It’s true. You really do have just one chance to make a first impression. If you don’t make it a good one, you’ll never get another. What if you do a decent job? Will someone be apt to give you a second or third chance?
It’s possible. People are flawed. We make mistakes. We have struggles and life isn’t always easy. Sometimes, our alarm doesn’t go off and we run out of the house on interview day wearing two different earrings. Okay, that has never happened to me, but it does happen. Does it mean you don’t get the job? I guess it depends on the person interviewing you. They could look at your mismatched jewelry as a sign of your disorganization, or see it as a reflection of your humanity. People are forgiving many times when it comes to other people.
But what about when it comes to books?
As I plan my publishing strategy, I wonder about first impressions. Are they as important for books as for people? Will readers be forgiving with a book that isn’t edited well or a cover that doesn’t meet the mark?
I ask myself this question because while I’m a writer, I’m also an avid reader. I get through anywhere from 50 to 100 books a year and I’m pretty picky with my choices. It’s not to say I won’t give someone a chance. Everyone who has put in the time and effort to write a novel deserves a chance at true readership.
As a reader, I spend hours of my life (that I will never get back) on each story and I hope the author has put exponentially more time into making it as perfect as it could be for my reading pleasure. So if I’ve gotten through the first chapter and I can tell, and I’m not an expert, that it was not edited professionally, I will not go on. Unfortunately, the author will lose me as a reader. Which is a darn shame because I’m not only a person who spends a tremendous amount of time reading, I’m also someone who spreads the word and we all know how that goes.
With all that a good author does right, the one thing that will sell their book more than anything else is word of mouth.
So how do we get word of mouth to work in our favor as authors? We write the best darn book we can, we get it professionally edited and we revise, revise, and revise some more until it’s even better. After we’ve invested thousands of hours in writing and editing, it should be good enough, right?
How do I know this? Because I am a reader. Before I know if it’s been edited or not, I have to buy the book. And, the one thing that gets me to buy a book that hasn’t been recommended to me (word of mouth) is the cover. A striking cover will stop me in my tracks. A beautiful cover will make me want to read the pages inside of a book I might not normally pick up. And, it will make me want to read every book that the author with the fantastic covers has written. Assuming the other factors are there (good story, well written and edited) I’ll keep reading and recommending, and so on.
For authors, it can often times be about what they want for the story. But, really it’s not. It’s about the reader. Authors have to think like readers, which should be easy since we should be those people anyway.
As a reader, what would you want? You would want a striking cover to reel you in. You would want a compelling story with characters you’ll never forget. You would want to be forever changed when it’s over, looking at the world with new eyes. Will that happen with every read? Of course not. But authors owe it to their readers to try to give them that experience every single time.
I want to make a fantastic first impression. I want my cover to grab them by hand and pull them into my story. Once inside, I want them to go on the ride of their life with my characters, only to end with a sense of satisfaction. And, curiosity. I am writing a series after all.
So go ahead and judge those books by their covers. I’m sure the authors behind them would be humbled if you gave them a chance. I know I would.