You know that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child?” The same can be said for launching a book. This is never more true than in the indie publishing world because we don’t have big promo budgets or the reputations of solid and well-known publishing houses behind us. I’ve talked ad nauseum about the assorted things I’ve done to promo my books and build my platform, but today I’m thinking about the very first thing I did: excerpt swaps.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Two or more authors who swap excerpts from their work for placement in the back of their compatriot’s book. The idea, of course, is cross-pollination of readership. If you read my paranormal romance, here are some others you might enjoy–followed by a sample that is (or should be) designed to give readers enough of a taste to decide whether they are interested or not. This seems like a win-win thing. It’s essentially free promo (always a nice thing). And as a reader, I myself like such things because I’ve often discovered new authors that way.
But there is a pitfall to this method, depending on how you choose to do it. It may seem like a value-add to place an entire first chapter of something else at the end of your work. It’s a long sample, something that’s certain to give the reader enough to make a decision about whether or not to check out your fellow author. But many readers don’t see it this way.
Take my first novella, Forsaken By Shadow. I’ve got 3 chapters of other material at the end. One is the first chapter of my follow up Devil’s Eye, and the other two are opening chapters from a couple other indie author friends. I just read a review this morning that stated that my book actually ended at the 80% mark on her Kindle and she felt cheated. Now there’s always some blowback on novellas because invariably there’s a segment of the reading population who always wants a novel and feels shortchanged by anything else–no matter how well you mark it in the description and everywhere else THIS IS A NOVELLA. But I think even with novel length stuff, having such long segments of matter at the end of your book that is something other than your book can be a detriment.
Now do I think that back matter swaps are bad business? Nope. I still think it’s an excellent way to cross-pollinate readers. But I do think we need to put a cap on how long that back matter actually IS. Something that’s short, like one of those scenes you sometimes see at the front of a book that’s an excerpt of the book you’re about to read. You know the kind…something that’s a suspenseful moment. Maybe 1k in length, a single scene at the most. Because I do think that having 20% of material that isn’t my book is probably a mistake. So it’s on my To Do list to trim the back matter down to something shorter.