There was a little discussion today on one of the loops I belong to as to whether or not “free” book samples were a good idea. Free chapters, for example, or maybe even short stories that might tie into the author’s world, like a prequel or a spin-off. Sometimes you see these on author websites, or as mini downloads for e-readers. At RT, it was very common to see little pamphlets with maybe the first chapter printed up for books that were either just released or soon would be. (And in some cases, the entire book was just given away).
I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, I can see the appeal of giving the reader a taste of your writing and hopefully interest them enough into buying the real thing. I know publishers will often set aside copies of the books just for that purpose.
I can’t honestly say I’ve ever bought a book based off of one of these samples. I have over 20 pounds of paperbacks that I brought back from RT – most of them giveaways. (I know they weigh that much, because that’s how much I had to empty from the suitcase when I got to the airport or they would have charged me a fee. LOL). Guess how many I’ve read?
I took them because they were free. People like free stuff. Which sounds like a suitable marketing ploy, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch – they have no value to me. And I’m not saying the books aren’t worthy of being read. I’m sure they are. But I didn’t really pick them off a shelf, didn’t read the back blurb, didn’t really make a decision. I didn’t pay for them.
So when I weigh the decision to read a book in my limited time these days – am I gonna grab one out of this miscellaneous pile? Or am I going to pick the $20 hard cover I just paid for? You know, the one I really *want* to read? Even if it sucks, I’m still probably going to finish it, simply because I spent my money on it and I want to at least recoup some of that – even if I snark the hell out of it before I throw it against the wall. The free ones? Not so much. I have no monetary or emotional investment in them, so they fall by the wayside.
The more established authors will sometimes print up a few chapters of their next book in the current one. I don’t read those, usually – mostly because I hate getting partway into something and then realizing I have to wait at least a year to see the rest of it. Drives me mad. Which I suppose is the point – but if the author is someone I normally read, chances are I’m going to buy his/her next book anyway, so it’s still wasted on me.
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