I’m on vacation today, but please enjoy this useful post from FundsForWriters’ Hope Clark:
By C. Hope Clark
When pitching magazine editors, the need to nail story premise and hook, plus match the publication’s readership, are a given. Many writers, however, use a cookie-cutter bio in that query, cutting and pasting it from a Word file, as if sending a standard form to the government.
Every word in your query needs to be tailored to the magazine, including the author’s history. That bio needs to be as attractive as the story idea itself, because the slant of the bio could ultimately nail the contract.
Each of us is multi-faceted and holds numerous experiences, education backgrounds, and skills to be used and prioritized as needed. Here are my tips for tailoring your bio:
Use Your Education
I’d just moved into a newly constructed home. Enter the local landscaper. He spoke to me like I was June Cleaver knowing little more than how to iron the perfect pants crease, until I told him I had a degree in agronomy, i.e., a science of producing plants.
That evening, I researched publications and found Landscape Management Magazine, a resource for landscape contractors. I sculpted the bio to begin with my degree. I never mentioned I was editor of FundsforWriters or wrote for Writer’s Digest.
Thirty minutes later, I had a gig advising landscape contractors on how to approach potential customers.
Use Your Experience
My proposal to College Bound Teen emphasized my skills as a previous human resource manager for the federal government. I landed a piece to address qualifications of federal employment for college graduates.
Use Your Life
A pitch to Next Step Teen included a bio that listed mother of teen sons on top of the HR experience. They accepted a story about my sons and their friends involved in job shadowing.
A query to Women as Managers, a business newsletter, mentioned my personal experience with a discrimination claim, and they accepted my piece entitled Ignore the Harassment.
Use Your Personal Interests
I once served on the board of a nonprofit that supported teen writers. So I lead my query with that connection and immediately nailed an article entitled “Why Johnny Needs a Writing Mentor” for Voices of Young Advocates Magazine (VOYA).
Use Your Knowledge of an Evergreen Topic
You may know nothing about lawn maintenance, but you might be a pro at business, social networking, or self-promotion and can pitch those skills for a proper feature to lawn care providers. A piece on business cards or navigating a convention may accent your entrepreneurial expertise, and find a home in a dozen different trade publications representing a dozen different professions
Use Your Chicken Soup Mentality
Each Chicken Soup book has a specific theme. Ever sat and stared at the six or so topics and tried to manipulate your experiences to suit them? That’s the mindset. Take your talents and tweak them, putting them in a proper order of priority to suit the situation.
Make a game of redefining yourself per the needs of that magazine and rewriting your bio to fit. Approach each case with a different bio, a different inverted pyramid presentation of your history, experiences, and education, leading with your strongest for the story at hand.
By choreographing your bio for the audience, you increase your odds that your query will find center stage in magazines.
Have you ever redefined your bio for a specific market? Leave a comment and tell us how you change it.
Hope Clark is editor for FundsforWriters, one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 12 years. She just released her dream project, Lowcountry Bribe, A Carolina Slade Mystery from Bell Bridge Books.