How to start a career as Biography Writer

biography writer, how to become biography writer, biography writer

Writing comes in different forms and shapes. One of them is a profession that combines research, journalism, and historiography to some extent. It is a biography writer career. This profession requires attention to detail, critical thinking, and, naturally, skills in communicating the ideas that the person under the research transmits throughout their life. The profession of a biography writer has distinctive features and calls for specific qualifications. Let’s see what it takes to become a biography writer. 

Biography Writer in a Nutshell

So, who exactly a biography writer is? This procession is crossdisciplinary, meaning that people with diverse working experiences and academic backgrounds may eventually find themselves engraving personalities into history. As a specific kind of writing expertise, this profession consists of several roles one must be able to perform.

This profession combines journalism, archive research, creative writing, history, and interviewing. Let’s see how such combinations work for acclaimed biography writers known around the globe. 

Marc Elliot, the writer of Nicholson a biography, pinpoints the place of his subject in the broad context of the development of the whole cinema industry of the time of his pride. Martin Gilbert, the author of the now timeless Churchill biography, focuses on historiography, enlightening the nuance of World War II. Another outstanding example is Maya Angelou, who became her own biographer, giving the reader a literal first-person perspective on her life story. 

Naturally, those who stand out come a long way in finding their style and approach to biography. 

Education Required to Become a Biography Writer

As mentioned before, there are different pathways to becoming a biographer. Depending on your initial education or training, you may need to develop the skills you need further in your career. So what are the pathways to becoming a professional biography writer

  • Journalism major. A journalism faculty graduation will ensure your writing, interviewing, and fact-checking skills. In addition, the qualifications gained in such a major are enough to focus on a story or personality and provide the reader with a three-dimensional figure of the subject. 
  • Field-specific major. This is when a person writes an outstanding biography from the same professional field. For example, when a scientist delves into the scope of their fellow professional. Such an approach helps the reader understand the subject's contribution rather than deal with their personal story or private life. 
  • History major. When a person can work with historical facts, they can operate them. This works for particular historical events or eras and figures who shaped them. 
  • Literature major. This kind of education will provide aspiring professionals with a solid basis for meaningful and effective writing, regardless of what genre they will end up in. 

Experience You Might Need as a Biography writer 

Getting established as an acclaimed and successful biography writer may be a long way to go. However, when one is determined, one goes through it all step by step. So, let’s see the experience and competencies expected from such a person. 

  • Experience in interviewing. A biographer must understand people. This experience is necessary for unfolding the subject's story along with their intentions, hopes, and fears. The same goes for communication with people related to the subject’s story. A good interviewer makes the interviewee comfortable enough to discuss the set topic. 
  • Fact-checking. A goal of every professional biography writer is to tell a true story rather than impress the reader. Hence, they must care for the reader and ensure they are not misleading the audience. 
  • Writing, obviously. Preferably published. To keep one’s writing skills intact, one must constantly practice them. If your job has to do with writing, it is enough. If you feel like you need more practice in it, do it independently. 

What Does a Biographer Do?

Essentially, biography writer duties are about telling the audience a story of why the subject in work is outstanding or important. So, it is a responsibility of a writer to unfold the story of the subject’s life in terms of the event that shaped them personally or professionally. A well-written biography is like an extended research paper in which the subject is a personality. 

A biographer’s job is to find as much information about the subject from different facets and shape an objective view of the personality. The best way for a biographer to communicate the importance of the subject is by picturing it with no bias. 

Is It the Right Choice for You?

If one decides to become a biography writer, it must be a huge commitment. Recognition and success come after long learning, practicing, editing, and sometimes failures. However, this section is not for you to give up your aspirations regarding your career. Instead, it is here to ensure you are equipped for the role. So, here are the common qualities that many acclaimed biographers share. 

Patience. Biography is a long-read genre, so naturally, creating a good and meaningful one takes time. But, just as it goes with profound research, wiring a biography includes many tests and trials, so patience is the key to doing worthy work. 

Attention to detail. Even though writing as a profession is more of a creative occupation, an analytical mind and an attentive eye are needed to be good at writing biographies. A part of this job is working with facts and details that assemble a biography, so it is also a must. 

Research abilities. The not-that-creative part of the biography writing job is the research one. The author must be aware of frameworks to apply to working with facts to deliver the most objective vision for the audience. 

Critical thinking. Critical thinking is a skill and a quality needed to succeed in biography writing. As fascinated by a personality or a story about them as one can be, one must approach everything with a pinch of skepticism and verify all the information before adding it to the final draft of the biography. 

