Since I started publishing in magazines and websites owned by somebody else, I’ve had to consider these terms. If you’re a writer, I bet you’ve heard about them yourself. So, today, let’s look at what they are, why and when you need them, and how to write them.
And then, we’ll wrap up with some author bio examples for inspiration.
The Difference Between Author Bios and Bylines
A lot of people confuse author bios and bylines. Believe it or not, I’ve seen some bloggers literally say that bylines and bios are the same thing. They are NOT.
A byline is just the author’s name while a bio includes the name of the author and a paragraph with an overview of the author’s identity and/or accomplishments.
So, first thing first, let’s define a byline and a bio clearly and see how they’re different from each other.
What is an author’s byline?
The screenshot below is an example of a byline from the online magazine Splice Today. The byline with the author’s name (mine!) is in gray in between the headline (title) and the subheading.
In other words, a byline is simply the author’s name and nothing more.
Exceptions to bylines:
- Sometimes, especially in online publications such as personal blogs where there’s only one author—the owner of the blog website—they may choose not to publish their name in every single blog post. In this case, there are no bylines. However, in this scenario, the author’s identity is obvious even without the byline.
- Ghostwriters never get a byline because that is the nature of ghostwriting. These writers’ names are hidden, or they write under someone else’s name. In the latter case, this “someone else” may get a byline even though they’re not the original author.
The screenshot below is from Neil Patel’s blog. Here, there is no byline, but it is clear that Neil Patel is the writer because it is his website. We also see his bio in the sidebar (we’ll talk about author bios in a minute!) and his photos are splashed all over the website, making it obvious who the author is.
However, is it really Neil Patel who wrote this article? Is it possible that a hired/contracted ghostwriter has written this post? We’ll never know because there’s no byline!
Why should you care about bylines?
A byline is proof that you’re the author of a piece of writing. To us writers, bylines help us create our writing portfolios. We need them for our resumes.
If you pitch an editor of The New York Times and tell them you have bylines in The Atlantic and The Washington Post, they’ll likely pay it more attention than a total rando with no bylines.
Even in the world of bloggers, bylines can be handy, especially if you’re a freelance blogger/content writer. SaaS and UX writers, for example, can benefit from having bylines on websites like Zapier, GoDaddy Garage, HubSpot, etc. The reason why so many writers covet guest posts, even when it’s labor without monetary compensation, is for this very reason — they want to build up their writing portfolio.
Without a byline, there’s no proof of your accomplishments. Nobody will know what you’re capable of or if you’re worth hiring or commissioning.
So, unless you’re ghostwriting for a hefty payment, make sure all your writing comes with a byline. Otherwise, there’s no point in publishing in a magazine or blog that isn’t your own.
Should you have a byline in your own blog?
Depends on your personal taste.
In any case, on your own website, you should make it perfectly clear that whatever is written comes from you or has your approval. Basically, you are responsible and accountable for everything that is published on your website.
For example, in Neil Patel’s blog, even though there’s no byline, it is abundantly clear that it is indeed his website. His images are splashed all over the site. His face is basically the brand of his business. No matter who is writing these blog posts, it’s Neil’s words.
Personally, I like having a byline on The Side Blogger. This also allows me to commission other writers or have guest bloggers from time to time and they all publish under their own bylines. So, having a consistent design across the site where you always see the author’s name in every single article is useful.
Now, let’s talk about author bios.
What is an author bio?
The image below shows the author bio of Si Quan Ong who writes on Ahrefs blog.
In blogs or online magazines and news outlets, you may see the author bio in a few different ways:
- In a website, an author bio may not appear alongside the article. But, the byline may be hyperlinked with the author’s bio page (as in, when you click the author’s name, it takes you to a separate page that has the author’s bio and a list of articles they have published on that website.)
- A website may have the author’s bio alongside their article(s) on the same page. It may appear in the sidebar or under the article.
- Some websites have an author page that lists all the articles published by that author on that website, but no bio.
- Some other websites have the byline only and no bio or author page.
Do you need an author bio?
Author bios are typically built into the website’s larger system. Some websites have them. Others don’t. And they’re not nearly as important as a byline. Even if you do not have a bio, your byline proves your authorship of a piece of writing.
To give you an example, I’ve written several pieces for Splice Today and my author page simply includes a list of articles and no bio. But that’s fine. That’s how all of their author pages look like and I don’t care whether or not they include my bio.
But, if a website has author bios built into their system, then they’ll ask you for one. And when they do, you must provide it. And since it’ll be on that website, you better do a good job and not send over a sloppy paragraph, right?
Author bio specifications
All websites have their own specifications for author bios, and they’ll let you know what these are. If you’re writing for a website and they have author bios (do a little research before you pitch them or send over a piece of writing) and they haven’t given you specs, then feel free to ask for these.
Typical specifications include:
- Whether or not you’ll need to give them a profile photo, and if so, what are the required dimensions?
- Is there a minimum and/or maximum word/character count?
