I noticed this weird thing when I was updating my own bio (something you should probably do at the start of every calendar year, just to make sure it's up to date and doesn't talk about upcoming books that came out in October 2011, not that I am guilty of that… no, not at all): most author biographies start with geography.
Is it me, or is that a little bizarre?
I mean, I'm guilty of it, too. I noticed this while I was formatting my about.me page, and my first thought was to say that I'm from Pittsburgh. Now, being from Pittsburgh isn't inherently interesting except that anyone else from Pittsburgh who is around my age probably knows at least four to six people that I know, because even though Pittsburgh is a biggish city, it's like a bunch of small towns all stuck together, joined permanently by a strange dialect, sports, slight weirdness, and a very midwestern friendlyness.
But is it the most important thing to know about someone, where they're from? Aside from anyone else from Western Pennsylvania that I might possibly know, or who knows my mother in law (more likely), is this crucial information for a person to have? Hardly!
But that's the default! WHY is it the default? I do NOT KNOW. It is SILLY. It's giving the most prime real estate of a paragraph, the first sentence, to a mailbox. Why? I have no idea.
Then, after geography, comes the Parade of Past Professions. Random lists of interesting jobs that were held before that person became a writer? CHECK! That's pretty common, too – though often much more charming than opening with the geographic birthplace. I know there are some readers who love to support local authors, or feel a kinship with someone who is from the same place they are, but in all the populace that might stumble upon a bio, I have to assume that the likelihood of someone with geographic similarities encountering a bio and making a buying decision based on that similarity is pretty freaking low.
I asked myself: what's the first thing I as a reader want to know about an author? When I'm looking for information about an author, what is it that I want to know?
Usually, it's when's the next book is coming out. Depending on the writer, that might be a frequently updated bio, especially if someone is publishing yearly or twice yearly. But shouldn't there be a sort of general rule as to what makes the best first impression in a written author biography? I should think so, but when I search on the topic, the answers are varied, and also often boring.
So what should be the first thing you want to know about an author when you're looking for information – aside from geography? And hey, if everyone except me wants to know where everyone else is from, and I'm in the minority with this bafflement, I yield to all of you with excellent atlases. We can all road trip. You drive.