Note: this post is quite long, so feel free to just jump down to the discussion questions, they summarize the general topic of the post anyway.
So I’m reading this book right now (which shall remain nameless) and it’s a debut novel and almost two weeks into reading it and I’m still only 100 pages in roughly, I have to pretty much force myself to keep turning the pages because it’s just -- well, lets just say that it’s not making a good first impression on me and leave it at that.
But anyway, this book got me thinking about first impressions and their impact on reading and it made me realise that first impressions are very important to me as far as books are concerned. For example:
Titles: A good title can hook me before I’ve even read the summary or seen the cover, a bad title can put me off reading a book for the longest time.
Looking for Alaska? It had me at the title. I’m not sure why, it just did (and that first impression was correct). Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jellicoe Road, Sloppy Firsts…all those books are ones I put off reading for ages because I wasn’t fond of the titles (or covers) and all three ended up making it onto my favourite books list. But that first impression? It could’ve had me not reading them at all.
Covers: A good cover can make me want a book even if the summary isn’t something I’d normally go for and a bad cover can make me not want to read a book even if it sounds amazing
I already mentioned a few covers I dislike and then there have been times where I’ve bought a book purely based on the cover (sometimes this works for me and I end up loving the book, sometimes not so much). A good cover can be the difference between someone borrowing a book from a library and investing in their own copy.
Summaries: Again, something that creates an impression of the book before it’s even out/before you even read any of the book. A good summary can make even a bad story seem so wonderful that it leaves a reader desperate to get their hands on a book and sometimes the book doesn’t deliver the awesome that the summary promises and then sometimes a good book can have a bad summary.
I’m not a fan of summaries that are too detailed and I’m not a fan of summaries that are too vague and try to seem all mysterious and come across more like a riddle than explaining what a book is about. I like the middle ground. Like the covers and titles, a good summary can hook me and a bad summary can lose me and unless the book has something else drawing me in (author, recommendations, cover or whatever) then chances are I won’t read it.
Those three things? Sometimes they are so badly done. It particularly bugs me when an amazing book is given a title, cover and summary that makes a book seem like frothy cliché chick-lit or something less than what it is, when the book is actually so much better than that (examples: Jessica Darling series, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Sarah Dessen books, Anna and the French Kiss, Vampire Academy series etc.).
I always feel kind of like the publishers are letting the authors down in those cases. It’s like they’re wrapping the book up as something they think people will buy instead of what the books actually are, when, if they paid more attention to readers, they would find that we really appreciate good covers and originality -- we don’t buy those books because of their generic cliché covers, we usually buy them in spite of that.
And I’m going a bit off topic…but titles, covers and summaries are important. They’re the first, first impression that a book makes on a reader (with the exception of what I’m going to mention below), so they should make one that counts.
More first impressions: Authors.
If an author is awesome, I’m more likely to read their books. If an author is awful (which is very, very rare - I’ve seen this happen only about 3 times in all my time blogging), then I really don’t want to read their books and it kind of taints the books of theirs that I may have already read.
Jackson Pearce is brilliant. She’s funny, she’s nice and because of this, I read her books. Now, Sisters Red is one that may have ended up in my TBR pile anyway but I got it when it was out instead of waiting because Jackson is awesome and I read As You Wish (in spite of a title and cover I don’t particularly like) because it was written by her too.
Maureen Johnson? Another author who is just awesome. I didn’t like the first book of hers that I read, 13 Little Blue Envelopes (I’m in the minority in not liking that book), and it put me off reading her books for so long, but then I started reading her blog and saw her vlogs and a live show or two and seriously, that woman is hilarious and lovely and it made me want to love her books and so I’m gave her writing another chance instead of putting her writing style into the “not my cup of tea” category. (Btw, her story in Let it Snow = fantastic and proved that I was right to not let my first impressions put me off and to be influenced by my first impressions of her as a person instead.)
I won’t mention the names of the authors I dislike, but lets just say that I will never read a book that they write. Ever. One of the authors? Her books were on my wish list and were instantly removed once she proved how arrogant and rude and disrespectful to her fans she was. I don’t even read her blog anymore. My view of her as a person poisoned my view of her books because I just can’t get past the fact that she wrote them.
Another first impression: Books.
Ignoring the authors and the covers, if you start reading a book (like the one that got this topic in my head) and it’s really bad in the beginning and it drags out…you’re less likely to like the book or even finish it. And if it’s the first book of the authors that you’ve read? You’re less likely to read anything else by that author (or maybe this is just me).
I have an instant read list. Any author that can totally wow me with the first book of theirs that I read will end up on this list and I will read anything else they write, even if it has an awful cover and it’s not the kind of book that I would usually read. And it’s all because of the lasting first impression made by the first book of theirs that I’ve read.
And sorry, this post is very long and very ramble-y, but I guess - I just never realised how much first impressions (of books, authors, covers, titles, summaries) impacted what I read. Sometimes the judgements are proved wrong, sometimes right…but at the end of the day, there are millions of books in the world that I want to read and there’s no way I’ll ever read them all, so I need to narrow it down somehow. A good first impression? That can be the deciding factor in whether or not a book will be one of the ones I read, so authors and publishers should make sure they get it right.
Basically, the discussion part:
How much do first impressions influence YOUR reading habits? Are you like me, where they’re a big deal? Or are only some of these things important?
Do you judge a book by its cover? Title? Summary?
What about the author, can the impression the author makes on you influence whether or not you’ll read their books?
If the first book you read by an author is good or bad, will that have an impact on whether or not you read their future books?
And I’ll shut up now.