Question: What are some ways authors can use content samples from a book in their marketing efforts?



An amazing book description, dynamic author website, and solid social media strategy should all be enough to entice readers to buy your book, right?

Not quite. In today’s competitive marketplace, it often takes some extra steps to stand out and get readers to notice your book. One of these steps is to share samples of your content. While you don’t want to give all of your content away for free, it’s important to provide potential readers with a free preview of your work. This allows them to see a sampling of your writing style, characters, plot, or information you’re offering.

Authors need to offer free samples or free previews of their books to entice readers.So, how and where can you share these samples?

Before diving into ways authors can share a preview of their content, it’s important to address the topic of plagiarism. Many authors worry if they share their written work with the public, someone with ill intentions will steal that content and use it as their own. While there is a chance this can happen, it is very rare. Copyright law protects your writing the moment you record it in a tangible form. You have the option of officially registering the copyright for your work, which can be an asset if you do suspect someone has stolen your work. Regardless, the benefits of sharing a preview of your writing far outweigh any potential plagiarism issues.

Here are four ways authors can provide interested readers with a preview of their work:

1. Share Excerpts or Chapters on Your Website

Your author website is your central hub for your online presence and is the ideal place to provide readers with more details about you, your work, and your author platform. This expanded information can also include excerpts or chapters from your books, and even deleted chapters or scenes.

Many authors will use this type of content to entice readers to sign up for their email newsletter. Fiction authors can share their favorite or most compelling chapter from a book, a short story about a side character, or an alternate ending to their story. Nonfiction authors can share the first step or first chapter in a how-to book, a complementary workbook for their self-help book, or maintain a blog on their topic.

Think of your author website as an opportunity to present yourself and your work to readers and to invite them to follow you long-term. It’s your chance to connect with readers on a deeper level.

2. Share Snippets or Quotes in Your Social Media Postings

Using social media platforms to talk about your work and interests can be a great way to connect with readers and build a following. It does require you to put yourself out there a bit and let readers get to know you, but can be well worth it. You’ll want to be active on at least one social media channel where you know your target readers are present. Some popular platforms for authors include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn.

Authors can use YouTube to read excerpts and chapters from their books to interest readers.Authors can use photos, imagery, video, and a little creativity on social media to promote their books without directly saying, “Buy my book!” all of the time. You can create memes with some of your favorite quotes and record a short video of yourself reading an excerpt, impersonating a main character, or acting out a scene. If you do have a blog or additional written work on your website, be sure to link to that as well in some of your posts.

One platform that is often overlooked by authors is YouTube. With some basic equipment, software, and planning, you can go beyond the book trailer to create and share other relevant videos or content from your books including reading excerpts, chapters, or select poems. This can be an excellent way to strengthen your author brand, attract readers, and build a fan base.         

3. Read Excerpts at In-Person Events

In-person gatherings such as speaking engagements, book signings, and book events are a great way to meet and connect with readers. They can also provide the perfect opportunity to read an excerpt or scene from your book. If the event format allows for a live reading, we recommend keeping it short – 6 to 10 minutes max. This is typically around one-thousand words or less. Be sure to get with the event organizer beforehand to figure out what will work best.

For fiction and memoir authors, you’ll want to focus on a faster-paced, compelling scene that doesn’t require too much explanation or backstory. The more conflict in the scene, the more gripping the excerpt will be for your audience.

Nonfiction authors should find a passage that demonstrates their expertise on the book’s topics, or solutions presented in the book. If you’re sharing a book of poetry, choose only a few of your favorite poems to read.

4. Utilize the Book Preview Features on Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble

Many online book retailers offer a feature that allows potential readers to get a “sneak peek” at the inside pages of a book. This valuable feature gives potential readers a point-of-sale sample, meaning they get to preview several pages of your book before purchasing. Each retailer differs in the fine details and in how authors access the feature, so be sure to review each of your online retailers’ set up guides and program instructions. If you’re using an assisted self-publishing company to publish your book, they may offer a package that includes setting your book up with these features on the key retailer sites. 


The “Look Inside the Book” feature on Amazon is automatically enabled for hardcover, paperback, and eBooks published through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). If you published your book outside of Amazon KDP, you can sign up for the program by submitting a PDF file of your book through Amazon’s Seller Central. Your book must have a valid ISBN and be listed in the Amazon catalog in order to be accepted.

The amount of your book shown through the Look Inside feature depends on the format - newly published eBooks will show 10% of your book by default, while paperback and hardcover books will show 20%. You have the option of choosing between the minimum and maximum amount shown, but do not get to choose which specific pages are shown.  

Amazon’s “Add to Cart” or “Buy with 1-Click” button can be found throughout the previewing experience making it easy for readers to purchase your book if they like what they see. In addition, Amazon uses the text from your pages in its search algorithm, making your book more discoverable. For matches inside the book, Amazon will display a short excerpt and links to the page where the query matched. The “Look Inside” feature is not available on all Amazon sites globally, so be sure to check their Amazon KDP information page for more information.

Amazon's Look Inside feature for books is a valuable marketing tool for authors.


Google offers a few different ways for authors to provide previews of their books. First is “Google Books”, one of the world's largest online databases of books. Readers can’t purchase books directly on this platform, but it’s a free way for authors and publishers to promote their books, make them more searchable online, and give readers a limited preview. Readers can also follow links to buy, borrow, or download the books, when applicable. You’ll need to visit Google’s Books Partner Center to set up a publisher account and get your book added to the database.

“Google Play” is the second option for authors, which is Google’s online bookstore for eBooks and audiobooks. If you publish and distribute your eBook on Google Play, it will automatically get a page with a preview on Google Books. Authors do have the option of choosing to add their book to the Google Books database without publishing through Google Play. If you do publish and distribute through Google Play, you will get access to the “Look Inside” feature where authors can select how much of their book readers will be able to preview when browsing. As with Google Books, You’ll need to visit Google’s Books Partner Center to set up a publisher account and get started.

For more tech-savvy authors, Google offers the “Google Preview Wizard”, an application programming interface (API) that allows authors and website designers to integrate Google Books previews within a website. You can embed a book viewer, link to Book Search, or even add a preview "popup" window to your site—all you need to do is generate the code and paste it onto your page. The viewer allows for full-text searches, zooming in and out, and a limited preview of your book. Purchase links are always included below the preview, so that your readers can easily buy the book from a range of sellers. You can visit Google Books API page to learn more.

Barnes & Noble:

The Read Instantly feature on Barnes & Noble is offered by self-publishing companies.Barnes and Noble's B&N Press (formerly known as Nook Press) is a self-publishing platform that allows authors to reach readers with print and eBooks on its website and through its NOOK e-reader. When uploading your manuscript, the platform allows authors to add a custom excerpt or select chapters for a text preview on your book’s product page under the heading “Read an Excerpt”.

Some assisted self-publishing service providers offer a “Read Instantly” feature for eBooks on B& that allows potential readers to electronically "flip" through a section of the book, usually about 20% of your book randomly selected by Barnes and Noble. Using navigation tools, readers can scan all the preview pages online or search for specific terms located within your text. With this feature, Barnes & Noble catalogs the text of your book, which may also result in more accurate and targeted search results and recommendations.  

If you have a book available for sale, it’s important to utilize the marketing strategies noted above so readers can get a clear understanding of what your book is about, your author voice, and why it will be a great read. You’ve invested a lot of time and money in your book, so make it as easy as possible for readers to find it, purchase it, and enjoy it!

Photo credit: Artur via Getty Images