Giving Away Novel Previews: A Cautionary TalePosted by in Uncategorized
Once I was a young man drunk on hope and shinning with belief in human kindness. That was three long months ago, when I decided to promote my Kickstarter by giving away the first ten chapters of my novel on Amazon. The Kickstarter was a Herculean success, crushing its stretch goals like the delicate heads of a hydra under the conquering sword of my valorous readers. But at what dreadful cost?
As a method of promotion, the free preview likely contributed to my Kickstarter the least and caused me the greatest woe. I uploaded Gravity’s Revenge (First Act Preview with Internal Illustrations) to Amazon. In addition to the long, informative title, I also made certain the product description mentioned this was an incomplete sample. Signing it up for a free KDP promotion would allow readers to read it for free. If only I had stopped there my acidic tears would not now be washing away the letters from my keyboard.
Publicizing the sample giveaway seemed a logical step. I was skeptical a reader unfamiliar with my work would dedicate the coin to support a Kickstarter, but someone who had taken their first steps up the cliffside roads to the Mindvault Academy in my story, just might. So I listed my sample on sites promoting free books and paid for promotion. I felt I was in uncharted territory of book promotion, and a nervous foreboding filled me. I even made this joking tweet:
I suspected this would happen because the sites promoted complete books as a rule. And people are people. However, I was not much concerned. After the KDP promotion ended, I unlisted the giveaway version. Then I retreated to my underground laboratory to finish edits of the novel, to place the succulent internal illustrations, to format the manuscript with tender love for both printing and eReading, and at last to upload the brand new novel on July 1st. Securing my party hat on my head, I clicked on the link to my epic fantasy for the first time. I was so excited to share this triumph with all my Kickstarter supporters. This is what I saw:
But how could this be? This novel was complete. The listing was separate from my giveaway sample, even with a different Amazon identification number. And, oh no! Another review:
By this time I had already appealed the reviews. Amazon’s response: While I understand your concerns, these reviews don’t violate our posted guidelines. We link different editions, bindings, formats or color variations of a product in our system to make it easier for customers to find the version they’re looking for.
Linking the paperback and digital versions of a book makes a lot of sense. Chaining my completed book to reviews critiquing only the shortness of the preview, less so. I mentioned this to another Amazon representative, and she hinted that if the two versions had different ASIN’s (which they did), deleting the old sample would remove the reviews that had attached themselves to Gravity’s Revenge like leeches. (Not her exact words.)
Armed with this ray of hope, I requested the deletion of the unlisted Gravity’s Revenge (First Act Preview with Internal Illustrations). The response:
I looked for it, but find nothing on Amazon.com. Has the title already been removed?
Ever helpful, I relisted the book with a new title: Please Delete Me.
At this time, it is not possible to completely remove a book from the Bookshelf if it’s available for sale in the Kindle Store.
Fine. I’m a patient man. Unlisted the book again and resent request.
At this time, it is not possible to completely remove a book from the Bookshelf if it’s previously been available for sale in the Kindle Store.
By Zeus’s crackling beard! So unless Amazon changes its decree, Gravity’s Revenge will forever bear the scars of two misleading reviews. And it’s not as if confusing potential buyers about the length of a book helps Amazon.
But let’s not overlook the type of person who would take the time to write those reviews. Imagine what they were thinking: “What! Someone, somewhere might have to pay to read a book they love? Not on my watch!”
It’s not as if giving away preview chapters is an unspeakable dark ritual of marketing.* Tor used to hand out the first 300 pages of The Wheel of Time for free. Websites are riddled with the opening chapters of upcoming novels. And do you know which other industries offer free samples of product to entice new customers? All of them.
I do have to be thankful, though. It could have been worse. At least one of the reviewers acknowledged that the writing seemed good, and neither branded me with the red-hot-iron touch of a one-star review, like I thought they would in my prophetic tweet.
As you may have noticed, a few of my lion-hearted readers have voted those reviews as “Not Helpful.” Feel free to do so as well. I’m not certain it matters to Amazon, but it might make the rest of us feel better. Or at least me. If you’ve read Gravity’s Revenge and loved it then the most heroic thing you can do is write your own review. I look forward to the day when Gravity’s Revenge has a hundred reviews, with a few oddballs of no great importance.
*(If you happen to know any unspeakable dark rituals of marketing, please send me the steps. I, ah, might know a fantasy author who’d be interested.)