All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Looks Mean Something

Just this one time, let's step back from the deep process of writing, and explore a few other ideas. In particular, the impression you want to cast upon your readers. Most of the time, this starts with the opening line of your short story, essay, or other work. However, sometimes the potential reader will have made up their mind well ahead of time that your work isn't worth their time - without even reading a word.

I had a discussion earlier today with a fellow writer who had recently been to a local book fair. He spoke with a number of the authors and sampled several works, including those by independent publishing houses and those who self-published. What he discovered was that any number of authors - some of who were really good writers - had printed works that were visually unreadable. Whether it was a cover that looked like an old encyclopedia, flagrant spelling and grammatical errors (like in a chapter heading), a layout not quite at par with your old high-school newspaper, or just awkward presentation, some of these things were unsellable. The reader might very well be missing a very engaging story, but that first impression is everything.

Sad but true, a lot of book sales are made or lost with that first glance. Does the cover capture their attention? If yes, the potential reader might pick it up and flip through it as if that will somehow reveal the book's quality. They'll probably turn to the blurb on the back, and if it doesn't look interesting, they might skip that and it goes back on the shelf. The poor little blurb is the reader's first chance to explore the actual writing, and it gets ignored because the font is small and boring. 

Go to any book store (if you can find one) and peruse the New Releases section. A lot of those books will have the same cover style - a full-sized picture, the title front-and-center in bold, Avant Garde letters, then the author's name and some little comment about the book's genre or whatever. This is a tested-and-true cover style to capture the eye, but unfortunately when it is used by every major publishing house, it very much gets lost within the many other releases. The one that stands out will be the one that breaks away from tradition but still has an intrinsic appeal. They're tough to find these days, but they make the sales.

Now, if you haven't quite gotten to the point of writing your own novel, here's the takeaway you can apply to your own writing. In whatever you write, put your thumbprint on those words as quickly as possible. Let the reader know your style upfront; in the first sentence if possible. Make that first line your selling point for the rest of the work. With short stories, that's where the convincing begins, so draw them right there and then. More importantly, make this your habit, and it will carry through into the rest of your life. You will engage people with your stories from the first words, your toasts will immediately draw everyone's attention, and you will write some awesome thank you notes this way. And then, when you are finally published, you will instinctively want that first published work to be your selling point.

(And if you could thank me in the dedication, that would be great.)         

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