One thing I worry about as a writer is first impressions. And I'm not talking about the impression one makes when you first meet someone physically. I'm talking about when a reader is exposed to that first story or book by an author. That first impression is absolutely critical if that reader is to pick up more of the author's works. Here's a couple of examples of the potential problems from my experience as a reader rather than a writer.
1: I'd been hearing for a while about a publisher called Hard Case Crime. Almost everyone I knew who'd read a book from that publisher raved about it. The covers were appropriately pulpish and cool, and I decided I wanted in on this. So, one day in a book store I picked up The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, which was apparently the initial book in the Hard Case Crime list. What better place to start than with book 1 of a line? Plus, I liked a lot of stuff by King. Unfortunately, this one sucked big time. Although it was mercifully short, I still barely finished it.
And here's where first impressions play a role. Despite the fact that I've been told over and over that King's book was not indicative of the Hard Case Crime list, and that the other books really, really are good, I've not picked up a single one. Intellectually, I'm sure I probably would like some of the other Hard Case novels. But, there are a lot of books to spend my money on. And when it comes time to shell out that money, I have, so far, been unable to persuade myself to take a chance on another Hard Case book instead of a book that feels like it has more promise.
2. Years ago I read Samarkand by Graham Diamond. When I bought it, it seemed like a book that was right down my alley. An exotic setting. A city under siege. Swords and sorcery. But I didn't care much for it (although it was considerably better than The Coyote Kid). Diamond has at least half a dozen more fantasy novels with equally tantalizing settings. I picked up one at a book sale years ago for 50 cents but I haven't read it and probably never will read another Diamond book. When I look at my to-be-read pile, there's just too many books above the Diamond one that promise more.
These are the kinds of first impressions I worry about. What if someone reads one book by me, or even a story by me, and doesn't like it. Will they ever give me another chance? Should they give me another chance?
What about you? Have you had any of these kinds of experiences? Let me hear some of your first impression stories.
Labels: First Impressions