous -- so I checked them off. Stuff like "what conditions can a driver control?" The answers I chose were: the weather, other drivers, road conditions

And I still got my certificate for the insurance discount.

MA Hudson said...

Janet, methinks you’ll receive a deluge of query letters mentioning the Duchess of Yowl in the next few days!
I can’t stand all those required fields in the query forms either. Makes me shift those agents to the bottom of my list. I will query them, but only after I’ve queried the agents with more welcoming submission processes.

Jami said...

If in doubt: Anything that makes you sound human and like a friendly person. IE I live with my dog in Philly, where, when I'm not writing, I take her on long walks by the riverfront. Leave out any hobbies that make you sound like a serial killer or drunk, and you're probably good.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Beggars can't be choosers. If the agent looks good otherwise but uses query manager, I fill out the required fields, trying to guess which parts of my extensive bio will appeal to this particular agent. (We *all* have extensive bios.)

The only thing I won't do is make up a "marketing plan" out of whole cloth.

Pericula Ludus said...

In late March, a bunch of people tried their hands at making themselves sound even remotely interesting in the "Ink Stained Wench Flash semi-fiction contest". Miraculously, they all succeeded. I read through the entries and the feedback Janet kindly provided and thought that was incredibly helpful. At least it has shifted my immediate response away from "even my mum thinks I'm a dreadful bore". Maybe these can help you with filling that dreaded box!

April said...

Thanks for posting a link to the Query Shark post. It helped me identify a problem in my own YA novel!

As for a bio, I'm still working on mine. I was really inspired by the contest you ran, but I'm really struggling with it. I think I'm putting too much pressure on myself to be funny. I'm funny in person, but I struggle to write humor. It's tricky.

KariV said...

Here's a follow-up question:

What to put in that dratted bio field when you *do* have a working bio in your query? Since the forms say, "paste your query here" I always vascilate between repeating myself and pasting the bio paragraph in the bio box or trying to come up with something new, different, and also interesting.


Claytor Family said...


I'm the person who submitted this question - and appreciate the responses. I did ultimately end up with a "here are my quirky items of note, and oh, I write, too" bio (alas, query manager does not allow - wisely - the attachment of pet photos. I have a rather photogenic dog, the Duchess of Yowl would not approve).

I have not had a dull life, which became apparent when I wrote the damnable bio. But I am a wallflower, and loathe the attention that a bio forces one to draw to oneself, hence the conundrum. It's just hard to do. And unless there's value to the content, why do I have to?

I do understand, in the absence of actual credentials, the intent of the bio is to demonstrate:
1. Is this person crazy
2. Can they string a sentence together
3. Is this someone (agent) is willing to work with

(Answer: possibly, sometimes, evidently not yet)

julie.weathers said...


Oddly enough, I despise talking about myself also. The bio section I had to really work on with the help of friends because I would rather gloss over it or ignore it. The thought of writing something longer gives me hives.

However, it's part of the trade.

Yes, the agent would like to know a bit about you and do they think you're someone they want to work with? It won't be based solely on the bio, of course, but it might give them a nudge. Use ever tool to nudge in the right direction.