Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Do you read excerpts or sample chapters?

Amazon routinely provides the first three chapters of e-books for free. Other publishers and book sales sites usually offer similar arrangements. I've seen a lot of indie authors posting excerpts on their social networking feeds and blogs. There's an awful lot of free material out there for us all to sample.

1st three books of the Astronomicon Science Fiction series.
So, my question is, does anyone actually read it? How often do you think that an unknown author sounds interesting so you download the free sample material and give it a go?

Most people I've spoken to about this seem to have the opinion that reviews and reputation far outweigh the marketing effect of free chapters. How many people actually download the free chapters? How many then don't get around to reading them anyway?

Have you ever had a reader say that they read your sample chapters and then went on to buy the whole book?

Marketing our books is usually the hardest thing for indie authors. It would be helpful if self-publishing sites like Amazon gave authors some helpful stats on pageviews for our books and the number of sample chapter downloads. I would not be surprised if my monthly sample download count is substantially lower than my book sales.


  1. Great question! As far as accepting book review requests are concerned, I do request for an excerpt if I liked the blurb. Blurbs and cover arts are designed to grab one's attention, I would want to ensure that I actually like the writing style of the author before I take it on. It's sort of an insurance for me that I won't be wasting my time on a book that I won't like or not for me. For books that I buy, I base it on the reviews, the more great reviews the better. If it's a 5 star book but only has 10 or 15 reviews, I'm doubtful.

    Great topic! Thanks for opening this convo. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. I always read the "Click here to Look Inside" option on Amazon before deciding whether to buy a book or not. I don't like to download samples to my Kindle, because I hate having partial books on my account. It's a pet peeve.

  3. Paul,
    A great post on something I have wondered a few times on myself. I have had a few readers tell me they've purchased based on the content, but I don't think they'll even get there without Amazon's recommendation or a friend's recommendation. Fundamentally readers buy books for two key reasons, they know the author's writing or a trusted person has recommended it. In that way the best way to sell books is to focus energy on writing well.

  4. I always read the sample first. Its the only way of checking the standard of an indie authors writing. Although there is some fab indie stuff out there you have to wade through a lot of dross first. The reviews cant be trusted. They are too subjective and one mans meat is another mans poison...you can only judge for yourself. I do agree though that stats on the number of samples read or downloaded should be available on Amazon. They already are on Smashwords.

  5. Thanks for taking the time to reply everyone. It's good to hear that some people do read the sample chapters or "Look Inside" on Amazon. I'm about to try out Smashwords. I've heard a few people say that their stats are superior to Amazon's (not that that would be too hard!).