Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Most writers I have known, or read interviews with, would rather keep their private lives private. Publishing, i.e. making public, is for the work, not their bios or beeswax.

But today’s publishing demands some personal exposure. It’s a weird and uncomfortable transition, and in the process, some get confused as to how personal to be in the virtual social space.

To the rescue comes a polished and experienced professional, literary agent Janet Reid. See her blog post here, about how to (and mostly how NOT to) present oneself as you head to the field of publishing.

It’s solid advice from one who knows. Not arguing, and also breathing a sigh of relief that I have nothing in my digital past that needs fixing. (Actually, almost nothing, but I’ll leave it there.)

However, I have one more to add to this list of please-don’t-do-that, and it’s a personal one that has bothered me for years, mostly because it is so ubiquitous on writers’ sites.

It’s the tendency to hide in plain sight.

I took care to include in my About Me/bio all true things that are germane and pertinent to why I do what I do. I omitted plenty that I don’t want to share and don’t think has relevance to my writing life. But even as I use some humor, I wrote central and deep truths.

I understand how some do not want to say anything that goes beneath the surface. Thus, we get “fun facts” such as “I like green jelly beans, have a fear of spiders, and once climbed a mountain with a plate on my head.”

And that's pretty much all they say.

This sort of disclosure is not much fun, and serves to masquerade as personal sharing while hiding.

Maybe having a factual bio would be better. It’s not humorous, but I’ll get to know you just a wee bit. Janet Reid mentions that you should have a photo of yourself, not of a typewriter. I think a bio should also expose something.

Just my take on this tricky road. I know it isn’t easy.


Vijaya said...

Good post. I enjoy getting to know other writers so like it when they take off the mask. As for me, my web/log is an online home and just like the real home, I invite people in to stay awhile, share stories. I'd serve tea online if I could.

Mirka Breen said...

You know I'd visit your virtual home anytime, Vijaya, even without tea ;)

Evelyn said...

I'm also one of those who like authors to be open about who they are on their websites. It helps me connect with them and their work. I probably say a lot more about myself on my website than I should, but I don't blog and I'm not on FB much and on Twitter scarcely at all, so it's almost my only place to share who I am.

janlcoates said...

Maybe someday we can all have tea together, in person!

Kelly Hashway said...

There are certain topics I'll never talk about because of my profession, but I do try to openly be myself online. What you see is what you get with me.

We are: Clamco said...

I often get emails from readers saying they enjoy my blog because I'm down to earth. I try my best to be that way as much as possible. I also try and stay positive. It's easy to be down and wallow in one's bad feelings. I try not to go there, but sometimes bad things happen and it feels good to share them with readers who can understand, sympathize or give advice. Your cat is beautiful, by the way!!

Mirka Breen said...

Janlcoates-- Your place or mine?

We are:Clamco-- Of my three, Miss Nougat is the least self-possessed. So she thanks you even if a bit surprised :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Good post! It's hard to decide what to share and what to leave out for many reasons, one of which is how much space to take up with YOU. But I always like knowing a little more about the author. There are authors whose bios make me wish I could meet them in person (and, interestingly, their books do, too.)

MirkaK said...

Often, when reading a book, I wonder what motivated the writer to tell that particular story--the setting, the time, and so on. Does the narrative have something to do with her/his own history? Sometimes I find the information I'm looking for on the writer's website and appreciate the clarification, even validation of what I intuited. And sometimes I don't get much of anything. But a bio is not the only place I look. I search for interviews, written or on video. They usually give me a better sense of who this writer is as a person and how that connects to the kind of writing s/he does. Still, I'd venture to say that people who write are generally not of the extrovert variety; they sit quietly alone with characters roaming around in their head. They want you to become more interested in those characters, than in the person who's writing about them. So I understand when they're less revealing about themselves.