Monday, October 7, 2013

New Feature: Kindle Sample Reviews

cat in the hat juggling, science fiction author
A self-portrait of my juggling act:
writing, revising, marketing,
taking little breaks for R&R.
For a long time now, I’ve been contemplating a new blogging venture – which may be a bad idea, given that I have several blogs I’ve been neglecting lately. The irregularity with which I have posted to this blog in recent months testifies to the difficulty of trying to have my brain do too many disparate things at once. The part of my brain that is quite happy when writing a novel has to be squashed down while I’m composing blog posts, which requires more rational planning than creative writing. And then there’s all the other stuff authors have to be able to do these days – think about book cover design, marketing, finding a way to get paid until the next book comes out so that you can eat, keep gas in the car and the phone bill paid, etc.

So I’ve been trying to let the creative part maintain the upper hand, partly by feeding it with good fiction in written or video form. (I’ve found that watching stories is much easier, but also much less rewarding, than reading them.) The problem is that my book budget these days is $0, while I can find episodes of all my favorite TV series (and many others) free on the internet, so you can guess which I find more time for. And although there are plenty of books available free for Kindle (my book-reading medium of choice), most of them are pretty bad – derivative, poorly crafted, unedited, trite, or implausible (all the things I’m hoping my current work-in-progress will avoid). Fortunately, all Kindle books have a free sample that can be downloaded (or read online), so that you can get a good taste of the book before downloading or paying for the whole magilla.

The problem with that is that Kindle authors (unless they are self-publishers) don’t have much choice about what part of their book gets included in the Kindle sample – it’s going to be the first 10% of the total page count, which includes the cover, title page, all the front matter and table of contents, as well as whatever comes after that – acknowledgements, foreword, introduction, and finally, if there is any room left, the beginning of the actual book itself. So the sample may or may not include enough of the book for prospective purchasers to get a feel for whether they want to spent time and money on the entire book.

So, for some time, I’ve contemplated writing Kindle sample reviews – reviews based solely on the form and contents of the free sample of the e-book. These reviews will critique the sample essentially as a marketing tool:
  • How well does the sample entice the reader to go ahead and purchase the book? 
  • Is it cleanly and competently formatted, providing a distraction-free reading experience
  • If the Table of Contents is included in the sample, does it provide chapter titles that create an outline of the book’s contents, or does it simply list Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.? 
  • Does the sample contain enough of the book for the reader to get a feel for what they would be getting into, or does it contain mostly extraneous front-matter? 
  • Is the text well-written and engaging, so that the reader is genuinely disappointed when s/he reaches the end? 
  • If it’s a novel, have we met interesting characters in an interesting situation, so that we want to continue on their journey with them by buying and reading the rest of the story? 
  • If the book is non-fiction, does the sample give us reason to believe that the whole book would provide information, insights, and ideas that we can’t easily find elsewhere for free?
Recently, as part of my marketing research for my futuristic work-in-progress, Cast Into the Deep Sea of Stars, I’ve downloaded a lot of Kindle samples of books listed in categories in which I might eventually place my own novel – things like Science Fiction | Colonization or Science Fiction | Adventure.” In other words, books with which I may eventually be competing for readers’ attention. As I read the samples, I’ll review them here, which will help me think about what these competing novels have to offer, and also help my readers (and myself) find books either to avoid or to add to our “must read” lists.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the first of these: Kindle sample review of John Scalzi’s Old Man's War , published by Tor Books.

N. B. The online presence of Tor Books includes Tor.com, is a great web site for scifi fans. They’ve got free original stories, book excerpts, and and a great blog with fun discussions of your favorite scifi and fantasy stories, movies, and TV shows. Check it out.

P. S. If you'd like to help a starving writer out, at no additional cost to yourself, click any of the embedded links to Amazon on this blog (book titles, etc.) and any purchase you make on the Amazon web site during that visit will earn me a small affiliate fee -- at no cost to you!

2 comments:

  1. Lisa, you have just given the best reason ever to redo the first chapter! For years the standard advice was to throw away the first chapter. I believe that if the first chapter doesn't want to make you read on. You should throw it away and start over. The only answer to your laundry is, if the first chapter doesn't drag in than the preview it and worth doing.
    Nice post, enjoyed it
    Ron Mahon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ron. I intended to come back and analyze the content of the sample as well, but as you can see, I haven't done so yet. (My third draft has taken longer than the first & second combined -- but I'm getting there.) I will do it, though, as soon as draft 3.9 is on its way to the beta readers -- not long now!

      Delete

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