Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bio Critique #2: Christi Corbett

I'm delighted today to offer my critique of the bio of our second contest winner, Christi Corbett.

Christi actually sent me two pieces: the bio paragraph that appears in her current query letter, in which she seeks to emphasize her "business and marketing" side:

I spent three years as the head writer for a weekly television show and have written over three hundred broadcast television commercials. My connections in the television industry will be helpful in publicity and marketing efforts for my work: I currently have interview agreements with thirteen television stations and thirty-two radio stations with a total combined audience reach of over five million.

And here's the bio she wrote for her blog:

From a young age, writing was an integral part of Christi Corbett’s life. It was a skill she further developed during her career as a television writer. Now, Christi continues to broaden her writing horizons with the completion of Along the Way Home, a historical fiction about the Oregon Trail.

After graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in Communications, Christi took a job with a CBS affiliate in the Creative Services Department. Over the years her lifelong love of writing was put to good use; in addition to writing over three hundred television commercials, she earned the position as head writer for a weekly television show. Furthermore, she was responsible for writing over one hundred press releases detailing the station’s various special events, community programs, and news department awards.

During her time with the television station, Christi was awarded with multiple American Advertising Awards (ADDY) and recognized by the March of Dimes with an award for providing “Outstanding Communications Support”.

Sharing the power of television has always been important to Christi, both professionally and personally. Through television station partnerships, Christi repeatedly managed advertising and publicity for large scale events with agencies such as The Salvation Army, the United Way, the American Cancer Society, and the March of Dimes.

Nowadays, Christi looks forward to putting her experience in public speaking and marketing to use during the promotion process of her novel,Along the Way Home.

Christi is a member of Willamette Writers, and also participates in a critique group.

Currently, Christi lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband, and twin children. The location of the home holds a special place in Christi’s writing life; it stands just 600 feet from the original Applegate Trail and the view from her back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.

This is a lot to take in, so let me say first of all, Christi, that I think you're right: the first one is too dry and the second one is too wordy.

Since you've given me so much to work with, and since I went into such detail about my "rules for bio paragraphs" in the previous post, I'm going to try a judicious cut-and-past effort here, to give you a sense of where I'd go with this.

I spent three years as the head writer for a weekly television show [CMC: name the show and the network! Local or national, this is a nice credit to have.] and have written over three hundred broadcast television commercials, for which I received multiple American Advertising Awards (ADDYs) and was recognized by the March of Dimes with an award for providing “Outstanding Communications Support.” I’m an accomplished public speaker, and my connections in the television industry will be helpful in publicity and marketing efforts for my work. I’m a member of Willamette Writers and a critique group, and I live with my husband and our twins in a small town in Oregon, in a house just 600 feet from the original Applegate Trail.

This final detail is a nice touch, don't you think? I love knowing about people's personal connection to their writing (Christi's novel is a historical about the Oregon Trail).

Christi, because you've already got a lot of other information in your bio paragraph (at least as rewritten by me), you can probably safely leave out the blog and Twitter-type info-- but make sure it's in your contact information at the end of your letter.

But to make some more general, sweeping comments about hypothetical situations:

Shoshanna (hi, Shoshanna!) asked in comments what I would consider a "good number" for Twitter follower purposes. I've been thinking about this a lot, because I hadn't tried to put an actual numerical figure on what I meant by that. But here are some of my theories:

-A thousand Twitter followers is a lot for someone who's never published before, or has "only" self-published, or published with smaller houses where they've never been assigned a publicist. I assume that with 1,000 Twitter followers, you've proven that you've got an interesting voice online, and that you "get" this particular social media venue.

-A LOT of bestselling genre fiction authors have between three and five thousand followers. If you're tweeting to an audience of this size, and a decent percentage (please don't make me define "decent percentage!") of your followers will buy your book, you are in great, great shape.

-If you have 10,000 Twitter followers or more, chances are you are a household name at least in certain spheres.

-The most Twitter-popular author I could find in my ~ ten minutes' searching was Neil Gaiman, with well over a million followers. Margaret Atwood has about 260,000. Joe Hill has about 120,000. Jodi Picoult has about 38,000.

Regarding your blog, if your blog is important or fairly well-known in one of the following situations, be sure to mention it in your bio:

1) you are a book blogger, who regularly writes book reviews or discussions about the publishing industry on your blog. You know you fall into this category if publishers contact you offering to send you books (via NetGalley or otherwise), or if your posts get picked up in industry link-roundups from time to time.

2) your blog has become an authority on a topic that's related to the book you're querying on.

Note: this is true even if you don't have academic credentials in the topic. If other people have come to consider you an authority on the topic because of your website, that is itself a kind of credential. If you're writing Jane Austen sequels and you're a webmistress on the Republic of Pemberley, for example, that detail is going to help sell your book. So mention it!

One more bio critique to go. Any questions or thoughts? Leave 'em in the comments!


Sara Rayne said...

Loved the tidbit about the Applegate trail! But I wanted to know what tv show it was, too. Any chance we'll find out?

Christi - I must say, having too much to put in there is a good conundrum to have.

And Courtney, great, informative advice as usual!

Anonymous said...


First off, thank you so much for offering such a thorough critique and such wonderful suggestions.

And then, to top it off, you even got into the bio page I sent only for you to review...awesome!

I like the idea of dropping my interview agreements I already have. Being so specific about the number of stations/audience reach took up a lot of valuable "space" in the query so I'm glad to see it go.

I wondered if I should bother including my Twitter account since I only have around 400 followers, so it was good to hear your take on the situation.

As for my blog, I've managed it for about a year and a half and average about 50 hits a day (though it did drop off a bit during my self-imposed hiatus over this summer).

Would my blog numbers be something to mention during a talk with a potential agent?

Thank you again for critiquing my bio information. I know your time is valuable and I appreciate all your insight.

And finally, here's a fun fact about the Applegate Trail. We use that road to travel to my in-laws house and it's so winding and curvy that it makes my stomach upset each time. Give me great insight into how wagon travel must have been :)

Christi Corbett

Shoshanna Evers said...

Thanks for clarifying that! :)