To become a biographer, a person needs strong writing and research skills, and will need, if writing biographies is intended as a career, to find methods for publishing. There can be different ways to go about acquiring research and writing acumen, and many different methods for getting material published, which are not always successful. One step to become a biographer is understanding that people will be writing about others, not their own life (autobiography). Still, writers should be interested in their topics and able to write about them in fresh and new ways.
Most who would become a biographer have acquired significant research and writing skills. Some do this without formal education, but many people have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. Choice of major in college might reflect topics of interest. If people plan to write about historical figures, a history major could be appropriate. Biographers hoping to work with more general biography subjects might be best served by obtaining degrees in literature, communications, or journalism. When people want to write biographies about modern subjects, mastering the art of interview may be as important as learning how to research, so journalism or a communications degrees could be desirable.
When folks feel they have sufficient education to become a biographer, they can begin working by choosing a person to research and write about. Before making a final choice, it’s a good idea to get a sense of what has already been written about the person, and decide if material can be approached from a new angle that will draw interest. Once a subject is chosen, people begin to research, interview if needed, and write.
It may take several years to put together a publishable biography and most people have to work at the same time. Having a writing job is a good idea or sometimes people might be able to find government grants if a creative work is deemed important, though this is rare. When people can’t get a grant, trying to work in the writing world, such as by being a journalist, could be of use because it establishes credibility and may make valuable contacts.
Once a book is finished, a person has become a biographer, but publication is an important goal. Getting published is not easy, but is usually easier with agent representation. Agents can submit books for consideration to publishers, and this may result in publication. Some agents and publishers demand books be professionally edited first, and this can cost money.
A less formal approach, which may not make much money, is to publish a biography in ebook or online form. There are also vanity-publishers, but these require money upfront and then an author must try to sell any books he publishes. Although this is a more competitive route, generally, a person is better off trying to become a biographer by getting books published by a legitimate source.