First Impressions Mean (Almost) Everything

Have you ever been on a blind date? You’ve never met the guy before and now, here you are, looking for some stranger in a restaurant. You’ve got a vague description and while you’re looking around the coffee shop for the match you see him. As you’re walking over to sit down you’ve made at least some tiny decision about how this will go. You’ve based your judgement on how he looks, how he’s dressed, and his body language. Once you sit down it’s those opening lines and moments that will determine your attitude for the rest of the date.

Does he put down the phone and greet you with enthusiasm or is he too busy finishing his latest Tweet (about his first impression of you) to look up? Does it look like he put an effort into his attire, or is he clearly wearing sweaty gym clothes?

First impressions mean a lot and your query is your first impression. How it’s formatted, how much effort you put into it, the words you use, how you greet the agent, and whether or not you made an effort on the little details (typos, grammar, punctuation) can all determine whether or not you’ll get another date, despite what the query actually says.

The other day I got a query that was perfect from the start. She compared her book to my favorite book meets my favorite movie. Already a win. And then I read on. The blurb was choppy and clearly rushed, there were missed words and typos that could easily have been corrected with a more careful read, and overall it felt all over the place. My impression of the book before I even read it? Sloppy, unfocused, great idea, but no plot. I passed.

The book had a lot to offer, but I’m looking for professional authors, people who see what they’re doing as more than a hobby. I am in this for the long haul. I have made this job my life, my livelihood and, well, pretty much everything. I don’t think it’s too much to expect the same of my clients and future clients.

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4 comments

  1. I completely agree. As a dyslexic, this is the stuff of nightmares. For important professional correspondence like a query, I take steps to make sure my first impression is a good one. I pay a good proofreader.

    Always pays to go the extra step.

    Too bad she doesn’t live in-house and can do that for all my social media as well!

  2. Bad writing isn’t the first impression you want to make when your writing is what’s at stake. I think you’ve said something similar before, Jessica: polish your query and sit on it overnight before hitting send – you never know what you’ll see when you read it a day later.

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