Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: June 17th, 2011 ]

I love Amazon!  I frequently search for books on Amazon.  I pay attention to what Amazon recommends for me.  I have a Kindle and often check Amazon’s list of “Top 100 Free” Kindle Ebooks.  As a reader, the choices for “what to read next” are endless.  My “to read” list is never under 25 books.  Readers have so many choices these days, so, as an author, how do you convince readers to choose your book to read next?

One idea is to give away the first chapter of your book.  Everyone likes getting something for free, right?  The first chapter will give the reader a taste of the book and will entice them to want to read more.  There are a few ways you can get your first chapter into the hands (or onto the screens) of your potential readers:

  1. Add a message in your email signature asking your contacts to let you know if they would like to receive a copy of the first chapter of your book.  For those who reply, send them a PDF copy of the first chapter and let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  2. Put an ad in your local newspaper with a short (1-2 sentence) synopsis of your book, inviting potential readers to email you for a PDF copy of the first chapter for free.  When you email the file to these contacts, let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  3. Similarly, put an ad on Craigslist (in the “free” section) with a short synopsis of your book, inviting potential readers to contact you for a free PDF copy of the first chapter.  And – you guessed it! – when you send it to them, let them know where to buy the hardcopy if they like it and want to read more.
  4. First Chapter Plus publishes and distributes a monthly e-catalog, which includes the first chapters of print and digital books, and mp3 clips of audio books to over 35,000 opt-in subscribers.  This listing will include the necessary details for where potential readers can find and purchase a copy of your book.
  5. If you’re a blogger, publish the first chapter of your book in a blog post or link to a PDF file where your readers can open the first chapter and read it.  Be sure to let readers know where to buy the book once they’ve read the first chapter and want more.  Author Ian Lurie actually allows his viewers to read the entire contents of his book, Conversation Marketing, online.  See how he does this here: http://www.conversationmarketing.com/internet-marketing-book/

DISCUSSION: What are some other ways that you might distribute the first chapter of your book to potential readers?

by Kelly Schuknecht

The world has shifted somewhat since 2011.  By that, I don’t mean to suggest that my original points are somehow now invalid––they’re all still great ideas and, except for the newspaper advertisement and First Chapter Plus (which runs about $100 for one month of promotion) they’re free–but I do mean to introduce social media to this list.  Back in 2011, most of the more popular websites (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) already existed––but they hadn’t yet quite reached the cultural tipping point where they are now at, where a single post can go viral and by force of sheer momentum, alter reality offline, outside of the internet.  This makes for some very good news for you, the self-publishing author, especially when it comes to promotions like free sample chapters.

Here are three more ways to get your first chapter into the hearts and homes and hands of your potential readers:

  1. Take advantage of your existing social media presence (and maybe even beef it up a little).  There’s never been an easier way to spread the news that you have a sample chapter out there waiting to be read than by alerting your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Tumblr, and elsewhere.  Not familiar with one of these social media platforms?  It might just be worth taking a look to see whether it might be of use to you, both for this promotion and for other networking purposes.  Except for Tumblr, none of these platforms can actually serve as host for your chapter’s file––with Tumblr, you can just copy and paste into a text post, and it will preserve almost all of your formatting––but part of their appeal is that they create exactly the right kind of “bite-sized” bits of information that makes for shareable content.  My suggestion is this: upload your .PDF file online or steal your Amazon book listing’s hyperlink, and paste that link into a cute little promotional post for each of these platforms.

    Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 6.59.08 AM
    Fans will sometimes do the sharing for you, as with this sample chapter to George R.R. Martin’s next book that appeared on Tumblr recently.
  2. Take advantage of the Kindle Store’s automatic sample*––in several ways.  Did you publish through KDP, or Kindle Direct Publishing?  If you did, then 10% of your book is automatically accessible to your readers for free.  It’s worth noting at the outset that one of the downsides to publishing through KDP is that you can’t choose which chapter or what content is made available this way, but such are the hazards of publishing through a large company with little customizability.  If you do publish through Amazon’s KDP, however, take full advantage!  As I mentioned above in point #1, you can grab the hyperlink to your book listing and share the sample chapter’s availability far and wide.  Additionally (or alternatively) you might use the automatic sample as a guidepost to what you should steer clear of including in your own promotion.  If Amazon, for example, offers the first chapter, you might upload a .PDF to your blog of chapter two.  This might prove to be an especially clever move, since dedicated readers will have to access both your Amazon book listing and your personal blog––and doing so increases their exposure to your product, which in turn increases the odds they’ll purchase your book!
  3. Make it visual, and make it embeddable.  Software designer Nathan Barry writes that “moving from a text link to a more visual graphic can double the number of downloads of a sample chapter. That’s expected since it is much more visual and will grab more attention.”  How do you go about doing this?  First, create a graphic snapshot of your book’s cover or first few pages––something attractive that intimates the look and feel of your book––and then use a software app or program like ConvertKit to generate email subscription and download options.  This will create an embeddable piece of HTML code that you can insert into your blog and any other platform that allows for HTML content.

    image credit: nathanbarry.com

And there you have it: three new ways to engage your readers with the wonderful promotional tool that is the free sample chapter!

* NOTE: several other publishers, including indie and hybrid self-publishing companies, offer sample chapter options.  You should always inquire after the options by contacting your Personal Marketing Assistant.



If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

2 thoughts on “From the Archives: “5 Ways to Increase Book Sales by Giving Away the First Chapter”

    1. It’s the same for me, AnnabelleChloe! They’re so handy for figuring out if a book is worth investing in past the first few pages. – Kelly S.

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