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Writing Biographies: Tips for Getting Started

July 17, 2019 (Last Updated January 19, 2021)

Marcy G.

A biography is an account of a person’s life, written by someone else. An autobiography is an account of someone’s life, written by that person. How do these differ from memoirs? Memoirs tell stories from certain points in your life, while biographies and autobiographies are chronological and contain a whole lifespan.


Two questions to ask before writing a biography are:

Why is this person significant or interesting?

What have they accomplished or what are they known for?


You should find your subject genuinely interesting if you will be researching and writing a book about their life.  

Since biographies cover a whole lifespan, it can be difficult to sift through all the research and information and know what is important to include in your book. Be thoughtful about what contributes to understanding your subject through the eyes of the reader. Ask yourself: Is this significant?



Since biographies and autobiographies are chronological, there’s already an established guideline. Think about what significant events to highlight and what photos you may want to include. You can choose to add photos in the corresponding chapters and sections as they relate to the material, or you can bulk your photos together in one section with captions for reference. Make sure your photos are at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). This will ensure they print at a high resolution.



Biographies can have a dense amount of material, so it may be useful to include an Index in your book. This way, if readers want to look up a specific reference, they can use the Index to quickly find it. Creating an Index can be a daunting task, but with a little effort, it can be fairly painless. Be sure to look up the "how-to" guides on Microsoft Word to help you create your Index properly. If you follow Microsoft Word's rules, you'll be able to update the Index whenever you make changes to your book.



With the wealth of information in your biography, footnotes can be extremely valuable. Certain terms, people, or events may require more explanation and context, but you don't want to break up the reader's flow. Simply include a footnote or endnote with a deeper explanation at the bottom of the page with its corresponding number. Again, Microsoft Word has detailed instructions on setting up footnotes or endnotes.

Book Templates: We offer Free Book Templates that you can use to format your book. They open in Microsoft Word or just about any other word processing program, and they come in four standard sizes:

4.25 x 7     5.5 x 8.5     6 x 9     8.5 x 11

You can type your book directly into the template and set it up any way you choose. Be sure to choose the right page size, and when you're done formatting, simply convert the file to a PDF and the resulting PDF file will be ready to upload to us!



If you need help constructing your cover, you can use our Create-a-Cover option for $100. With this option, you can choose a general layout, background color and texture, and any additional instructions and photos you want to be included. Upload all the photos to us, and our prepress technicians take your options and assemble your cover using these elements. The $100 is a one-time fee, so if you receive your cover proof and decide you want to change an element on it such as the background color, this is no problem. If you have InDesign, you can use one of our Cover Templates to design your own cover.


Once you're ready to get your book printed, partner with 48 Hour Books for your self-publishing and book printing.



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