Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sampling Theory

I love (LOVE) free samples. No, not those titchy little plastic spoons at the supermarket. I'm talking about the free samples of books that you get to download at Amazon.

You get ten percent of the book. If, at the end of the sample, you want to read the rest, you buy the book. If not, delete the sample.

Here's what I love about this. It shifts the line between readable and unreadable. It gets rid of the DNF entirely. Samples allow me to skip downloading the merely readable. I limit myself to downloading the un-put-downable, the story whose sample is so cool, so hot, so intriguing, so irresistible that, well, I don't resist it.

And this is the answer, I think, to that old canard about self- or indie-publishing. Afraid you'll get someone's slush pile reject? Download the sample and decide for yourself. After all, who says editors publish only the very best, leaving the sad & dejected behind? I think they publish only "marketable" books, leaving behind a fascinating stew of quirky, personal, and even excellent books behind.

Plus, a lot more authors are doing the math and realizing that there's money to be made with their series of historical romances, or unusual contemporary romances. Even if such manuscripts could be sold to a publisher, it might be years before a book hits a shelf. Publish them now and people can download a sample and decide for themselves.

I also think this promotes better books. Ten percent is a sizable chunk of a romance novel. No longer are we locked into the hooky first sentence or grabby first page. With ten percent of a romance, you'll meet the hero and heroine, and most likely read about them meeting each other. You'll get dialogue, chemistry, and maybe even (in the case of erotica) some sex. After ten percent, the only unknowns are: will the middle sag, or will the ending disappoint? The way I figure it, a writer who can set up a good opening can produce a decent middle and end.

I now "sample" even auto-buy authors. Why not? I've got a finite amount of reading time, why waste it slogging through a novel that's not nearly as good as what that author's written in the past?

This is another of the ways that the Internet is changing how we select books to buy. I love (LOVE) the Internet.