The Promotional Power of Book Samples

By Kathy Meis

Since publishing gatekeepers no longer control all of the channels into the book marketplace, a record number of new books are being published. This means readers have a much greater selection to choose from, which is wonderful. However, it also means readers have to sort through quite a hodge podge when it comes to quality. A reader’s time is precious and he or she not only has an incredible selection of books to choose from, but many other forms of entertainment at their fingertips as well. That’s why – and you will hear me say this a thousand times – a quality book is your best book promotion.  And if you have produced a book that is well written, designed and edited, you should be showing it off to readers on a regular basis by sharing free samples.

Book samples – chapters, scene excerpts, entire books – are a powerful promotional tool. Samples can show readers that your book is worth their time and money. Samples showcase the quality of your writing and help generate the holy grail of book marketing – word of mouth recommendations. Here are some tips and tools for sharing samples effectively.


Place links to your samples EVERYWHERE – You should have links to a selection of samples from each of your books on your website, your Twitter bio, your Facebook timeline (pin it to the top), your email signature, all the online retailers, websites that let you share excerpts. Make sure to create shortened links (,, etc.) for each excerpt so that you can track the views.

Have a well-designed book cover sitting next to every excerpt – Visual elements have become increasingly important to help sort through the abundance of content with which they are inundated. Your cover art is a sample of your work as well. It should convey professionalism, a strong sense of design as well as plenty of information about the story within.

Introduce your samples – If you are not giving your entire book away as a sample, then you introduce the scene or chapter to orient readers. If it is a series, make sure to mention this. Better yet, give some background about the scene or characters. At Bublish, we call it “the story behind the story.” Readers


Your website – You can type in a scene or chapter right on a page of your website and place an image of your book cover next to it. This is probably the easiest way to offer readers samples. Make sure your website it mobile friendly as more and more people are reading on their phones and tablets. Make sure you connect Google analytics to your site, so you can see if the excerpts are being viewed on your website.

PDFs – This is a file format that is simple to create. You type up you excerpt in whichever text document you use on your computer (Microsoft Word, Pages, etc) and save it as a pdf. You can now host it as a download on your website. (I do not recommend you share more than a chapter in this format due to piracy concerns.) Again, don’t forget the links so you can track downloads

Plugins, widgets and sampling platforms – Plugins and widgets are little pieces of code that make it easy to add specific functionality to your website. WordPress has plugins for excerpting your book, BookBuzzr and Bowker both offer widgets. My company, Bublish, allows you to share book bubbles with excerpts and author insights across your social networks.

Having a single sample of your book sitting on the website of a major online retailer no longer provides enough exposure for your books. Readers discover new authors and books in many different ways. It’s time to start spreading around a variety of book samples and tracking where the views are taking place. You’ll apt to learn a lot about what’s resonating with readers.

Kathy Meis is founder and president of the social book discovery platform Bublish. She is a professional writer, editor and editorial manager with more than twenty years of experience in the media and publishing industries. Kathy was also a founding editor of Forbes MediaCritic and is a founding partner of PubSmart, a new author-centric publishing conference being held in Charleston, South Carolina. She also ghostwrites business books and is a frequent blogger on the subject of book promotion, author branding, social media and discoverability. In 2012, Kathy won the People’s Choice Award at the Startup Showcase at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Publishing Conference.