Friday, February 25, 2011

What is the right amount to give away?

      One of my writer friends put up a large portion of her first novel up for preview. I know a lot of authors will put entire books up for free. While this may work great for an established author, what is the right amount for someone starting out? I have zero experience here and don't recall ever reading much about the subject so I need your input here so we can all help each other. I did a google search for book samples and got over 64 million hits, so there is a lot of free stuff out there. I did a sampling of the samples just to get an idea and they ranged anywhere from 985 words to 4700 words. They were all one chapter or less averaging just over 2500 words. It was by no means a valid poll. I used a fairly small sample size, but I just wanted to get an idea what others are putting out there. I'm giving away a lot on my website here actually, but it is far from being ready for actual publishing.

      Whether you are published via the traditional method or via the self-publishing route if you have any advice or experience doing this sort of thing to share it would be greatly appreciated
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19 comments:

  1. Really, I no nothing about this. I don't read sample chapters or offer them, but I did find this an interesting post.

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  2. I don't usually read sample chapters either. Somebody must be reading them ...or are they. That might actually be a better poll question. Do you read sample chapters?

    Thanks Ivy!

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  3. My publisher has been super-conservative about what I put out there in terms of excerpts or sample chapters. Instead, they want me to write short stories set in the "world" of my upcoming series. Which is fine, except for the finding-time-to-write-short-stories part! As for do people read excerpts online? I don't. But I have downloaded one or copied & pasted it to read later.

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  4. Someone once warned me that if you want to publish your book via traditional publishing that you need to guard your work, if you put too much out there they would keep you at arm's length. I like the short story idea too, but it does come down to time. Great stuff Suzanne! Thanks so much for dropping in and sharing!

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  5. Put me down as a person who likes to read sample chapters. It gives me a feel of whether or not I'll enjoy reading the rest of the book. But these are sample chapters of books that are alread published.

    As for posting my work out there - I've done a little, but I won't go putting complete chapters up (I don't want to give my book away). And, like Suzanne, I do post my short stories. They were done more out of fun (or assignments from my groups) and it gives someone (an agent, mayhbe??) a chance to see if they like my writing.

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  6. Hi Todd! I read recently (just last night actually) that in this author Kristen Lamb's experience (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/) no writer has ever gotten an edge in the publishing world by posting chapters online. She also gave a good list of reasons why not to do it (publishers don't like to see too much of the book available for free, readers may get upset when they can only read the sample chapters but not the entire story, etc etc). My gut feeling has always told me not to do it, so instead I'm posting backstory on my website (working on one piece for that right now!) Don't know if that's any better though!

    I hope that this was somewhat helpful!

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  7. Hi Stacy! I'm glad you chimed in with the fact that you actually read samples. I really liek the idea of trying to write a few short stories with some of my characters or maybe some younger characters I haven't discussed yet but set in the same world, maybe get some magazine coverage. Someday...

    Thanks for coming by! =)

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  8. Hi Danielle! I read Kristen's blog, but I hadn't seen that one yet. Interesting take but I really wonder if nobody is getting anything from these samples. I really doubt there has been any empirical studies done.

    I like the idea of posting your backstory, and I have your website on my RADAR now. =)

    It was very helpful! I'm glad you made time to post a comment! Thanks for coming by!

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  9. It's not a good idea to post large chunks of your book online if you'd like to eventually go the self-publishing route. Snippets for blogfests or feedback are fine, but they need to be really small to not cause any worry.

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  10. Todd, My eyes THANK YOU for the new blog format. I like!! :)

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  11. I was always very reluctant to put sample work online, but time after time, experts I respect have said that not only doesn't it hurt, it helps to sell books.

    I do look at sample chapters. Not only do I learn whether or not the story interests me, the writing tells me if the author's style is for me.

    Deborah Riley-Magnus (@rileymagnus on Twitter) is an Author Success Coach with over 25 years of experience. She is one of the people who told me that several chapters only enhances interest. With all of her author interviews, (and yes, I did one last year), she posts 3-5 chapters of the books.

    She has many blogs on author success that address this issue.

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  12. Stephanie I always figured it mattered more if you wanted to go the traditional route. As a self-publisher I don't really see too much of a downside, nobody is going to stop you at least. The stuff up here on my site is only to show development and perhaps drive some interest. The real thing will likely be substantially different. Thanks so much for stopping by and posting!

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  13. Stacy I'm glad you like it, I wanted something a little more professional looking, and I took your comments to heart. I like the way it turned out. Thanks!

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  14. Lisette that is some good input. There seems to be three camps out there. Some are dead set against anything. Some say a little is OK, and some think it doesn't hurt. I'm not sure if I'm not more confused now than when we started this! LOL.

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  15. Follow your instincts, Todd. They will seldom lead your wrong.

    I published my eBook, THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS, with 3 free sample chapters. Three chapters are what agents usually want to see. If I do not believe my work will entice readers to read more, then my novel needs more work.

    I wish you success in your publication dreams. Roland

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  16. Todd, I decided to leave the 50% free sample for a little longer and then maybe I'll decide to lower it to just 20%. When I published my novel I only had the option for percentages and not chapters. I suppose there is some mathematical equation for coming up with what percent = 3 chapters but um...yeah...it would all depend on how long my chapters are and well my brain hurts. I sincerely appreciate all the support you have given me with my debut novel SAND. I am here to support you with your WIP if you want to post chapters or send them to a few people privately. And I will definitely continue to share my findings and experiences. :)

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  17. Roland, thanks for taking the time to stop and leave a comment and for the great input. i appreciate the well wishes. =)

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  18. Lili, it is my pleasure, it has been great getting to know you better and helping a fellow writer in some small measure. We need to stick together and help each other reach our dreams! I appreciate your offers of help, I'm sure I will take you up on it! =)

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  19. I want to thank everyone that posted their comments here, it is truly appreciated and although I'm not sure we came to any conclusions it is great to share our experiences with each other.

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