Saturday, May 29, 2010

First Chapter Samples

Jenn here.

It has been suggested that I upload my first prologue and chapter as a sample for readers on my blog and website where I offer signed copies for purchase. I plan to do this either Sunday afternoon or Monday.

In the meantime, I wanted to get other people's experience. Do you ever read those sample chapters? Do they tempt you to buy the book or make you rethink about buying a book?

A couple of years ago there was the huge issue of not uploading anything as a sample, especially if it is unpublished. However, now that my book is published in print and on the Kindle, it seems fitting to upload a sample chapter. It may help sells.

Should unpublished writers wait until their manuscript is published or do you think it might help them sell to a publisher or gain an agent's eye?

What are your thoughts?


  1. Hi Jenn:

    There is a saying in marketing that ‘free samples’ are the best way to sell a good product or kill a bad product.

    Unfortunately, too many aspiring authors think their work is a whole lot better than it really is. Their free samples can only harm them.

    I suggest waiting until the book is published and professionally edited before providing samples. The exception is a highly polished contest winner. (And I mean a contest that had a great many entries).

    I have bought one book based on a sample chapter because the author did something extremely well and I wanted to see more of her technique. I have also been turned-off by some sample chapters.

    Summary: most unpublished authors should not post samples. Published authors should publish a few pages only! A full chapter is not needed to determine the quality of the writing. Personally, I think giving away a full chapter, unless it is very short, makes the author look a little desperate.

    Also, the longer the sample, the more likely a reader will give up on it and rule it out as a purchase. Remember: a reader of a sample did not buy it and has nothing but her time invested in it. A reader who bought the book will stay with it much longer giving the book a proper chance to 'click' with that reader. I think 800 words is plenty.



    P.S. Did you know that “P.S’s” have an 80% readership in direct mail pieces?

    P.P.S. I have a marketing question for you that no one seems to get. Don’t you think it would be a powerful marketing piece to take a picture of Cara Lynn James holding her book Love on a Dime in her hand in the exact same pose as the heroine is holding the dime novel on the cover art? This would be like one of those photos of a reflection between two mirrors that has a picture within a picture into infinity. If done right I think this would win an award and be a great poster at book signing and conventions. What do you think as a marketing person?

  2. Jenn, personally, I would never post a sample of something before it's published. I think there's too much risk involved. Plus, like Vince said, it might not actually be ready for public consumption. :)

    But I say YES to post a little teaser for readers once it's published. E-harlequin has started posting "Browse the book" so readers can get a taste of the book. (See the side bar where I have a link to mine.) And I just checked, and it's the whole first chapter that's posted. I imagine Harlequin marketing has a lot of knowledge of what works and what doesn't. Apparently, a first chapter is nice way to hook the reader (assuming you end the chapter on a great hook!) :)

    Harlequin also sends out first chapter booklets to entice readers to ask for a free copy of the whole book and to subscribe to the book club. I was blessed to be part of that with my June book last year. It seems to have had a great response. I heard from a lot of readers who loved that first chapter and joined to get the book. (I also heard from several who saved the booklet but had misplaced the rest of the paperwork and wanted to find out how to get the book and join the club!) :)

    So, all in all, I think a taste of a book is a great way to get a sale. It also shows how important that first chapter is! Our editors keep telling us that, too.

  3. I usually don't read sample chapters because for me it's like watching the beginning of a movie and not getting to see the entire thing. It bugs me when I can't immediately get to the end of the story, especially if I like what I've read. From the marketing standpoint for a published author, however, I can see the value in it. Not every one feels the way I do about sample chapters.

  4. I wonder if anyone has ever caught an editor or agent's eye through their own website? It would be interesting to do a poll on that.

    I really loved Vince's idea for Cara Lynn's photo to mirror her book cover! I would love to see her do that.

  5. Vince,

    I think your mirror image would be a very excellent marketing tool! You have some wonderful ideas. Keep them coming!

    Thanks for your input on the sample chapter. You have some excellent points about waiting until one is published.

  6. Missy, Thanks for the feedback. My publisher is offering the first chapter of Highland Blessings on their website as well as a free Kindle download on Amazon in the Kindle store. I'm going to add it to my website and blog for the very same reason since I'm selling signed copies directly from my website.

  7. Dianna, I can see your point, which is exactly what booksellers are trying to achieve--to aggravate you until you buy it!

    Eva Maria, I've heard of some agents and editors finding a manuscript they were interested in seeing, but I think it is like 1%. They have such huge slush piles, they don't typically go Internet surfing for more material to read.