Monday, 2 May 2011

How long should a Buy Excerpt be?

Since I got my Kindle, I no longer buy books outright. Even autobuys get the 'Send Sample' treatment...the equivalent of my TBR list. The samples are all there on my Kindle, waiting for me to sample/buy/read at my leisure. I'm totally reckless, new authors, books I've never heard about, books I'm not sure I ever want to hear about, I 'Send Samples' of everything that catches my interest, because you never know...

Just before leaving on holiday, I sent 10 samples to my kindle in preparation for my vacation reading. Two of those were autobuy books I'd been waiting for, so the samples didn't make much difference either way to my purchase. But the other 8 were completely new to me authors, some there'd been some hype about but not enough for me to commit to, others I'd got from random blog lists of new releases. Of the samples, I bought 4 of the books, I deleted 3 of the samples without buying and 1 sample still remains on my kindle while I decide.

Being on holiday for 2 weeks with nothing more pressing to do than sunbathe and read, I had a lot of time on my hands. A lot of time for thinking. So I started thinking about these samples and why I hadn't bought some of them.

Of the 4 I bought, obviously the samples, whatever length, managed to grab me. Some were shorter than others, but there was enought to grab my interest enough for me to press the buy button. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed all those books.

Of the 2 I deleted, they were just not for me, neither the story nor the writing got to a point where I had to know what came next.

Of the other one I deleted and the one I'm still not sure of: I'm still not sure. I wanted to read more of the book, but wouldn't commit the money to buy without seeing a little more. If the sample had been longer, I might have been persuaded.

This made me curious, though, and I went back to the samples of the books I had bought to check the sample lengths. In two of the books I'd bought, I realised that if the samples had stopped earlier (round about where some of the other samples had stopped) I wouldn't have bought it, I'd not yet decided at that point. The longer samples definitely made the sale.

Well, this got me thinking about samples in general. Some books give a good couple of chapters, other only a couple of pages. (I'm not talking about novellas here) Why? As far as I'm concerned, you could give most of the book as a sample and I'll still go and buy just to read the last chapter to see how it ends. Few people have the time to waste reading books without finding out the ending - that's where most of the joy of the reading experience culminates.

Now sure, there are some books that start off well and go downhill by the middle, where the reader is lost, throwing the book (or kindle) against the wall in disgust and berating themselves for spending their money. But isn't it better in the end that these readers don't buy the book to start off with? Perhaps, if they'd had a chance to read a longer sample and ended up disappointed in the book and not buying it, they'd be more inclinded to try other books by that author, to give the author a second/third chance.

So, in conclusion, I really think that samples on the Buy pages should be a good couple of chapters, perhaps even up to 1/4 of the book. I, for one, would possibly end up buying many more new authors if this were so.


  1. Interesting post Claire. Smashwords recommends 15-30% of the book as a free sample. I went with 20% (just under a 1/4). I must still figure out how to get the Amazon free sample to work, but your experience has made me realise I need to do this quite quickly. Who knows how many potential buyers I'm losing by not having that sample of my book available for them!
    Judy, South Africa

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