by Vinnie Hansen
You never have a second chance to make a first impression.
This advertising slogan for dandruff shampoo wormed its way into our consciousness. Because it’s a catchy way to state a truth. In life there are no do-overs.
My good friend Christine recalls when she first met me. She was a teacher visiting my classroom to see if she wanted to make the shift to a high-school setting. She thought I was unfriendly.
This sounds awful, but I completely understand her first impression. I’m an introvert, so I don’t project the bubbly exterior many might dub friendly. I also grew up in the Midwest, so I tend to be private, which many might interpret as aloof, or unfriendly. Finally, she was visiting my class before lunch and I had to be brusque in order to meet other colleagues for our lunchtime walk.
Over time, Christine learned that I may not be overtly friendly, but I’m an excellent friend—loyal, thoughtful, and encouraging. She once said I was the kindest person she knew. And when she became my lunchtime walking partner, she learned firsthand that one could not dally and still fit a walk into the lunch period.
The problem with the well-known aphorism above is that it supports the tyranny of the first impression. And first impressions are sometimes wrong. Or maybe not wrong so much as superficial. The aphorism reinforces the notion that nothing will ever be different. If we blow it, the damage is done! You show up with dandruff–game over.
Fortunately, like other tyrants, first impressions can be toppled. Second chances are possible.
My friend came to appreciate not my friendliness, but my friendship. And knowing that she found me unfriendly, improved my self-awareness. I practiced the painful art of extending myself to strangers, creating a new first impression for future acquaintances. The truth is, every moment, really, we offer a new self for impressions. And anyone stuck on a first impression is making a mistake.
Which brings me to my books. When I started writing the Carol Sabala mystery series, I was working full-time as an English teacher. I did not have a lot of free time to pursue my long-abiding love of creative writing. Nonetheless, my first mystery, Murder, Honey, caught the interest of an agent. Only in retrospect do I appreciate what a milestone that was, even though the agent did not successfully market the book.
At the time, I did not know that the next step should have been to write the second book for the series. I later learned that many series writers don’t sell their first, or even their second book, but may sell their third, creating the opportunity then to publish the first and second.
But back then in my naiveté, I decided to self-publish. Digital print, companies such as iUniverse, were in their infancy. With little guidance, (I wasn’t even a member of Sisters in Crime yet!), I still did many things right. The book had passed through a writing group and other readers. As an English teacher, I proofread the book until my eyeballs were hanging out.
I employed a professional photographer to create cover art. Still I had no idea how much more really needed to be done to create a polished product.
Over time, I improved. By my third book, I was working with a small, local publisher who expertly formatted the mysteries and steered me to reputable printers. The problem was, to make this viable, I had to order hundreds of copies of my books—and I didn’t know much about marketing.
It wasn’t until I both retired from teaching and found a home at misterio press that I really learned what it takes to produce a first-rate product. The last book in my series was published directly from misterio, but I’ve also had the good fortune to go back and re-release the first six books under the misterio imprint.
I can’t change the fact that some readers encountered Murder, Honey in its first edition. Fortunately, some people liked it warts and all.
No matter what others’ first impressions of my writing are or have been, it does not change the fact that I am evolving, becoming a better writer. Having the expertise of the ladies at misterio press, using a professional cover designer, and gaining a better sense of the market, I now have the chance to make new first impressions with new readers.
Have you ever been given an important second chance? Have you ever made a bad first impression that haunted you?
And here is the last one to be re-released under the misterio press imprint, Book #3 in the series — Rotten Dates.
Two weeks later a woman’s body is found strangled on a riverbank in Santa Cruz. Did the killer use the ads to lure his victim?
Hired to investigate by the deceased’s cousin, Carol sees the amateur photographer who discovered the body as a likely suspect. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely on the prowl. Is it for a date with Carol or for his next victim?
As she digs deeper into the case, she uncovers one dangerous-but-appealing man after another. Longing for companionship and adventure in her own life, Carol learns the hard way that combining the two can be a risky business.
The paperback version should be ready by the end of the week!
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