Sometimes you’re asked to include an author biography when you send in a magazine submission. Most often though, the request for a biography comes with the acceptance message, and usually has be sent back ‘by return’.
There’s no standard biography, just as there’s no standard magazine – they’re all different. Most set a word limit – 100, 200, 50, 30 words, 2 lines or whatever. So you have to decide what’s essential information to inform the reader, and what’s just egotism. (Avoid the latter). Some editors will ask for quirky or unusual facts in biographies, and I tend to like that, because it gives scope for some creativity, even in two lines!
These days, I have all my biographies in a directory called, obviously, My biographies. I name them with the name of the magazine, followed by the year. That way, if a magazine accepts me for a second or third time, I can dig out the one I used last time, and bring it up to date. And often I can re-use biographies for different magazines, making little changes if necessary, and again updating. After all, there isn’t really much scope for variation in repeating similar information in a fixed format.
Biographies for back pages of books are both easier and more difficult. They have to give factual information, but they also have to give a flavour of the writer’s personality, and a connection to the poems in the book. A matter-of-fact summary of key events in an author’s life would be pretty boring, but it’s also best to avoid flights of fancy and the more pretentious elements of hyperbole. Check out Pseuds Corner in Private Eye if you want examples of those.
For grant applications and author statements for projects, the biography becomes more like a curriculum vitae, and here they can be much longer, more factual, and always tailored to the particular application.
Then there’s the author photograph, if requested, but that’s a different subject I’ll come back to at some point.