joewikertSubscribeWhy can’t I subscribe to e-book samples?

Right now, each time I finish a book, I end up going through the same inefficient process. I head to Amazon and a couple of other sites to look for other titles on similar topics that might interest me. I usually find several candidates. Then I go through the equally inefficient process of requesting samples for those e-books.

I can subscribe to dog food for my three basset hounds. So why not e-book samples? This is an opportunity not just for retailers like Amazon but for publishers as well.

As I’m browsing a book catalog, either a retailer’s or a publisher’s site, a seemingly endless list of titles and covers is presented to me for consideration. Once I find one that looks promising, I should be able to click once and have the sample sent to me. That assumes I have an account set up on the site, of course, but if you’re browsing a catalog, you probably have log-in credentials there; if not, it’s a terrific opportunity for the retailer or publisher to encourage you to create an account.

Since I tend to read books on a narrow range of topics why not let me subscribe to new samples in each of those areas? Retailers and publishers, push the sample content to me and quit waiting for me to come to you.

I get a kick out of back-of-book ads that promote related titles at the end of an ebook. Those are nice solutions for print, especially when you have a few blank pages at the end of the last signature. They’re next to invisible in an e-book though. Here’s a better idea: add info about a couple of related titles inside the e-book, maybe between a couple of chapters. Don’t disrupt the reading process, hence the suggestion to message between chapters, but please feel free to let me know I’m getting close to the end and that I might want to consider a follow-up title, especially if you’re going to give me an extra discount as an owner of the first title.

What I’m ultimately suggesting here is to think about applying some technology and automation to the ebook sample distribution process. And as I’ve said before, make sure you’re sending those samples in a totally DRM-free format and one that encourages sharing via e-mail and social channels.

Anyone who has been reading my articles over the years knows that samples are a hot topic for me. Long ago I suggested that e-book samples are one of a publisher’s most underutilized marketing assets. What’s changed since I first started hyping the e-book sample opportunity years ago? Pretty much nothing. Now that I’m back in a publishing role I plan to take my own advice and make sure that we’re getting the most out of our ebook samples. Stay tuned as I’ll be sure to report on our team’s progress in the weeks and months ahead.

Reproduced with permission from Joe Wikert’s Content Strategies.


  1. Good ideas. Keep in mind that there’s a reason publishers don’t usually put links to samples of other books in their ebooks. Doing so is a minefield. Amazon, as a retailer, doesn’t want you buying it from someone else. Apple won’t even let someone who’s reading an ebook on one of their iOS devices buy an ebook on that device unless the retailer pays them a ridiculous 30% fee. Both are afflicted with a bad case of Greedyitis.

    Samples also raises issues. Amazon mindlessly makes the sample the first part of a book, not even letting authors decide where to break. That is typically Amazon. Apple does let you choose, and particularly for non-fiction being able to offer samples of different sections can be quite helpful.


    That said, there is something authors can do to promote their other books, particularly if they’re non-fiction. I’m now writing the fourth in my hospital series about the issues involved in caring for children with leukemia and teens with every sort of illness. It’s hospital life as it really is, with adorable kids and nasty, ill-tempered anyone facing an extended hospital stay.

    The first in the series couldn’t refer to any of the others because they didn’t exist yet. In the fourth, I have found myself inserting a lot of teasers, essentially saying that, if you want to know more about a topic or a patient, read this other book.

    I’m doing so much of that, I’m thinking of creating a second version of my first book to make those references in it. That’s particularly important for the first and fourth. They both deal with embarrassment in hospitals. The first, Hospital Gowns, was written for teen girls. The fourth, the not-yet-out Embarrass Less, is for hospital staff, particularly nurses. Both have as their goal making a hospital stay less embarrassing.


    You might want to see if there’s a blog that covers the sort of books you like. That’d alert you to books you might want to read. I’m not sure this is something authors, publishers, or retailers can do well. It’s best done by readers themselves.

    Podcasts would also be another source of information. Perhaps excepts from the book could be read aloud. I have gotten a lot of clues about fiction classics I might want to listen to as audiobooks by subscribing to the weekly Classic Tales podcast. When I hear one I like there, I look for others by that same author on the Librivox or Loyal Books websites.

  2. Oops, that “ill-tempered” isn’t attached to “anyone.” It should refer to ill-tempered nurses. I deleted a bit too much.

    If you’re in the hospital more than a day or two, it helps to know that your nurse may be difficult because she’s dealing with a hyper-critical head nurse and not because she doesn’t like you. Hospital politics can get dreadful.

  3. Oops again. I need to take a coffee break. I meant “ill-tempered HEAD nurses.” Sadly, in many hospitals untalented nurses who dislike patients often move up into the lower levels of nursing administration, where their dislike for patients gets redirected into a dislike for the nurses under them.

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