The literary world’s cup of advice runneth over. Just drop in on a writer’s Facebook group and see for yourself. New writers go there seeking help and a great many drown in the deluge of opinions that follow. I don’t feel sorry for them—after all, they did ask. This is not to say all that advice is bad advice.
The trouble with formulas for success is that they don’t fit everyone. That’s why I’m not going to offer you one here. It should be obvious even to beginners that a writer cannot please everyone—and shouldn’t try.
The good news is that you, the writer is in control of the most important keys to success—your voice and the first impression you make.
I can’t tell you exactly how to find your voice. There is no single means to that end. You will know your voice when you hear it. Don’t be surprised if it sounds like the ones in your head. They really do have some good ideas. Don’t fret about originality, winning friends, or influencing people. Write your story.
There’s an old adage that says that you only get one chance to make a first impression. That’s sound advice. The writer has three trusted allies in making that good impression: your cover, your blurb, and your hook.
Another old adage warns not to judge a book by its cover. That advice is debatable when speaking about people. With books, there’s no question. Books are judged by their covers. If a reader is looking for a Western, skyscrapers or palm trees are non-starters, so are half-clad lovers in an embrace.
If your cover does attract their attention, one of the first things prospective readers do is flip to the back cover and read the blurb—that short, short synopsis that confirms what the cover says and makes them want to hear more.
The next thing they do is open it to the first chapter and read the first few lines. Attention is fleeting. You have to grab them by the collar and drag them into your story right then or all is lost. Readers grow more forgiving of poor hooks once you have a few bestsellers. Until that happens, you have to hook them and reel them in immediately.
If there is a disconnect between any of these, people tend to put books down and keep looking for what they want. You’re going to make an impression. That’s a given. What kind of impression you make depends on you.