The Value of Free Book Samples
The concept of book samples as a promotional feature is far from new, providing a free chapter or a peek inside, offering an easy tool for potential buyers to better evaluate purchasing decisions.
With a free chapter – often the first, to get a reader hooked – those on the fence can sample tone, talent, and topic to decide if a book is worth the cover price. However, this concept, like many in publishing, was designed primarily with the customer and distributor in mind. But what does an author and publisher have to gain?
As it turns out, the answer is quite a lot. Offering a freebie is a wonderful strategy for authors & publishers, providing advantages in marketing, lead generation, direct sales, and more. Here's why you should consider offering a free sample of your work.
Actions speak louder than words, and this is very true in marketing. It's easy to say that your book is excellent or wonderful or any other adjective you'd like to use, but seeing is believing. A sample lets your abilities speak for themselves, offering readers a taste of what they can expect when your finished product hits the presses. When your writing lives up to your customers' expectations and the sample they read draws them in, you'll be much more likely to see a spike in pre-order sales or when your release date finally rolls around. A sample chapter can also keep readers excited as they wait, building anticipating for your new release.
Many authors stick to the status quo – offering a chapter from a current or upcoming publication – but a free sample doesn't have to be an excerpt at all. In fact, a sample can also work well as a supplement to an existing product, supporting and adding color to your titles. For example, creating and marketing a preview as a supplement to a book, like a brief prequel or a character spotlight, can draw readers in, helping to grow your audience or even reinvigorate a sluggish backlist title. If, for example, one of your titles isn't selling as well as it has been, a free short story involving the same characters may help reinvigorate customer interest.
Email marketing can be a big benefit for virtually any author or publisher, helping to build a strong pipeline for communicating news, marketing books and non-book products, and increasing sales. When collecting email addresses is a struggle, however, a sample can help you get your lists off the ground. By requiring an email address from all prospective readers who request a sample of your work, you can easily generate leads to use in the future, from advertising for new releases to sharing news about signings or special events. In addition, readers willing to offer contact information in exchange for a sneak peek have already demonstrated an interest in free samples, providing a solid starting place when you want to distribute a new chapter or pre-publication preview in the future.
Attracting readers to your books can be a challenging game, largely due to the complexity in reaching out to those who aren't already in the market for what you have to offer. However, a free sample can be extremely persuasive, showing the depth, breadth, and quality of your books. When customers aren't on the hook for a payment, they're far more likely to give a new book/author a chance. Once you prove your worth, the likelihood of a sale will increase. Samples can also temper preconceived notions as well; even if readers don't think they like the plot, theme, or characters involved in your writing, a free sample may be able to change their minds.
As an author, your audience is a huge part of what you are able to accomplish. However, staying engaged and keeping enthusiasm levels high can be tricky, especially when you're only offering new content to read every year or two, depending on publication schedules. Offering a free sample chapter or supplemental piece can maintain consistent engagement with you and your writing, helping to draw in readers and keep them excited about what you have to offer. When you utilize social media and email lists to share content, you can effectively keep communication channels open while in limbo between products.
If you're struggling to market your books, want a better way to collect leads, or are simply looking for a way to increase enthusiasm before your newest product is released, offering a sample can be a highly effective opportunity. From sample chapters to supplemental content, offering a little something for free can help build your reputation while showing readers that what your books have to offer is surely worth their time.