1. Write in the third person.
2. Keep it short.
3. Ensure that the publication title is accurate.
4. Follow the specific publication's guidelines about biographies.
5. If you are submitting to a publication that has published your work, include the credit in your bio.
1. Remember that these bios are being assembled into a publication to be read by someone. If all the bios were in first person it would make no sense. If some were in first and some were in third it would be jumpy and inconsistent. Yes, the editors can do the translation into third themselves, but that's additional labour that can slow down the publication process. They don't have to do that just for you but for the thousand or so poems they receive a year (using Bywords.ca as an example).
2. The temptation is to list everything or send the publication a CV. Don't do it. Send a few lines about your latest publications & a highlight, such as an award & add a site or blog that includes your credits in full. If you don't have any publication credits, you can include your location, perhaps a writing workshop that you have taken or a series where you've read, for example open mics.
3. If you aren't sure, go to the publication's web site or pick up the journal. With web sites, it can be tricky. For Bywords, cite Bywords.ca for our online magazine & the Bywords Quarterly Journal for our print magazine. For AngelHousePress, note it is one word. For our online publications: Experiment-o.com, NationalPoetryMonth.ca.
4. This seems obvious, but many people don't bother to read the guidelines. This makes work for those having to enter the info & could slow down the process.
5. I suppose this isn't essential, but if I've published someone, I expect them to acknowledge it.
These guidelines based on my own experiences as a small press publisher. If you are in doubt about how to write a bio or what to include, it's best to take a look at the bios in the publication itself & to read the guidelines. If you have questions, you can always query the publication directly, but make sure you've read those guidelines first, folks. & the rules change when submitting grant applications. Often organizations such as the Canada Council for the Arts have very specific requirements for biographies & C.V's. The more you can adhere to these, the better your chances will be of acceptance. If you're a rebel &you don't like to follow any rules, don't apply, don't submit, start your own press & do what you like.
TO BIO OR NOT TO BIO
Some people don't understand the point of biographies at all. They think the work should stand up for itself. Ok. Fair enough. Except that the information from a bio can be helpful in many ways. I've discovered other journals to submit to via bios. Personally I like to learn about a person's background. It doesn't affect my reading of their work, it just adds a human element of connection.