"I've been asked to provide a brief bio, but I have no novel credits... what do I do?!"First of all, take a deep breath. This is not a trick question, and nobody is going to get mad or look down on you for not having credits. Everyone had to start somewhere. Personally I think NO credits are far better than half-assed ones.
If you write for magazines or newspapers, you need not mention them by name unless they are major national or international publications that there is a good chance I've heard of. You can however generically say that you are a "freelance magazine writer" or similar without getting in to the nitty gritty of a bunch of mags I've never laid eyes on.
NO: I have published short stories in the Bloomington Intelligencer, and recipes in the Lafayette Advertiser, and my quilting group put together a book of riddles and games called THREADING THE NEEDLE WITH FUN! that we had published by lulu.com and sell at the local farmer's market.You don't need to put your educational background unless it directly relates to your work, ie, if you write about wildlife refuges, and you have a degree in Zoology, it is a good thing to mention. As for writing degrees, if you have a masters or higher you might as well mention it, but if you don't, do not fret, nobody cares.
YES: I have published short stories in The New Yorker and Paris Review.
OR: I am a freelance magazine writer.
OR, if you aren't: Don't mention anything.
YES: I have an MFA in Writing for Children from Randoma College in Coldweather City.
YES: I am an expert in [book topic] and have [an advanced degree] in [field of study related to book topic]
NO: Anything else.
Keep it short and professional, and don't worry about it too much. This is NOT in lieu of the paragraph describing your book, and the main thing I want to know about is your book, anyway.
NO:Did this make sense or did I muddy the waters even more?
"I don't really have any publication history per se but I went to junior college and studied dental hygiene and I write a semi-annual tooth newsletter for my local tooth-enthusiasts forum. I am also a superenthusiastic mommy and I read my kids my stories about HENRY THE SQUIRREL WHO DIDN'T FLOSS and they just love them, so I know that though this is my first foray into the world of children's book writing, my toddlers laugh and laugh at my work, AND they learn a lesson, and I took this to a first grade classroom and read it to THEM and they just loved it too, and everyone will buy a copy!"
"I am a kindergarten teacher and freelance magazine writer in Skokie, Illinois. MY BRILLIANTLY RAD NOVEL ABOUT FIREMEN was inspired by my many years as a volunteer fireman's pole-waxer, and is my debut work of fiction.
Optional add-on: I am currently working on another novel, SOMETHING SOMEWHAT MORE MYSTERIOUS IN SPACE, a thriller about a troupe of mimes on a mission to Mars who must band together when one of their own is turned inside-out by invisible spacemonkeys. A synopsis is available upon request."