First Impressions

We say so many things about first impressions.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

By Maître de saint Barthélemy - Kulturelles Erbe Köln, Public Domain,


You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. 

Party boy

There are others, of course, but they all seem to relate to the above.

I think the first quote is what we parents tell our children about making friends, listening to teachers, attacking something that’s a challenge. We don’t want our kids to give up at the very first sign of trouble. We want them to persevere. That’s a virtue worth instilling.

For a time, my daughter didn’t want to watch any movie that wasn’t animated – no matter how good it was supposed to be. She made it virtually impossible for us to watch Fiddler on the Roof or The Sound of Music. She refused to give The Hobbit a chance. It was a toss up with The Wizard of Oz, and we haven’t even tried Black Beauty or Where the Red Fern Grows. Forget about it.

In a way, she reminds me of the second adage – You never get a second chance to make a great first impression. Whenever she sees a movie come out of its sleeve she has refused to watch previously, she will still refuse to view it, even though she’s older now and probably would find great pleasure in it. I mean, after all, who doesn’t like Mary Poppins?  (My daughter raises her hand…)

It’s a hard reality for authors to wrap our minds around, but as far as it relates to books, the second adage is more of a reality. Books are judged by the covers – within the first 10 seconds. This is what goes through the mind of a book buyer or reader when they see a book on the shelf:

  1. What is it?

Okay, I know. It’s a book. Duh. But let’s look at this in a different way. What is it? means, What can I expect to find within the pages? Is it a Romance? Thriller? Mystery? Horror?

Essentially, What is it? means, Does the cover tell me enough information that I won’t be disappointed with my purchase?

The first edition of my book came out with this cover… and at best, it’s a bit confusing.

Here’s why:

  1. What genre is it? Did you say romance?… Huh… that’s interesting. My story has romantic elements, but it isn’t what you would call a traditional romance.old-770s-cover 
  2. What story does the cover tell? … Maybe a shifter of some sort? We see the full moon – great symbolism for a werewolf novel, don’t you think? And we see a sexy guy (who happens to be on every other book cover out there – including horror novels…) And a girl with glasses. Unlikely pair? What’s this cover really saying?
  3. If you look closely, you can barely make out a creepy little figure on the bottom right coming out of the shadows. What does this tell you about the book? … nothing… absolutely nothing.

I had the hardest time with this cover and I think it shows.

Now, I will say that the color is fabulous and the images are great. It may be the best cover in the entire world if it, in fact, actually related to the story contained within the pages of the book. But it doesn’t.

When I got my rights back from my publisher (R.I.P. Booktrope) I had the unique opportunity to create a new cover, one that encapsulated a little better what my book was about. Let’s take a look.


Something different happened here. Same colorway, but our images are completely different. In design terms, the Iconography informs us. Let’s analyze this puppy.

  1. The couple is in an embrace – This screams ROMANCE, and there are romantic elements in the book, there truly are. However, the couple is on the roof tops….
  2. What the heck? Rooftop dancing was done in Mary Poppins, but not like this. This looks… risky, dangerous, and a bit upsurd.
  3. The guy’s hair is messy. What’s up with that? Does it tell you he may not have it all together? Does it tell you there might be something else going on in the story? Does it tell you, in any way, that the book might be kinda funny?
  4. She’s wearing red, which we all know means HOT.
  5. There are bats flying out of her head. What do we know about bats? Well, they’re usually associated with vampires…

Ah ha! Now we’re getting somewhere…

Within a few seconds, anyone who looks at my new cover should be able to surmise that it’s a sexy book, it’s a risky book, and there probably is a vampire in there somewhere. Now, you may not consciously become aware of any of this, but you may get a feeling about it, and that’s what it’s all about.

But there’s more.

Recently, Kathryn Brown of Chanticleer Book Reviews, Author Services and Media took my book to some industry shows. And guess what, there are a few more things I need to do. Book buyers want to know exactly what my book is about right off the bat.

Yes, this cover is engaging and fun, but it should say that. Right on the cover.

Per Kathryn’s suggestions, I am going to add:


Yes, that might seem contradictory. I mean, cozy horror? Really? But that’s the best way to describe it. I write dark humor, stuff that makes you cringe and laugh all at once. What can I say, that’s me!

I will also include a quote or two from a review in the lower right hand corner, “…wickely fun…edgy” and “…Anderson’s humor slays me…”

Something like this:

Here’s the thing, the publishing world isn’t easy. Everything little bit of help counts.

If you’re looking for marketing help, professional book reviews, manuscript overviews – bookish stuff – check out Chanticleer and learn how to make a great first impression (in my case, great third impression!), attract more book buyers, and take your author career to a brand new level.

If you’re looking for an awesome cover designer, highly recommend Keri Knutson, owener and genious behind Alchemy Book Covers.

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