Fantasy Reading: Free Samples Make Me Happy

I like reading free samples of writers. Traditional, self-published, whatever. It gives me a good idea of what to expect from writers and allows me to decide if I want to buy what they’re offering. However, I’m like a dog in some ways. I need someone to just plop it down in front of me so I can sniff it out. A simple link to Amazon doesn’t really do it for me. To me, that’s like a vacuum cleaner salesman showing up at my house and saying, “Buy this vacuum. It’s good.” Well, I want to look at the vacuum a little more closely. Maybe I want to see you demo it? Tell me about its features. Even if I have absolutely no interest in buying a vacuum, I may buy it if the presentation is done well enough.

Writers have to be salespeople. Yeah, I know it sucks for some of the more introverted people who like writing because they don’t have to interact with people. It’s a fact of life though (cue theme song). You don’t have to bash me over the head, but just give me something to work with. The key to my heart as a reader is free samples. Everyone loves free samples, right? Those little cubes of cheese or smoky sausage links go great when I’m strolling around doing nothing. So give me free samples. Not just on your Kindle preview, but excerpts from your novel on social media. It doesn’t have to be a whole chapter (a whole block of cheese) but it can just be a little sliver of what you have to offer.

I post a lot of writing thoughts on my blog, but this time I want to give you insight into Philip Overby as a reader. I assume there must be other readers out there that aren’t much different than me.

1. Don’t be a link-dumping robot.

 Check it out. Check it out. Gooble gobble gooble gobble check it out.

It’s not 2094 yet, so I’m not really interested in a robot salesman as of yet. Hell, if a robot writes a book, I might just try it out to see. No one that exists right now is a robot though, so promoting a book like one is kind of like telemarketing: it’s annoying, wastes time, and gives me a headache.

If you are going to link to your book, why not post a little snippet? Just give me a small taste before my small taste. If you get me over to your Amazon page (or wherever), then I’ll most likely download the sample. That’s one step closer to getting me to open up my wallet. If I just get a “Check out my new book,” there are already nine million other people writing the same exact thing. I’ll keep browsing and you won’t get a sale. No cheese for me, no cheese for you.

2. Know When It’s Time to Promote

 Did I tell you about his vacuum? I did yesterday? And five minutes ago? Oh, that’s OK, I’ll just tell you this one last time and then…hey, where are you going?

Promoting all day every day in the same exact way is a surefire way for me to block you and look for other writers who have more interesting approaches to getting me to buy their book. Mark Lawrence is a writer that does a good job of engaging his readers with contests, fun promotions, and the like. http://mark— Chuck Wendig is another that doesn’t mercilessly promote his books, but he does it when he gets a good review or has a promotion on them. Otherwise, he’s promoting himself as an author (not just a book) and a nurturer of other writers.  This is appealing. It’s like his whole website is a block of free cheese and I can just whittle away what I want. He gives something to the world for free (his knowledge) and therefore it makes me more interested in him as a writer and, hell, even as a human being.

Give the free samples, yes, but don’t dump gallons of nacho cheese on my head and expect me to come away happy.


 Captain Picard is pointing at you. Make it so.

Yes, that’s a star captain speaking. Engaging with people is one of the best ways to get free samples in their hands. If I see your face on Google+ or Facebook and you often talk with other people, say things that are interesting, or share your thoughts on the fantasy genre in general, I’m more than likely going to think “Hmm…I need to keep an eye on this person.” You’ve made yourself visible, but in a good way.

There’s a difference between:

a. “Hey, how’s it going? So you like fantasy? Cool, me too. What do you think about blah, blah, blah? Oh really? Cool, I like blah blah blah better.”

Hours later: “Oh, by the way, I write stuff, too. Would you like some free cheese?”

b. “Hey, buy my book. It’s really good. Buy it. BUY IT NOW OR I WILL DRINK YOUR SOUL!”

Engaging with people isn’t always going to help, but it can’t really hurt. There are a number of writers already on my radar to check out their samples due to them being friendly, personable people who seem to genuinely love the fantasy genre and aren’t just shills trying to squeeze money out of me.

Remember samples=potential buy. Potential buy=potential review. Potential review=potential for more readers. More readers=more sales. More sales=more cheese. More cheese=happy writer.

I repeated “potential” many times as there is no true rhyme or reason why people buy, review, or recommend writing. Some people like doing those things. Some people don’t.

In closing, be aware that when marketing, you have to be a good salesperson. Learn how to sell something without coming across as either a soulless robot or a rampaging cheese wizard. I want to buy your books, I really do. I just need a reason. Reason #1 is free samples!

Until next time, remember all fantasy, all the time!