If you are a novelist and write a breakout book, nobody cares whether you went to medical school (Michael Crichton) or worked as a janitor (Stephen King). Not so for nonfiction books. When crafting your nonfiction proposal, your book is as much about who you are, as it is about your killer concept.
The author bio section of your proposal establishes both your credibility and your ability to sell the book. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Expertise – Who is more qualified to write a book tackling the topic of opioid addiction? An MD/Ph.D. with years of addiction treatment under her belt? Or someone who’s never experienced or treated those with addiction, but has read a lot about the topic? Who has the expertise to write a yoga book? Someone who has been a yoga practitioner and yoga teacher trainer for more than a decade? Or someone who just started taking classes at the gym last week?
I’m not going to tell you which books you can write. That’s entirely up to you. But if you want to score an agent or a publisher with your nonfiction book, I would encourage you to ask yourself the question, “What makes me an expert?,” because publishers and agents are going to ask that question too.
Your expertise may include formal schooling, work experience, or even life experience. It could include a certification in your chosen field or previous writing on the topic. Whatever your qualifications are, they reassure readers (and publishers) that you will provide accurate and current information.
Platform – Your bio also establishes your platform, or how readers will find out about your book. Maybe you are a talk show host like Oprah. Or a college professor. Or a blogger with thousands of followers like Glennon Doyle. Or maybe you’ve given a powerhouse TedTalk like Simon Sinek. These are part of your platform, showing that you have an existing audience, and you should include them in your author bio.
Putting it together – Thinking about pasting your resume into the middle of your book proposal? Stop right there! Instead, write a paragraph or two about yourself. Your bio should include everything that answers the question, “What makes me an expert?” Include your relevant degrees, work experience, life experience, past publications, etc. Mention any platform you have built (appearances, social media, organizational memberships, contacts in the field). Don’t hold back. This is the place to really sell yourself.
If you’re stuck, Google the bios of some of your favorite nonfiction authors for hints on tone, style, and content. Authors often include bios on their Web sites in the “about me” section or in their online press kits. For example, here’s Glennon Doyle’s author bio and Brené Brown’s. I’d give them a book deal in a heartbeat.