Does Offering An Online Preview of Your Book Devalue It?

Earlier today, I was reading through old emails, and I found one sentence from an author that intrigued me. She said, “Sharing too much minimizes the impact of my book.” This ignited many thoughts, but mainly I thought about content marketing and how effective it can be (and has been for many people). I also began to wonder why authors feel the need to hold out on “free” content to get book sales. The author’s book is available online only, and she was expressing concerns about her book’s availability on Amazon’s Search Inside the Book. I was trying to show her the value of that extra visibility, and she was fighting me tooth and nail on it.

Here a few key reasons why every author should consider making their book available for online preview:

  1. Your reader may not know you. Unless your book has been recommended to them, what reason do readers have to trust you? This is especially true if you are a new self-published author.
  2. The reader may know you but may not be too sure about the content of your book. In your eyes, your book is gold. You know you’ve created the perfect book that everyone should want to read. The question is, will everyone feel the same way? Or worse yet, how will they know what to think of your book if they can’t at least take a peek.
  3. The “real” bookstore experience is lost online. People can’t skim the pages of a book to see if they may enjoy its content – unless you have a preview for your book. Giving readers the option to glance over your book’s content first helps them get a feel for your work and can work to ease the pain of opening the pocketbook.

So, with all of these benefits, why was she so opposed to Search Inside? She was afraid that people wouldn’t buy her book because the preview would reveal too much. She felt her written word was as good as gold, and as such, people should pay a fair price for access. It’s good that she takes pride in her work, but this line of thinking can turn buyers away – especially in the case of nonfiction books.

Think of it this way – would you buy an item from a store that doesn’t have a return policy if their price was comparable to a store that does have a return policy? Possibly – but more often that not, most people will put more trust in the store that does offer a return policy. Consider offering a return policy for your book so that you can instill a little bit of faith. I assure you that unless you share the entire book online, people will still buy your book after reading the preview if they’re interested. Remember – you can’t go wrong with content marketing.

What are your thoughts on sharing your book with readers before they commit to buying it?

Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press.  She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist not only published Outskirts Press authors, but also all authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.

7 thoughts on “Does Offering An Online Preview of Your Book Devalue It?

  1. As a reader, I think being able to preview a book before I make the financial decision to buy is great. I can’t think of a single reason not to do it.
    As a writer, I appreciate that a potential reader wants to make sure what I write is a good fit for their taste before they spend any money. It’s one of the smartest things Amazon/Kindle has ever done and is a win/win situation for everyone.

    1. Hi, Diana:

      You’re absolutely right. Anyone who has ever sold anything surely gains an appreciation for a buyer’s diligence. I agree – it helps self-published authors who may not be as popular as other “mainstream” authors get in touch with their audience and show their chops – so to speak.

  2. I think previews make sense. In a bookstore, the reader may thumb through all of a book before deciding whether or not to buy. I sometimes do, reading for style, looking at font, at chapter length, getting a feel for the book, a sense of what the reading experience might be like emotionally. E-book previews serve the same purpose. So long as people aren’t stealing the previews to sell–and I think that readers are not the danger here, being an honest lot–previews help sales.

    1. You’re right, Charles! Readers like to get that extra satisfaction that comes along with previewing a book. They want to make sure it’s the right one for them. Many eBook (and especially previews) have built in security features that help prevent theft.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been trying to decide on a preview for my new book and I’m terrified about posting too large of an excerpt. This is my first time publishing anything but your post gave me a confidence boost. Thank you!

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