How to write an author bio
There’s no rule for writing author bios and it depends entirely on what you’re trying to achieve.
As I said earlier, the byline is the most important thing for a writer; the bio is a sweet extra.
What to include in an author bio:
I’ve seen writers include one or more of the following in their author bios.
- Personal details (pronouns, sexuality, BIPOC denomination, or whatever establishes their identity, personality, background, etc.)
- Past publications
- Author’s social media and/or website
- Author’s location (it doesn’t have to be specific, just the state/province or even just the country is fine.)
Author bio examples
Let’s look at a few author bio examples, shall we?
A mini resume
Often, SaaS, UX, and content writers will use their bio as a mini resume and they’ll list what they do, where their expertise lie, and a link to their website or a larger portfolio. This way, potential employers or anyone interested in hiring a writer with similar skill sets can get in touch with the author.
Below you’ll see an example of an author bio from Hubspot. I like it because it’s short but gets to the point quickly — introduces who Stephanie Trovato is and who she’s worked with to establish her expertise — all business, no play but that’s perfect for these short bios.
Stephanie is a content marketing expert with a passion for connecting the dots of strategy and content. She has worked with industry leaders including HubSpot, Oracle, Travel + Leisure, and Forbes.
You’re not only your job title
Krystina Martinez’s author bio on Zapier is a mix of business and fun facts about herself. I like this one a lot! It doesn’t have a link to her website or a long list of past clients, but maybe that’s not necessary? I mean, but the sound of it, she has a J.O.B. as a content writer at Zapier, so maybe the bio is just a nice touch here and not so much a tool for prospecting new clients or employers.
Krystina Martinez is a writer on Zapier’s content marketing team, based in Dallas, Texas. When she’s not working, you can find her sewing, exercising, or watching anime and gymnastics.
If you have names like the New York Times and the New Yorker on your resume, wouldn’t you want to boast too? That’s what Hala Alyan has done in Guernica.
Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, POETRY, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series, and her debut novel, Salt Houses, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Her latest novel, The Arsonists’ City, was a finalist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize. Her forthcoming collection of poetry, The Moon That Turns You Back, will be published by Ecco.
Vainglory is not mandatory
In the end, nobody really cares about your author bio… except maybe you.
Let me remind you once again: your byline is more important than your author bio. If you want to brag about your long list of accomplishments in that tiny paragraph or two, you’re really just tickling your own ego… which is totally fine, by the way. I mean, when I’ve published in Guernica or Granta or the Paris Review, you bet I’ll be listing those names off on all of my bios whether or not other people give a damn! ‘Cause I do, dammit!
My point is, if you don’t care about listing off your past publications, that’s totally fine. The author bio has neither made nor dismantled anybody’s writing career as far as I know.
Here’s a modest author bio of Doug Crandell from The Sun magazine even though he has plenty to brag about.
Doug Crandell has fallen in love with fall crocuses. He plants the bulbs on a little farm in Douglasville, Georgia.
A few tips for author bios
Earlier I said an author bio neither makes nor breaks a career. I stand by it.
However, I also kinda sorta implied that nobody cares about your bio except for you.
Well, that may not be so true, after all.
Here’s why I’m contradicting myself: The only times I care to read an author bio is when I’ve been really impressed by a certain piece of writing. As a reader, I become interested in the person behind the words, so I click the byline and try to find out more about the author.
So, it may be that while bios are not as important for building a career as a byline, they’re still a great way to build connections with readers.
The publishing world looks very different these days, thanks to social media. If you have your own following, you can market your work more effectively, on your own, without having to rely on a third-party PR team. So, a bio could very well be a place where you try to woo your readers into following you or learning more about you.
A crafty writer may convince a reader to buy their books, or follow them on social, or sign up for their newsletter just by flirting their way through that teeny-tiny author bio!
So, brag away if you want to, or use humor to charm your reader, or do both! It’s up to you how to want to engage your readers, after all.
And finally, know that you can craft a bio based on where your writing appears.
For example, this is what my bio looks like on this website: a mix of business and some personal details:
Maliha (they/she) is a writer, blogger, editor, and content marketer. They’re the owner of The Side Blogger, a Canva Verified Expert, and a confident procrastinator at large.
But I have a totally different bio on Porter House Review where I published a short personal essay last year. Here I wrote whatever I wanted, really. I didn’t even mention anything about content marketing or blogging because, in an author bio for a literary magazine where I published creative nonfiction, these qualifications are unnecessary.
Maliha is an electrical engineer and writer of essays and short stories. She lives in sunny Colorado despite a mild sun allergy, spends way too much time walking around aimlessly or reading in libraries or drinking chai in coffee shops, and has a thing for analog cameras, especially Polaroids.
That is all.
I hope this post helps you understand the difference between an author byline (literally a line in a piece of writing with the author’s name in it) and an author bio (a mini-biography of one or two paragraphs at most) and gives you enough ideas to draw from when you’re writing your own bio.
Questions or thoughts? Share in the comments below.
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