Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Discussion: Are First Impressions Important? (Of Books/Authors)

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.



  1. Covers make a HUGE difference for me. I definitely judge a book by its cover. Also, I like not to know anything about the author BEFORE I read the book, but if I like the book, I scour the internet for everything about him or her. Weird, but common? Idk. Good post!

  2. 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?

    Hmm I'm not too sure. When it comes to books I suppose first impressions are important because obviously if I loved the book I will pick up the next one especially if its the first book in a series like with the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. I loved The Demon King and immediately went on to read The Exiled Queen but when I read a book from her other series - The Warrior Heir which she had written before the other two books I mentioned I wasn't all that impressed. So if I had read that book first I might not have continued reading her work because I wouldn't have kept tabs on what else she was writing and although I won't continue on with the Heir series because its older work I will definitely check out anything that comes after the Exiled Queen because she's definitely improved :-)

    Do you judge a book by its cover? Title? Summary?

    I used to when I was younger but after reading a book I loved who's cover I initially did not like at all I have stopped judging a book by its cover for the most part. I am still influence by a gorgeous cover though in the way that if a summary of a book doesn't sound like it would be my kind of a book the cover might still sway me to give the book a shot. I did judge Anna and the French Kiss by its title AND its cover, I added it to my TBR but it wasn't high priority because I thought it was just going to be a light, cute chic-lit read but I've heard such rave reviews from friends and other bloggers that its been bumped up on my list :-).

    Also Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, I definitely judged that book by its title and did not bother checking it out until the sequel's gorgeous cover was revealed. That's when I actually went looking up reviews by blogs I follow to see what they thought of the first book and now that I know its received lots of good ratings I am going to give it a try :-)

    What about the author, can the impression the author makes on you influence whether or not you’ll read their books?

    Yes, I won't say the authors but there have been two particularly where some things they have said have completely put them on my -never to read- list because they came off as arrogant and petty.

    Another author though because of the great things I heard about her from a friend of mine who met her made her way onto my to-read list. I checked out her upcoming book, and her site and I bought the book when it came out but well even though I really wanted to like it it turned out not to be for me so I didn't bother to continue with the series even though the author made a great first impression her book didn't :-/

    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?

    Oh I think I answered this in a previous question. Yes if the book is great I will check-out what other books the author writes but that doesn't guarantee that I'll read it, it has to be a story I am interested in.

    For example I loved the Gemma Doyle books by Libba Bray but had no interest in Going Bovine same with how I really liked Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson but cannot get myself to try Wintergirls, still if these authors write something else I'll check out the summary of the book and if I like it I'll read it : -)

  3. Fantastic discussion question! I loved reading your thoughts on these things. Hmm... for me.. first impressions matter a lot! I look at cover and title before synopsis (for example, a title like Anna Dressed in Blood has me interested before the cover or synopsis)
    And yeah, I'll admit it, sometimes I judge books by their authors! I have the must-read authors (like most bloggers) and I also have a few authors on my not-to-read list because of something they probably said about bloggers, etc.

    yes, the first book i read by an author would affect me. For example, Bloom was my first EScott book and I really disliked it even though I've heard such awesome stuff about it. It took me a while to venture out and try a completely different book by her, but still, i was reluctant (and she has so many book and fans!)

    seriously, great post!! =D

  4. Not only is cover art and title big to me...but also the author's name. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But I cant be the only one, right? I personally dont like my last name. Anything with the word "hump" in it is not really professional.

  5. Totally irrelevant to your post, kinda but uhm is that cat Salem from Sabrina The Teenage Witch?!

  6. @Marie, haha yes, that is Salem. <3

    @Jessie, an author name can draw me in aswell. There's some author names that you just don't forget and they stick with you, I love names like that.

  7. I think I'll wait and discuss with you on MSN. :D



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