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Head and Shoulders Above The Rest

November 16th, 2012

simonwblogThere’s a growing trend for publications to include a ‘This Issue’s Contributor’s’ section near the Contents page, where readers can learn about this issue’s writers. This is fantastic news, because it’s a great sign the publication uses freelance material. The section usually comprises a head and shoulders photograph and a short 20 or 30-word biography of the writer.

If you’re asked to provide a photo and biography, it’s worth putting some thought and effort into it. Remember, this is how the readers (and the editor) will perceive you, so try to come across as professionally as you can.


Do check the photos in an existing issue. What impression do you get of the writers? Are they authoritative? Are they light-hearted, but professional? Your photo needs to do the same.

Don’t crop a photo of you at a party, with some unknown person’s arm around your neck! Likewise, you reclining on the beach, on holiday, in your sunglasses and swimwear might not be appropriate either.

Do make your photo appropriate for your target publication. If you write about keeping chickens, then supply a photo of you holding a chicken. If you write for running magazines, wear your running vest when you have your photo taken.

Do ask a friend or partner to take a photo of you in the right setting. If you’re a travel writer, show yourself in a departure lounge of an airport, or on a ferry looking out to sea. If you write about France, make sure your photo clearly shows you in France (but don’t have the Eiffel Tower sticking out of the top of your head!) Alternatively, keep your photos simple, standing against a plain background. Choose a plain wall at home, or even a door, but not the fridge door with a rude word written in fridge magnet letters in the background! Look smart – wear a shirt, blouse or jumper. Whilst many writers might sit in their pyjamas all day, don’t show the world that this is what you do.

Don’t pull funny faces, or stupid grins. This is not your Facebook profile image.


Do tailor your biography to the readership of your target publication. If you’re writing about chickens, tell readers about the breeds of chicken you have, not who your favourite pop group is.

Don’t write too much. Count how many words are used for the biographies in the latest issue and stick to that figure.

Do be safe. If readers need to know your location, mention the county, or region where you live, but don’t give any specific address information.

Do plug your website, blog, or any books you’ve written, especially if they’re of interest to the target readership.

Ideally, your photograph and biography should infer knowledge and authority about the subject matter you’re writing about. And you never know – if the editor of a competing publication sees it, it could lead to more work.

Simon Whaley has been a full time writer since 2004, with hundreds of articles published in the UK and the USA. He is a tutor for the Writers Bureau and the author of ten non-fiction books, the latest of which is The Positively Productive Writer. More information about Simon can be found at www.simonwhaley.co.uk.

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