March 24, 2014

Foundation of the Author Platform

Nowadays, aspiring authors know the importance of building a platform — of becoming as easily accessible for potential and current readers as possible.  To that end, we join Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and more, each with its own customs, quirks, and ultimately benefits. 

But the original version of the author platform, the one that predates even the internet, continues to exist, and its importance has not diminished.  I'm talking, of course, of the Author Bio.

Printed in our books, then and now, posted on websites, included in every guest post / spotlight, the Author Bio is the foundation of our platforms.  Unsurprisingly, it is frequently tweaked, both to keep up with changes in our lives and for pizazz.  I know my bio changes depending on the use — the one posted on Flash! Friday and the one on this site are different. My latest "official" one, which I have not yet switched onto this site, is different still:
Aria’s writing story started when her seventh-grade English teacher encouraged her to submit a class assignment for publication. That piece was printed, and let’s just say, she was hooked!

Since then, Aria has run a literary magazine, earned her degree in Creative Writing (as well as in French and Russian literatures), and been published in a few collections. Though her first kiss technically came from a bear cub, and no fairytale transformation followed, Aria still believes magic can happen when the right people come together – if they don’t get in their own way, that is.

Other than all things literary, Aria loves spending time with her family, including her two unbearably adorable nieces. She also dabbles in painting, dancing, playing violin, and, given the opportunity, Epicureanism.
This core to our approach to readers is both indicative and a result of an interesting phenomenon. Whether with good reason or not, we in the publishing industry assume / believe / are taught that readers are interested in the person behind the words.

Generally there are two schools of thought among critics when it comes to literature. One claims that knowing the author's world and life can and should inform our reading of the work; the other claims that everything we need to know can and should be in the work itself.

Personally, I ascribe to the latter belief. Everything relevant to the work should be in the work, even though why something is commonly included in an author's work could be explained by the author's life. I believe the work should be complete in and of itself.  Furthermore, making conclusions about the author based on a work isn't reliable — and making conclusions about the work based on the author may be only slightly more so.

Still, readers seem interested in the daily lives of authors whose work they enjoy, which is honestly a bizarre concept for me. Does it matter what my favorite flavor of ice cream is? Or how many children I may have (none, at the moment)? Because to me, assuming that the world at large, or my target readers at least, may be interested in the details of my life, personality, beliefs, etc. seems somewhat narcissistic.

Does knowing personal details make you more likely to buy a given author's book? Even while knowing that those "personal" details are out for the world to see? Or is there some piece to this that I am missing? And yes, I am really asking. 

Looking forward to your thoughts!


  1. The bio doesn't make me choose a book or pass it up, but I am curious about authors, especially since blogging, but I have always read their bios. I also read the forwards, etc.....that's just me. Cover to cover. ^_^

    1. I'm not surprised, hehe. But what about personal info you learn about authors through Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest? Is that why you connect with them? Or is it to learn more about their writing / upcoming works?