Discipline. The success that comes after an outstanding biography is a very delayed gratification. A writer must be ready for long and consistent work on research and editing. However, every biography writer you may know will tell you that this gratification is worth the time and effort invested in it. 

How To Get a Biographical Work Published

For any young or beginning professional biography writer, writing the first piece is not the hardest part of the journey. Getting published is. Usually, when an author does not have a famous name, publishing houses are not as willing to work with them. For that reason, the publishing process must also be strategized. Here are some steps to include on your way toward success. 

  1. Make sure the work is worth reading. Rule number one is for the author to believe in this work to market it well. Confidence is contagious, so do not be shy about the results of your hard work. 
  2. Find a field-related editor and get your book edited professionally. As genius as it might seem, it is best to show the manuscript to an editor before sending it to a publisher or prospective boss. 
  3. Research the industry in terms of the genre of the book. Look for publishers that work with biographies. Such a publisher will have more interest in your work or at least will give constructive feedback. 
  4. Look for a literary agent. With an agent who already has ties in the publishing world, it will be easier to get out there and land a job.
  5. Send out your manuscript to the relevant publishers. Be ready to receive rejections, and do not be afraid of them. Sooner or later, you will get a positive response if you do not give up. 
  6. Sign a book deal with one that fits your requirements. 

Biography Writer Job FAQ 

Can I get a degree as a biography writer?

There is no specific degree for biography writers. It is more of a combination of skills. Usually, biographers have a degree in journalism, history, literature, or one specific to the field of their subject. 

How do I choose a subject for writing a biography?

It comes as inspiration based on a deep interest of the biographer. In the case of a biographer writer to hire, the hirer defines the topic and the subject.

How much does a biography writer earn?

It depends on their name and the success of every particular book. 

What Are the Key Features of a Biography? 

All biography writer professionals know the basic formula of what must go into the work. So, here are the points that must be included in a biography. 

  1. Essential information about the subject. Tell the reader who the person is or was, their name, date of birth, and place of origin. 
  2. Subject's personal life. Of course, it is up to the author what to add there, but the personal life details must connect to the overall message in the book. 
  3. Education and occupation of the subject. Here, the biographer is challenged to explain  what shaped the subject regarding profession and outlook. 
  4. Main accomplishments of the subject. Essentially, the writer must explain why the reader should care about the subject. 
  5. What makes the subject special. Next, the author must point out why the subject stands out and how it impacted their field, community, or world. 

Without the author’s touch, the list above is just a dossier. Hence, it all must be wrapped in the author’s writing style and reflections to work for the audience.  

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Can Anyone Write a Biography? 

After sufficient training and enough experience, one can build a career as a biographer. This is a profession that can be acquired with enough dedication. However, until you find the right employer looking to hire a writer for biography, here are some tips to stand out among other job seekers and land a job. 

With enough training and dedication, everyone really can write a biography. Check out this list of tips to improve your writing qualification. 

Be a good reader. Read fiction as a source of style, vocabulary, and linguistic devices to keep your skills intact. 

Read other biographies. Critically. Do not miss out on what is going on in the professional field—analyze others’ works for what works and what does not. 

Develop a habit of journaling. Learn to express your thought comfortably. Use prompts or reflect on paper to improve your writing and make it more articulate. 

Take feedback seriously. If you have an editor to show your writing to, or while making an inquiry or applying for a job, use the feedback you receive as career advice and apply it to your other writing.

Craft a job-winning resume. Craft your application to the job description, and do not forget to create one that fits an applicant tracking system used by hiring managers. 

What Makes a Successful Biography? 

If you are familiar with some biography pieces, you have your own highlights in each. However, for a biography writer who wants to impress the employer, it is best to hit some scores that ensure the audience will love it. So here are the vital ones. 

The relatability of the story. The personality story. Your biography must relate to the reader’s experience and feelings. If the audience relates to the personality, they will love it. It is the job of the author to make people care. 

Inspirational quality of the biography. A story of a personality, whether from the present or the past, must have value or a lesson for its audience. Make the story matter by adding an inspirational quality to that. 

Reliability of the information. Make sure to back all the information and facts used in a biography with correct references to reputable sources. 

Writing style. The delivery of the life story is what makes a work popular. Check out tips to improve crucial skills for a biography writer online free of charge. 

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Key Takeaways

Biography writing is a separate genre of non-fiction writing that requires a certain skill set from the author. Readers usually come for the story and stay for the writing, so a successful writer must have outstanding skills in this department. 

Several degrees help obtain a freelance job as a biography writer. These are literature, journalism, and history, and they are all about the competencies in working with facts. Nonetheless, it is a profession one can eventually obtain and succeed in. It takes consistent training in writing skills and looking for the right opportunities.