A Free Tool You’re Ignoring

Today’s blog post is a Grande Cause Nationale–or public service announcement, if that makes more sense to you. And I’m writing this blog post mostly as a reader for once.

Us indie authors–or those with smaller imprints or publishers–have to hustle a little harder than our counterparts with the Big Five. We don’t have big marketing budgets or huge ads in international magazines, usually. Nor do we have writers like Stephen King writing endorsements for the flyleaf of our books. In fact, most of us don’t get our books in hardback, so there really is no flyleaf on which to place such an endorsement if we were so lucky. It would just have to go on the back cover with the blurb, I suppose.

Obviously, indie authors have to take advantage of every possible tool and opportunity to get word out about our books.

Renting a megaphone and having someone drive you around a shopping center while you hang out the passenger window and read excerpts is something some of us might have contemplated at one point or another. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it’s a quick way to tell a lot of people about your book, anyway.

Of course, you’ll probably look like an asshole…but it’s cheap and easy.

Regardless of how you choose to get word out about your book, at some point or another, someone will probably venture to a website where your book is sold so they can check it out.

Most websites, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and so forth, give potential customers the option to preview books online.

A customer can click on “Look Inside” (or some other verbiage), and see if the writer’s style works for them. It gives them an idea of whether or not this is a book they would like to purchase and read. It’s a great tool that helps to seal the deal on a sale.

Most companies will let a customer preview 5-10% of a book.

Lately, I’ve seen a startling trend where indie authors are filling the front of their book with title pages, dedications, promo, and other filler material that really sucks up that 5-10% that the companies allow for preview. By the time the potential customers flip through all of the crap, they might get to read a page. That doesn’t really help them decide if they want to buy the book or not.

Sale lost.

This is particularly true if it’s a short book–20 to 100 pages. If it’s a bigger book in the 200+ pages range, this isn’t that big of a deal. If you have a 38-page story you want to sell, and the first five pages are filler material, your potential readers won’t get to preview anything.

This, in the common parlance, fucks you.

Indie authors need every opportunity to get their words in front of potential readers’ eyes. So we should be taking advantage of every tool at our disposal–especially those that cost us nothing. Money saved is money put towards editing, cover design, and marketing, right?

So, what does an indie author do if they have a 38-page story? The potential reader will only get to preview 3-4 pages of your book, after all.

Format differently. Title page. Copyright page. Story. You can put everything else at the back. If your story is 38 pages, you probably don’t need a clickable table of contents.

I know people will tell you to put things you really want an reader to see (like “Books Also By <writer>”) at the front so it won’t be missed. However, if a reader truly enjoys your story, they’ll flip through the last few pages to see if there are other books of yours they can buy and so they can read your bio and other filler material.

Get at least one or two pages of the actual story in front of readers’ eyes!

If necessary, an author can always post the first few pages (or first chapter, for longer books) on their author website. Put this link in your Twitter or other social media bios and post about it often. Make it your pinned tweet. Give readers a chance to see if you’re what they’re looking for.

The idea for this post came to me because I saw a book that intrigued me, and when I went to preview it, I flipped through 10 pages of the author’s book…title page, copyright, promo, table of contents, imprint information, so on and so forth…and the preview ran out before I could actually sample the work. I went to the writer’s Twitter and website, desperately searching out some other preview method…but there was absolutely none that I could find easily.

Needless to say, the book did not get put on my TBR.

I didn’t want to be that kind of reader/customer, but I also didn’t want to spend $4.99 on something that I might not like, either. Money is money, right? And I’m not the type of guy who likes to return ebooks.

So, use all of the tools you have effectively. Give your potential readers confidence that their money will be well spent on your work.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,


2 thoughts on “A Free Tool You’re Ignoring

  1. Such a good point. As a reader, the wtiting excerpt is everything to me. Also, I’m *more* likely to read the “other books by” stuff at the end, after I’ve enjoyed the book. I seldom read it at the beginning. I’m focussed on the current book then.

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