What Readers Want to Know About Authors

Originally Posted October 24, 2020 by Joe K.
Last Updated November 20, 2020

The “about the author” page is often the most overlooked and least prioritized part of an author’s book and website. This is sad, as it’s probably the best way to make a connection, especially with a potential new fan. It’s a given that far more people will skim your author page than will read your book.

Here’s the thing…your author page, typically found at the back of the book, on the dust-jacket flyleaf, and/or various websites can be one of the most important and powerful elements of a book release, and the key to connecting to and creating long-term relationships with readers.

It’s not about this book, well…it’s not all about this book, it’s about you as a writer, and everything you have to offer now and in the future. It’s about an ongoing connection between you and each of your readers.

Never underestimate the value of that relationship!

The best “About the Author” pages are short, focused on key personal information, and written specifically with the authors’ key readership in mind.

Your author page is not just a summary of an author’s resume. It’s an opportunity to intrigue your readers, an invitation to engage in a long-term relationship with you, your writing, and your message.

It is a beacon to the like-minded, and a purposely crafted enticement to buy your book.

Many first-time authors (myself included) can become self-conscious when writing their author page. Often, we feel that we have little or nothing to say about ourselves, at least not anything that a stranger would be interested in knowing. What you (we) must remember is that just the fact that we’ve written a book places us in the top 1% of everyone else on earth who wants to write a book.

Finishing a written work, regardless of its length or subject is an accomplishment and one that any author has a right to be proud of.

Most of the best author pages follow a simple, time-tested formula. The secret is not about what we want our readers to know, but what our readers want to know about us.

5 Things Readers Want from Your Author Page

  1. The Hook
  2. Personal details (family, city of residence, personal interests, etc.)
  3. Why did you write the book?
  4. Why are you qualified to write this book?
  5. A Call to Action

Please note, while the below sections mention the author page of a book, the same general guidelines work great on more generalized website author pages as well.

1. The Hook

Just like with an essay, magazine article, or blog post, you must hook the reader in the first few sentences. Start with something provocative or edgy.

This can be a thin line to walk without sounding arrogant or offensive so it’s best to have a few folks you know and trust who are familiar with the topic of your book give you some feedback. A piece of little known (and topical) trivia can make an excellent hook as can add a bit of humor…as long as it fits with the general feel of the book.

On a technical note: using a bold font and a slightly larger after-spacing to turn your opening line hook into a headline can be very effective in grabbing your reader’s attention.

2. Personal details

While being a very important part of your bio, this is section can become (and often does) a bit of a snooze-fest. Be sure to stay on topic. Don’t waste a paragraph talking about your love of horses if your book is a science fiction novel.

Try to keep it short, maybe two to three lines max. Typically included in this section:

  • Accomplishments/Occupation (if applicable)
  • Title of Work
  • Family
  • Location

Example: “Three-time Michelin-Star recipient Janet Bowers is a classically trained chef and author of My Mother’s Kitchen: Food and Family History. She lives with her husband Bryan and their three daughters in the Pacific Northwest.”

There’s no reason not to pat yourself on the back a bit by opening your about the author page with a personal accomplishment, as long as it builds on your credibility as a subject matter expert.

If you’ve written a cookbook, your readers probably don’t need to know that you’re a championship golfer. If your book is about golf, however, feel free to toot your own horn (briefly), you’ve earned it!

Adding some color to your author page helps readers picture who you are, making you more relatable - it could be the little extra push that gets them to buy your book.

3. Why did you write the book?

This falls into the old “find a need and fill it” philosophy.

Most authors write a book to fill an informational gap in a subject of personal or professional interest or to offer a fresh insight on that subject. What value are you offering the reader that they can’t find elsewhere? What questions are you answering?

And finally, what makes your book unique?

4. Why are you qualified to write this book?

Another vital purpose of your About the Author content is to establish your credentials and qualifications with your reader. The reader needs a reason why they should choose your book instead of someone else’s.

Again, this is an area that may require some prioritization. No one wants to read through a laundry list of published articles, or about the twenty-five awards the author has received in his or her field.

Often used accomplishment include:

  • College degrees/courses pertinent to the subject
  • Bestseller lists & awards
  • Professional/Life experience/expertise

Example: “Author of The Edible Forest, Jack Winegard has an MFA in creative writing from Washington State University and is a recipient of the Washington State University creative writing award. He has spent a lifetime identifying and gathering wild mushrooms in the Cascade Mountain Range.”

Book marketing consultants often recommend including personal endorsements from well-known figures as a way to sky-rocket your credibility.

Any associations you may have with someone with a large professional platform, especially in the specific field of your book, can be quite advantageous if you can get their endorsement.

For authors of non-fiction, the credentials you possess are incredibly important in encouraging readers to trust that you’re an authority on your subject matter.

For fiction writers, this section is typically more focused on why they’ve chosen their specific genre or subject, and what inspires them.

5. Call to Action

Perhaps the single most important element to your author page is a well-written CTA (Call to Action.) The CTA is a link, button, or brief message (sometimes all three) urging the reader to do something that you want them to do.

The most common CTA on an author about me page is a link to buy their book, either from a standalone page or website listing multiple titles. Other popular CTAs include calls to subscribe to your newsletter, join a mailing list, or follow your social media page(s).

It’s surprising how many opportunities our readers miss out on, simply because we, as authors, don’t think to ask.

Create a “Target Reader”

When drafting an author page, it can be helpful to try to imagine your target reader in advance, and then try to stay relevant to the needs or interests of that reader.

If you write historical commentary, for example, envision your target reader and create a general persona.

  • Why would they be looking for your book?
  • What credentials would they consider impressive?
  • What would interest them about you (the author) as a person?

Looking at your author page from the perspective of a potential reader can help you fine-tune your message to appeal to the people you want it to appeal to.

By revealing what makes you interesting, you help make your book interesting even before your reader has read the first page.

What else are readers looking for?

Don’t forget a decent author photo!

Seeing your face helps readers connect your words to a real person. It humanizes your work and engenders trust.

Choose your author photo wisely…that picture of you with the clown wig might make for a good laugh at the family reunion, but it’s unlikely to help establish you as a subject matter expert. Business casual is generally a safe option.

Also, try to keep the background “noise” to a minimum as it’s usually difficult to make out in a 2-inch by 2-in photo, and so only serves as a distraction.

Your best bet is going to be a high-resolution headshot taken by a professional photographer.

Contact Information

Give your current readers and potential readers ways to connect with you - a website, email address, and social media links are best. Some authors will include a telephone number, but most don’t due to privacy concerns.

While contact information is typically at the end of an author page, you can experiment with placing it in a sidebar or even on a dedicated contact page. If you’re using this bio online, don’t forget to link the title of your book to your online sales page (author website, Amazon author page, etc.)

A weak about the author page can encourage readers to overlook your book for another author who seems more relatable, credible, or likable.

A great author page, however, can show your soon-to-be-new-readers that your background, experience, and authority will give them a story that they won’t be able to put down.

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