Have you ever noticed that if you meet someone and he makes a bad impression for whatever reason, when you see him again, even if he presents himself in a totally different manner, your memory immediately defaults to the first experience and the contrast is noted but the first impression remains? You may meet this same man several times subsequently before that unfavorable first impression begins to fade.
On the other hand, if you meet someone and she makes a very good first impression, then you meet her again and she looks terrible, your mind will default to the good impression and make excuses like she’s just having a really bad day to explain why her second appearance was less than pleasant. Again, it can take several repeat bad appearances to erase that strong first impression. I’m sure you get the point.
As an author, it’s particularly challenging to manage that first impression because more often than not, you’re not there at the time. First impressions can be forged by a variety of things – comments others make about you, Facebook pages and posts, Tweets, website content, even the cover of your book. Don’t I have enough to worry about already? You might ask. Probably. That’s why it’s important to choose your battles carefully. Know the difference between the things you can and cannot change and put your focus on those you can.
Think about these scenarios and how they reflect on your career as an author:
What if a journalist gets a press release in the middle of the night about your upcoming book release and goes to your website for more info, but the most recent title showing there came out in March of 2012?
What if the Events page of your website says “More info soon” and it’s been saying that since the site went live last year?
Probably just a bad hair day, right? But think about it. Most readers you hope to have in a career as an author won’t meet you in person. They’ll hear about you somewhere and try to find you online – on a website, on Facebook, Twitter, wherever. Their first impressions of you will happen wherever they find you. The good news is that if they were to stumble upon you on a late night run to the drug store for cough meds when you’re sick, chances are the impression won’t be that great. You can’t always prevent that. But you can certainly make sure your first impression given by your website is friendly and professional. You can control your behavior with comments in other social media. And, you can fight the urge to drop posters off at Hastings for an upcoming book signing wearing flip flops and a ponytail and wearing no makeup.
What if you are careful with your language on your blog, but the same blog has a twitter feed showing that you are often cursing and critical in your comments?
What if the first time people “met” you, live or on the internet, made a permanent impression on them?
When people who frequent the same social media as you recognize your name, how would they introduce you to someone else? Would they say “Oh, that’s some author who’s always trying sell her book” or “She cusses like a sailor”? Maybe you’re fine if they say things like that. The point is to make you think about what someone else might think of you. What kind of impression are you making when you venture out into the cybersphere?
I know the internet is a comfortable place for many who just want to “be themselves” but think about how you feel about your favorite authors. Has your impression of them changed at all since you’ve come to know them via social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how important first impressions can be for an author. Are they important enough that we should all take time to work on those first impressions?
I like to think of it as an “on purpose” because I like the idea of doing or being something on purpose rather than achieving a designation “on accident”. What kinds of things do you think an author can do – on purpose – to make a lasting and positive first impression?