First Impressions, Cover Reveal, and ROW80

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

Today’s topic is first impressions. The whole reason for the popular saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is because that’s exactly what we’re inclined to do. And that’s not all bad either.

Some years back, I read a book called You’ve Only Got Three Seconds. The author is/was a communications consultant for executives looking to enhance their image. Her proposition is that you have an extremely limited time–like three seconds–to make a positive first impression.

I cringed a little at that theory because I wanted to believe in my NF temperament heart that what’s deep down inside is what matters and that people are willing to spend time, get to know you, dig down, and discover how wonderful you are. But the book convinced me that no matter how much I dream for such a utopia, that’s not the real world.

In the real world, we size each other up all the time. Not because we’re all heartless jerks who can’t be bothered to avoid prejudice, but because our snap judgments save time and are often correct. Take for instance the guy with his pants hanging down to show off half of his boxers, numerous piercings through his skin, and a skull-and-crossbones t-shirt. He’s telling us something about himself, and as such we assume that this guy is not headed for elected office or a yacht club. Or the carefully crafted woman with perfectly coiffed hair, a fresh manicure/pedicure, pricey garments, and expensive jewelry hanging off her. She’s making a statement with that look, and it isn’t punk-rocks-my-world.

Such messages are not about our worth or our goodness, but rather glances at our personality and priorities. In how we choose to dress, groom, carry ourselves, and approach people, we communicate a message. If you don’t think it does, may I replace your wardrobe with what your least favorite relative thinks you should wear? Probably not. We would balk at letting anyone else choose our look because we know that our choices convey a message about us.

Perhaps your message is that appearance isn’t that important to you. That’s okay. Or maybe you are sending the message with yoga pants, a large t-shirt, and spit-up on your shoulder that you are lucky to have gotten dressed today with twin babies at home. You might dress fancy daily because that makes you feel more confident and presentable to the world around you. But however you do it–and like it or not–you are making a first impression.

It matters to us personally . . . and it matters to writers when they choose book covers. A cover is a book’s first impression, and it sends a message. It gives a potential reader a sense of what’s within the pages.

So when the Orange Karen Anthology team revealed the cover for its upcoming short story anthology–in which my YA story Color Me Happy will be published–I was nervous to take a look. BUT Y’ALL, I LOVE IT!

Orange Karen Cover

The Orange Karen anthology features short stories by more than 30 authors with a range of genres. The profits from book sales will go toward lessening the burden of medical expenses incurred by Karen DeLabar in her bout with toxic shock syndrome. I am thrilled to be a part of this project, and I think this cover gives a marvelous first impression.

And now on to last impressions . . . as in my final ROW80 check-in for 2013 Round 1.

ROW80 Update

My goals were fluid this time, as they often are. I’ve listed them below with the original goals in blue and added goals in red. This is a wrap-up, with a summary of my progress for the whole round.


  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER. I did some rewriting during the round, but I was not pleased with the resultsLast week, I admitted that I have set this project aside for the time being.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen Anthology. Finished! The book’s release date is April 11, 2013.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of editsI edited some but did not finish. This mystery and its follow-ups may have to wait until the second half of the year.


  • Fast Draft new project – YA mystery. I have 56k words on this new project, more than half of them written in the last two weeks. The book’s working title is Breaking the Commandments and features a preacher’s daughter as the protagonist.
  • Write one full short storyCompleted.
  • Edit first short story. Edited once, needs a final polish.
  • Write second short story. Written and will edit next round.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays. I happily blogged twice a week, and I like the move from 3 to 2 times a week. It suits my schedule and my sense of having something worth saying.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES). I outlined a portion of the novel but soon realized that I needed to research life in jail to get the story right. I am watching documentaries and reading relevant books as I have time. Also, this is part of the series that may need to wait for the second half of the year.


Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Besides SHARING HUNTER, this was the goal I struggled with. I need to do some soul-searching about why I resist exercise so much and what will increase my willpower. I did, however, exercise 3 times last week.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week. love this new habit.

So what do you think about first impressions? Any thoughts on the Orange Karen cover? And if you participated in ROW80, how did your round go? Were you pleased with your overall progress?

14 thoughts on “First Impressions, Cover Reveal, and ROW80

  1. Love the cover! In terms of books covers and first impressions, I think you have maybe three seconds on a good day. That book cover has got to be eye catching and to send a message. Otherwise, the author is outta luck.

    And I think you’re right about person-to-person first impressions. One of my more interesting experiments is to dress a certain way just to watch the way people will react. I’ve been at the “top” of the food chain (wearing a business suit and pouring coffee for the people who run things), and I’ve been at the “bottom” of the food chain (wearing a tank and shorts that show a lot of tattoos and having 10 piercings above my neck). It’s interesting how the same people will react when they see me playing a different character. The whole thing has made me question how important any of it is. 😉

  2. Lovely cover! It’s interesting and draws me in. Congratulations 🙂
    You had a great round, Julie. I like your style. One more lecture and I’ll be done with Empowering Character Emotions packet. I learn so much from Margie. I was thinking of doing Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More next. Do you think that’s a good idea? Is there a recommended order? I don’t remember. Anyways, see you in round 2. Oh wait, that starts today, lol.

    1. Thanks, S.J.! I did the Deep Edits then Empowering Characters by lecture packets, and now I’m taking Writing Body Language online. I don’t know if there’s a suggested order, but I don’t think it matters much. I probably got the most out of the Deep Edits packet, but I have gained something in all of them. And I’ll be doing Margie’s Immersion Class this summer! 🙂 I’ll have to let you know how that goes. Happy Round 2!

      1. Okay, cool. Thanks. That’s right! I’m excited for you and I’m also looking forward to reading about your experience with the immersion class. Yes, happy round 2. 🙂

  3. Gotta like the combination of sword and typewriter on that cover – and congrats on the upcoming release! And wow – Fast Draft is totally working for you – keep up the good work!

  4. Such an insightful post, Julie! I love this line in particular: “In the real world, we size each other up all the time. Not because we’re all heartless jerks who can’t be bothered to avoid prejudice, but because our snap judgments save time and are often correct.”

    Those first impressions can save our lives, and ruin or damage them, depending on how we respond. I to my best to listen to my instincts, and guide with logic.

    Congrats on the sharp cover and your story’s inclusion—wow. So totally stoked for you. 🙂

  5. Great cover, and I’m definitely going to have to check out this Fast Draft approach. It seems to be working for you. Congrats.

    I’ve often heard that doctors diagnose patients in the first 30 seconds. Thank God it’s not in the first 3 seconds. 😉

  6. So much deliciousness in this post. Being in the middle of a job hunt, I so relate to the snap judgement of what a person is presenting by what they’re wearing. Fabulous cover, congrats!

    You had an amazing round Julie! Hope Round Two is even better 🙂

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