Your Sample Should Include a Sample.

ebook reader with book image

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Okay, I am pretty equal-opportunity when it comes to paper books and ebooks. I have minor preferences — I like paper books for plane trips (no obligatory power-down!) and ebooks for reference material (I have no guilt highlighting and annotating a ebook, while defacing a paper book even in the name of education feels wrong) — but I feel fairly egalitarian about the whole thing.

I can flip through a paper book in a store and get my own free sample; I can’t with an ebook. Both types, however, offer (or suffer from) electronic sampling. Amazon automatically provides peeks of a book’s first 10%, while other sites allow the publisher to set a sample (my Smashwords account is set to show at least 20%, for example). Publishers (and self-publishing authors) need to consider this when laying out their books.

I just downloaded a sample of a work which had fairly mixed reviews online. Some called it less than original, while others said it was executed so well no one cared if it’s an age-old plot, because really, aren’t they all? I read all these and thought, To the sample!

So I downloaded the sample and open it to find a cover, and a blank following page, and an artsy front page, and printing and copyright info, and another full page of printing and copyright info, and acknowledgements, and an introductory mood-setting illustration, and a foreword by another author talking about how great he thought his friend who wrote this work really was, and OH HERE finally will be the first page of the story and — and that’s it. Nothing else.

I felt I had wasted the electrons in the download. I have literally not a single word of the story itself.

Needless to say, this sample did not result in a sale. Lost opportunity and worse, a frustrated reader. In marketing terms, I am not now ignorant of the product, I now have a bad experience with the product.

Don’t be that guy. Let me read your stuff, please!

"Should Have" and "Would Have"
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