23 July 2021
What should go in your writing biog for submission to agents, publishers and editors?
There will be times when you’re applying for things, or submitting to agents and publishers, that you may be asked to send in a writing CV, but what should go on it? We’ve compiled useful tips to help you make your writing CV into the best possible showcase for you and your work.
Your writing CV is, like any other CV, a resumé of your achievements – in this case, concentrated on your writing life. But the same guidelines apply. Keep it concise. Make the information clear and accessible. Highlight the achievements that stand out. Your CV should show you (and your writing) in a way that will, hopefully, impress the person who will be reading it.
1. Make it short and sweet
Be succinct. Aim for a single page of A4 listing your major achievements. Your writing CV will ideally not be longer than two pages of A4.
2. Break up the information
Divide information into sections with clear headings. You can tailor these to your individual requirements. Bullet points and bold text are useful to highlight information.
3. What to include
• Contact details
Include an email address, your website url and social media handles, and a telephone number. Also include your agent’s contact details if you have an agent.
• A brief bio
Summarise yourself in a sentence or two. Introduce yourself, what you write and perhaps what you’re working on.
Examples might be:
• I’m the author of two self-published psychological thrillers - Awaydays (2018) and Bus Pass (2020), both of which were genre category bestsellers on Amazon. I’ve now switched genre and am looking for a traditional publisher for my rom-com manuscript, provisionally titled Ticket to Ride.
• I’m an author and journalist specialising in transport-related non-fiction, with a monthly column in The Bus-Lovers’ Bugle since 2011 and 20 books published by Hubcap Press.
• I’m a prize-winning short story writer and published poet now seeking representation for my debut farming thriller, Ploughing a Furrow, which is informed by my family’s background as tractor manufacturers in rural Essex.
Detail what you’ve had published and where, eg, Buses of Brighton (Hubcap Press, 2016); Trams of Trelawny (Hubcap Press, 2018) and Sidecars of Sydenham (Hubcap Press, 2020).
In this section, include published books if you have any, and any other published writing that demonstrates your success. If you’ve had short pieces published (flash, poems, short stories, creative non-fiction etc), list them with details of the publication and the date. Don’t be tempted to list every single piece you’ve had published – you can say, I’ve had 200 short stories in publications including X, Y and Z – but do highlight any that you’re particularly proud of or that represent what you do best.
• Writing prizes, awards and achievements
If you’ve won or been shortlisted in a writing competition, literary or industry award or book prize, include it here! Likewise, include any writing fellowships, residencies, festival appearances etc.
• Writing-related education
If you have passed any qualifications (ie an MA or PhD in creative writing), this is the place to include them. It’s also the place for information like I regularly attend writing courses and retreats including, for the last five years, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.
• Writing-related employment
Have you worked professionally in a writing capacity (eg writer in residence, paid commission, writing project co-ordinator, writing lecturer, writing workshop tutor or leader, writing mentor)? List it here.
• References and testimonials
This is optional, but you might like to include the names and contact details of a couple of professionals who can vouch for you as a writer, and a couple of quotes from people about how great you are. If you do this, make sure they refer to you in a professional context (ie, “Iris’s workshop unlocked my potential and helped me discover my narrator’s voice” – Jennie Ong, workshop attendee) rather than personal (ie “Iris has always had her nose in a book so it’s no surprise that she’s written one” – Iris’s Mum).
4. Remember to tailor your CV
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all writing CV. Writing and writers are very individual and what goes in it should reflect who you are, what you’ve done, and who’s going to read it. Depending on the reason for sending it, writers may well have more than one CV – for instance, one that concentrates on their creative writing (that briefly mentions their journalism to provide context of their background) and one for their journalism (that will mention any other writing they’ve had successes in).
So don’t think your writing CV has to be written in stone. It not an exhaustive document that includes every single piece you’ve ever had published since you were at school, and information about the Crème Egg you won for an Easter poem when you were nine. It’s not a piece of creative writing where you’ll be judged on the quality of your prose. What matters is that it’s fit for purpose – that it contains necessary, relevant information about you as a writer, clearly set out and easy to read. You can revisit it, update it, amend it and adapt it as required.
It lets your achievements speak for themselves.
It’s a professional document where you can showcase your successes.
And hopefully it will help you achieve some more.
Once you've compiled your writing CV, check out this advice from the experts about what to put in your cover letter to publishers, editors and agents.