How NOT to Make a First Impression – What Authors Should NEVER Say

By on October 25th, 2010

Book promotion coach and campaign manager Lynn Serafinn from Spirit Authors shares her tips on what authors should NEVER say to new online network connections.

Recently I received a private message from a new connection on LinkedIn that I thought was so exemplary of everything one should NOT say in a first contact letter, I thought it would make an excellent article for my readers.

Below is a paraphrase of what I received:

Hi Lynn,

My name is Fred Flintstone and I am inviting you to view a few chapters of a soon to be released classic. It’s a controversial memoir about being a Stone Age man in a modern world. Please let me know what you think via the Guest Book at www.fredflintstonetheauthor.com. Please forward the link to someone else who may benefit from it.


(Please note: Of course, this is NOT the actual letter I received, and did tell the real author I would be sharing this example with my readers)

Let me ask you this: If ‘Fred Flintstone’ were actually a real person and this were a real letter from someone with whom you had just connected (and had not yet even exchanged any messages), what would be your reaction? Be honest.

Well, my first reaction was quite dismissive, if you want to know the truth. I was almost ready to archive it without replying. But then I thought, What was this person really thinking and feeling when he wrote this? I imagined that he thought this letter made him sound confident. After all, our culture is always talking about people needing to embrace self-belief and have a feeling of self-worth. So was this letter a display of genuine confidence or was it from someone who was trying to appear to be confident according to some guidance he learned somewhere?

While my instincts told me this was the latter, I felt it wasn’t fair of me to dismiss the letter simply on the grounds of how authentic I deemed it to be. However, I knew full well that many other people on LinkedIn were likely to dismiss Fred’s letter, not giving it a second thought. And then, what would have been to point of the poor author’s efforts, trying to reach out to his connections?

… Connections! I thought. Ah, yes, that was the real problem.

Fred was not connecting with me. He was talking ‘to’ me, not ‘with’ me. He was not engaging. He was telling me what I should think about his book (that it was a classic) and, furthermore, was asking me to forward it to others ‘who may benefit.’ The words take the ‘high ground’. When you are on high ground, you cannot connect with your reader.

I decided to check out Fred’s profile. Now what was SO interesting is that he worked in the marketing industry. And frankly, to me, the letter showed it. Most of traditional (or what I call ‘Old School’) marketing does not, as a rule, embrace connection as one of its strategies (or values). Furthermore, ‘Old School’ marketing (hey, should I spell it ‘Old Skool’, you think?!) has no qualms about telling us what we should think about their products. Old Skool Marketing (oops, there I did spell it that way) is, in my view, disconnecting and disempowering to its customers. That is precisely why I don’t use it. Still, the old methods are taught in so many marketing training programs even today.

This got me started thinking about my own values and how I believe in empowering people. If I simply deleted Fred’s message, ‘rejecting’ and judging him in my mind, how would I be honouring my life purpose and all I stand for?

I wouldn’t be.

So do you know what I did?

I decided to write Fred back, telling him honetly about my reaction, and giving him a suggestion of what he might have written. It was exactly the same kind of feedback I would have given one of my own clients. Here’s what I wrote back:

Hi there Fred,

Hmm… as one marketing person to another, may I be so bold as to advise that possibly the worst thing you could EVER do in your first communication with someone is to say, “I am inviting you to view a few chapters of a soon to be released classic”?

You might think it sounds confident, but it actually does not impact the reader that way. It comes across as bragging, as we do not know each other at all yet. What’s more, LinkedIn has a very different ethos from other networks, and messages like this are generally not seen as good form.

I’m not writing this to criticise you, but rather to advise you so you don’t end up alienating people on LinkedIn or your other social networks. In social networking, the first rule of thumb is to connect at a personal level and to be generous with your advice and personality.

Here’s an example of an alternative “hello” letter you might have sent:


Hi Lynn,
My name is Fred Flintstone. When I read your profile I wanted to connect because I see you are a fellow author and that you work with other authors.

I’d love to hear more about your book, your message and what you do to help authors. Drop me a line and tell me more when you get the chance.

