One shot to make a great first impression.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS are important, I’m told.

We only have once chance to make one, I’m told.

That first impression says who we are.

It say what we do.

No one ever forgets it.

First impressions are lasting impressions.

They define us for a lifetime.

It’s no different with books.

Potential buyers have only one chance to decide if a writer is good, bad, or indifferent.

They look at the cover.

They read the blurb.

They digest the opening paragraph.

Here’s the one I wrote for Secrets of the DeadEven the late October sky wore black to her funeral. Ambrose Lincoln forced himself to look again into the face of his wife. So young. So pale. So soft. So dead. But who was she? The face of his wife was no more familiar than the cover of a second-hand magazine.

What readers see and what they feel creates a first impression, a lasting impression.

They like the author, or they don’t.

The book intrigues them, or it doesn’t.

What they see and what they feel causes them to buy the book or toss it aside.

The cover must be able to stand alongside novels written by the big sellers in the marketplace, authors like John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Nicholas Sparks, and Danielle Steele.

Covers must look as if they came out of the artistic dens of New York.

Homemade covers don’t cut it.

If you have one, do it again.

Does the hook grab readers?

Does it make them keep reading?

So they care about what happens next?

If not, you better re-write it.

Let’s took a look at some books by indie authors that I think have made great first impressions.



A Case of Sour Grapes by Gae-Lynn Woods.

Opening paragraph: THE DREAM IS ALWAYS the same: a rush of adrenaline as my body throbs to a pounding bass and pulsing lights; the dancing grows wild and sweat builds as bodies crush against me. Then dread creeps in, stealing the light, muting the music, and pressing down, down, down until I can no longer draw breath and just as I explode with need: relief. Sweet air fills my lungs but an image from a horror movie hangs over me, a familiar melting Dorian Gray of a face, eyes distant and dead, breath huffing and foul. A searing pain tears across my chest and a screech rips the fabric of my nightmare.

Where is she?

And what is the horror movie hanging over her?

I must read on to find out.


Marred by Sue Coletta:

Opening Paragraoh: I used to believe people were inherently good, if only at their core. I saw the brokenness of the homeless. I respected the overachiever in the football star hoping for Daddy’s approval even if he’d never get it. I saw the heart of sinners, the souls of lovers. Shattered dreams of an abandoned child. I saw good in evil, spirit in the unholy. I understood the complexities of love, marriage, life. Hell, I welcomed the challenge. I had hopes, dreams and affirmations. I did.

Then, that all changed. My views shattered, or my eyes finally opened.

What caused her views about the goodness of mankind to shatter?

I must read on to find out.


Shattered Palms by Toby Neal

Opening Paragraph: Detective Leilani Texeira wished she’d come to this enchanted place for some reason other than death. She picked her way down the steps of the raised jungle boardwalk, turning her head to look upward at the canopy of interlaced branches of native koa and ohia trees. Droplets of moisture and golden light fell around her on an understory of massed ferns. She’d heard of the native forest sanctuary accessible from atop Haleakala volcano but had never taken the time to visit. Now she wished she could linger and take in the multitextured beauty of the place instead of hurrying on with their grim errand.

What grim errand is the detective on?

Who’s dead?

And why?

I must read on to find out.


Toxicity by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Opening Paragraph: It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, watching life seep out of a body. Knowing you were the cause of it. Standing in the motel room, fingers against the carotid, feeling the pulse dwindle to a weak, irregular tremor. Smiling, as his skin became translucent, a bluish tinge to his lips. Not so hard, now, to understand that doctor who helped people die. And sometimes stuck around to watch. Hadn’t someone said at the moment of death, he’d shout at his patients, imploring them to tell him what it was like?

Who died?

Who was the doctor?

Why had he helped someone die?

I must read on to find out.


For examples, I chose mystery/thriller/detective novels because those are the kinds of stories I read most.

But genre doesn’t matter.

First impressions do.

Make sure it is a good one, because that’s the way readers will always remember you.

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