Jane Wenham-Jones is a novelist, journalist and presenter and the author of the Wannabe Books - two how-to manuals on getting published and becoming well-known. Below is an extract from Wannabe a Writer We've Heard Of?, available on Amazon or through all good bookshops. For more on Jane see http://www.janewenham-jones.com.
Bits & Biogs
You will also be asked if you want to include a dedication and acknowledgements at the front of your book and to supply an author biography.
You’ve probably been writing this stuff in your head for years but now you’re doing it for real, again, do think really carefully about what you want to say.
You’re going to be cuddling that book for a long time and with luck it will be in print for years to come. It is therefore worth checking anything that’s going to be between its covers for cringe factor before whizzing off the copy.
Thank you Kevin ‘scrumptious bottom’ Pratt for being there, reading the 345 drafts of my manuscript and spoon-feeding me baked beans in bed when my typing elbow was at its worst… might be a precise summing up of your predilections now, but could make your toes curl when you’ve very sensibly dumped Kevin and are married to Brian.
The author bio deserves careful thought too. This will not only be used for the inside of your book to give readers an overview of your background, lifestyle and literary achievements, but needs to be interesting enough to persuade a few jaundiced hacks and radio producers that out of the 8000 authors of the 8000 new books hitting the market this month, the one they really want to interview is YOU.
Once you are a few books down the line, you can pad it out with lists of previous titles peppering them lavishly with descriptions like “best-selling” and “acclaimed” even if they sold three copies apiece and the only review you got was from your mother on Amazon, who, not having a an overly-masterful grasp of the universally accessible quality of the internet, ended with “love Mum” before reminding you it was Auntie June’s seventieth next Thursday.
But early on? When nobody has ever heard of you and your only achievement to date is forcing some poor sod to marry you?
Jane is a more than averagely deranged person who, having failed to scrape a living in any meaningful way, has written a book. She lives with her unfortunate husband and badly-brought-up children on the Kent coast, where she spends her time worrying about how she is going to fulfil her contract to produce the second one.
What do you do then?
Some authors, I have noticed, always begin with their age. Jemima Bloggs was born in 1947 and has since written 369 novels.
I studiously avoid reference to my own birth date unless push comes to shove when I lie with gusto. When my first novel was published I appeared variously in three different women’s magazines as 36, 37 and 38. I was 39 at the time and if you ask me how long ago that was, don’t believe the answer.
Non-fiction author Peter Brookesmith, who was once referred to as a “gun-toting lecher” by Private Eye, says the trick is to appear to be “an expert” on whatever subject one happens to be writing about.
Peter, who also has the distinction of being one of the more eccentric of my uncles (and believe me, in my family, that’s saying something) has written books on everything from Loving your Horse to the History of the Assassin and his author bios have followed accordingly, with tales of him with firearm in hand one minute and born in the saddle the next.
We are talking, therefore, marketing hook and a bit of back story. If the book is set in the theatre, then you say you were once an actor; if it’s the gritty tale of grinding poverty in the back streets then at least claim an impoverished past in which you and your six brothers shared the same pair of shoes.
At the same time, don’t forget the old maxim – know your audience. Remember that this description may well precede you wherever you go. And that describing yourself as an ex-stripper with breast enhancements may go down a storm at the Rugby Club but won’t necessarily hit the right note with the Christian Fellowship of the Society for Clean Living.
As an over-optimistic PR once said to me, make it relevant, make it heart-warming and, where possible, show you’ve overcome adversity.
In other words, if you’ve written a modern day Watership Down, make it clear that you’ve not only rescued an abandoned orphan rabbit and given it a whole new beginning, but later, it savaged you.
Whatever you write, remember that this too, will be around for a long time. Like the blurb, it won’t just appear in the book but on all sorts of promotional material and probably be plastered across the internet too. In my first novel the “about the author” begins:
Jane Wenham-Jones lives in Broadstairs where she walks by the sea and dreams of fame….
I can’t tell you how many times that has been recycled in the ensuing decade – seeming ever naffer every time I read it.
Unlike anything nice that’s ever been said about the contents of any of my books which I never tire of seeing repeated….
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