I just published a memoir about being a Stone Age man in a modern world at www.fredflintstonetheauthor.com. As you are experienced with promoting authors, I’d be most pleased if you visited it sometime.

Looking forward to connecting,



Can you see the difference, Fred? In your letter, it’s all about you. Furthermore, you are asking me to help promote you without even bothering to talk to me as an individual. In the one I just wrote, you show that you have looked at my profile and considered me as a human being. Then, you are inviting me to tell you more about myself. THEN when you ask me to visit your site, it is humble and appreciative and not “you should read my book because it is a future classic”. That will never win people over to you.

BTW, this is the sort of stuff I teach people all the time. I help authors build their platform, which means building relationships. I have produced 6 top-10 authors this year alone, 4 of them have gone to #1. So trust my advice and it will help ensure your book has a chance at becoming a classic. 🙂

Warm wishes,

Ok, I have to admit, when I hit ‘send’, my heart did a little flip-flop and I asked myself if I wasn’t been rather BOLD in sending this letter. But then I thought, I’ve got nothing to win or lose here. My intentions are actually to HELP this person succeed in his project. He can reject it completely if he wants. He can write back to me and tell me I’m an arrogant jerk who should mind her own business. I was prepared for whatever happened.

As it turns out, Fred did write back a few days later.

He wrote:

Hi Lynn

Thanks for your letter. It was… enlightening.

What do you charge for your services?


I SWEAR to you, this is a true story!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: Your contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are real people. They have hearts and souls and desires and talents just like you. Connect first. Find out to WHOM you are writing. READ their profiles. Ask questions. You don’t need to sell ANYTHING if people like you.

Connect! Connect! Connect!

I hope you found this real-life example useful. AND I want to thank Fred, who is a GREAT sport for letting me paraphrase his message, for giving me some great content for my readers. I know it will help many people.

Fred, I really do hope your book becomes a classic.

About Lynn Serafinn, Creator of Spirit Authors

Lynn Serafinn

Lynn Serafinn is a transformation coach, book promotion coach, radio host and bestselling author of the book The Garden of the Soul: lessons from four flowers that unearth the Self. She also works as a campaign manager for mind-body-spirit authors and has produced several top-10 book campaigns, including FOUR #1-sellers, in 2010 alone. She created Spirit Authors to offer training, coaching, business-building and inspiration for mind-body-spirit authors, whether established or aspiring. Contact Lynn about YOUR book project at at http://spiritauthors.com/contact.

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  1. What a great post and a great reminder. I really enjoy getting to know the people I connect with but have been guilty of rushing off answers or following without leaving a comment.

  2. I do know what you mean, Doreen. It’s not always possible to connect with every person we meet online. But it’s good to at least make the first contact a friendly one that invites the other person to tell you something about themselves. A strategy I use when I have a whole pile of new Facebook friends, for instance, is to put up a Facebook update tagging 6 new friends (that’s the maximum FB will allow) and then ask them what they are up to. It can sometimes kick-start a nice conversation without having to go into a whole welcome letter. I’ve made some great initial contacts that way.

    Thanks for reading and for commenting, by the way! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Hope you’re following the blog. I try to share as many tips as possible. 🙂

  3. Bea says:

    Thank you for your pointed article; you always serve up delicious bites. In this incredible age of social media and information overload, many people use the spray and pray method.

    Since I teach authors how to self-publish and gain visibility, I delete these messages because most of the time these authors haven’t taken the time to find out the focus of my market.

    If authors want to be noticed, their odds will be higher if they research the publishers and editors that work with their genre.

  4. Brilliant article! (Mental note to self: read every blog post of Lynn’s). Really helpful to give tips about how to create connections. I have bought but not yet read your book ‘7 Graces of Marketing’ but I know I’m going to learn loads from it! When I get followers on twitter I tell them about my Report on buliding Self Esteem, but now realise I can refine my approach and take more time to learn more about the person and think more about creating a connection. Thanks Lynn.

  5. Thank you, Simon. 🙂


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