Your First Impression: What Debut Authors Need to Know

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You only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. If you’re a brand-new author, you might be wondering what that means for you as you market your debut book.

First of all, know that while first impressions matter, your author platform may go through several iterations. You’ll experiment, learn from your mistakes, and fine-tune it over time. That’s okay. Don’t expect to nail everything on the first try.

That said, keep a few important points in mind to ensure your first book gets the success and exposure it deserves.

People do judge a book by its cover

Your cover provides the first — and sometimes the only — impression people will ever have of your book. If it fails to convey the book’s tone and content, you won’t attract the right readers.

Don’t skimp on your cover design. Look at other books in your genre, especially successful ones, to get a feel for common themes or aesthetics. The more familiar your book feels to your target readership, the more comfortable they’ll feel buying it.

If you’re self-publishing, this means you’ll have to pay a cover designer. You may have a friend or family member who’s a designer. They may even be willing to cut you a great deal if they’re looking to build their portfolio. That doesn’t necessarily make them a good fit for your book. Invest in someone capable and professional who will give your book the best chance of success.

Blurbs matter

Blurbs can give you a huge credibility boost as a relatively unknown author. A blurb from a successful author readers already know will give them a framework to evaluate — and hopefully purchase — your book. Asking for blurbs can feel intimidating, but it’s worthwhile to include a few stretches on your list. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, but you may be surprised who says yes!

However, don’t limit yourself to big names. Getting blurbs from other authors seeking to build their platform will help you market your book too. These authors will be more interested in signal boosting for you because they’re also looking to expand their reach.

Your online presence is a high-risk asset

Be intentional — and cautious — about how you present yourself online. Fair or not, the internet’s current “cancel culture” and tendency toward mob rule make it a tricky place for someone trying to build a business platform. The advice to be authentic and vulnerable sounds great until you witness your first public takedown. People’s careers have been ruined over a single offhand tweet.

The trouble is, you do need to be authentic and vulnerable: if you don’t share enough of yourself to make you seem like a real person, readers won’t feel connected to you.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid any unnecessary political commentary on your public platform — unless your writing career centers around activism or advocacy. The average fiction writer probably oughtn’t jump into the fray. Arguments over controversial issues on social media are very unlikely to change anyone’s mind, but they can turn off a lot of potential followers.

Your public profiles are your professional brand. If you want to post highly opinionated political content, do so on your private, personal accounts.

You’re building relationships

The world is full of advice on building your author platform and marketing your book via social media. Even the best of this advice misses the point if you don’t prioritize relationships over strategies. People will see through superficial efforts to network with and market to them.

This works in the real world, too. Focus on making meaningful connections with people. Don’t simply ask for their attention — or worse, their money — without offering anything in return. If people feel connected to you as a real live human being, they’ll automatically feel more excited to buy your book. And because you’ve built an authentic relationship, they’ll come back to buy your next book when it comes out, too.

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About Author

Jaclyn Paul is a fiction writer and blogger based in Baltimore. You might know her from The ADHD Homestead, where she writes about building a good life and a peaceful home with adult ADHD. She's also a staff blogger for Inkitt and author of the book Order from Chaos – The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD. Her writing has appeared online in Offbeat Families, The Write Life, ADDResources, Better Novel Project, and ADHD Roller Coaster and in print in Houston Family Magazine.

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