A few weeks ago, I got this e-mail from my agent:
Hey, can you give me two things...
1 - a great, short bio on yourself, and
2 - a hook (one to three sentences) that an editor could use when talking to his ed board? (I came up with a couple, but don't like them.)
We've got people interested at _______ and ________!
(I redacted the names of the publishing companies and my agent... because I'm silly and superstitious, that's why!)
I should preface this by telling you that we I got the email, I was embroiled in an hours long Death Match with a particularly surly and unhelpful Centurylink service rep over the fact that they cut our service, even though we had a $200 bill credit. The second I read these words, I started to hyperventilate and laugh at the same time. I'm pretty sure Ms. Centurylink thought I was having some sort of psychotic break. I had to pass the phone off to my husband and stick my head between my knees.
I was excited! Two well-known publishers (that's all you’re getting out of me until one of them says yes!) not only agreed to read my novel—they were both considering it for publication!
I was happy! Seriously, how could I not be? I am on the verge of possibly, maybe seeing my novel in print! This ranks up there with getting married and giving birth...
But I was also scared as hell.
Like, you want me to write about myself, and stuff? Can I lie and make myself sound interesting? Because, really... I'm just a stay-at-home mom with an overactive imagination and a laptop.
And a tagline?
I'll tell you all a not-so-secret secret--I can write a 400 page novel without thinking twice, but ask me to write a synopsis, query letter or tagline and I am instantly thrown into a state of panic. My brain short circuits. Smoke pours out of my ears. I start to cry--it's horrible... and embarrassing.
And what, in the name of all that is holy, is an ed board??
In a fit of desperation, I did something I swore I'd never do. I begged my agent for help.
Could you give me an example of both (or point me the right direction to find on my own) so I know what I'm shooting for?
I had just admitted that I had NO idea what I'm doing. Knowing this, and imagining that my agent is now having serious doubts as to why he agreed to represent me in the first place, I quickly fired off another email:
I know I asked for suggestions, but I want you to know that I'm working on it on my own. I'll send you what I have soon. _______ AND ________? Wow, I think I'm a little dizzy!
Thanks for everything...
Yes, in retrospect, I realize that I just kept digging the he-thinks-I'm-a-dummy hole, deeper and deeper but I couldn't stop... then I did what I should've done in the first place. I consulted the all-knowing oracle that is Google.
I typed How to write a short author bio into my search bar and found a terrific blog by literary agent Rachelle Gardner that offers some very helpful tips at rachellegardner.com. Check it out, I think you’ll find her advice helpful.
Next I searched how to write a tagline.
This one was a bit tricky, because a tagline is also called a hookline and sometimes a logline. They’re all the same thing: a short one to three sentence blurb, designed to pique interest in your audience. When I searched tagline, I stumbled around a bunch of advertising sites that didn’t do me much good. Next, I tried logline. This seems to deal with screenwriting—not my thing. Hookline worked a bit better—I found a blog by a woman named Katherine Roid that was pretty informative: katherineroid.wordpress.com.
Now I Googled the important stuff: What is an ed board.
The editorial board is a group of people, usually at a publication, who dictate the tone and direction the publication's editorial policy will take.
…basically, this is the group of people, at a publishing house, that talk about your novel and basically decide your fate.
If that wasn’t scary enough, I happened onto a tidbit that made me want to cry:
If a novel makes it to the “ed board”stage, it has a 15% chance of being published.
I’m paraphrasing here, but… 15%? So, if my 3rd grade math holds, this means that out of 100 book proposals they hear, the ed board will say yes to 15 of them. That’s it. 15 out of 100.
I was suddenly sure I didn’t have a snowball's chance in hell.
Before I could consider chucking it all and joining the circus, my agent emailed me back:
A bio is easy -- give me something that introduces you to the publisher, Maegan. A paragraph is probably fine.
He included some examples that I’m not sure I’m allowed to share, along with some examples of taglines. They were so good, they made me wish I knew what the hell I was doing. I think I might have started to hyperventilate again…
Okay, back to the bio… a whole paragraph? About how great I am? I’d rather eat glass…
But I did it. Here’s what I wrote:
Maegan Beaumont is a first-time author, whose vivid imagination and longtime love of action movies and thrillers has inspired her to write a few of her own. A native Phoenician, Maegan’s stories are meant to raise your blood pressure, make you wonder what the guy standing in front of you in the Starbucks line has locked in his basement, and feel a strong desire to sleep with the light on. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband, Joe, and their four children, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, and one true love, Jade.
I can’t explain why writing the bio was so hard… it probably has to do with the fact that writing it is a way of self-promotion and I’ve never been one to toot my own horn when it comes to my writing. I’ve kept it quiet for so long that to talk about it—and myself—feels braggy and self-serving.
As for the taglines, I wrote a few of those too. I'll share the one that didn’t make my eyes bleed:
SFPD homicide inspector, Sabrina Vaughn, used to be someone else. Someone she spent fifteen years pretending didn’t exist. When she spots a childhood acquaintance, she becomes certain of two things—that his appearance is no coincidence and that her past has finally caught up with her.
These were even harder than the bio. How in the world do you distill a 400 page novel into 3 sentences or less, while conveying the tone of your novel… oh and don’t forget to make it interesting.
But it’s also necessary. For a shot at publication, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do—including write a bio and a bunch of taglines.
What I sent into my agent was approved and sent on to the editors at each house considering my novel. The editor will put together a proposal and present it to the ed board. The ed board will decide my fate.
I’ve been waiting to hear back for 2 weeks, now…
I just hope they like me.
Plot issue? Writing question? firstname.lastname@example.org