This “try a sample” feature on Amazon is a pretty snazzy thing, which I know is not a revelation to anyone, but still.
I mean, I do just buy a lot of books outright if they’re not too expensive — a debut title that sounds promising, a familiar author’s new release, a title by someone I know, a title recommended by someone whose taste reliably aligns with mine, a Kindle Daily Deal title that sounds interesting or is by someone I know. Anyway, so far this year I’ve bought six books:
Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout, because of his Twitter comment when I was reading DWJ’s Eight Days of Luke, and also because I’ve wanted to try his adult titles anyway, he’s funny on Twitter, and we share an agent. Now I have two of his adult titles on my TBR shelves.
Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond, because I’ve met her and I know she’s excited about this title and it was a Kindle daily deal and not only is that good for me, it’s good for the author to have her daily deal title bounce as much as possible.
Show Me the Murder by Carolyn Mulford, because Janet Reid said something about it that made me think I would like it and because it wasn’t too expensive.
Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel because I’ve wanted to try something of hers for a whie.
Mercenary Instinct, by “Ruby Lionsdrake”, which is the rather, uh, dramatic pen name of Lindsay Buroker, who was experimenting to see what she could do with an unknown pen name.
The Moon and the Sun by Vonda McIntyre, because you all made me.
But I’ve also picked up more samples than usual. As it happens, samples bug me. They sit there saying, “Thumbs up or Thumbs down? Can we make a decision? This decision is WAITING FOR YOU TO MAKE IT.” So I will definitely be reading them soon and deciding whether to buy the book AND that means that I will probably read them before I read ANY of the actual full books I have available.
And that is why I like the sample feature on Amazon, as an author and as a reader. Because there have to be other people who feel that way about samples, and it’s good for authors to have people kind of feel like they must get around to trying your book because the sample is sitting there.
Anyway, samples. Naturally it’s a good idea to give a book several pages or a chapter before making a decision, and ordinarily (though not always) a sample is about long enough to do that. Even so, as you know, I like to look at the first couple of sentences just to see how that looks. So, here are the samples I have currently sitting on my Kindle, each with a tiny little snippet:
Broken Trust by Thomas Maurin because someone on Goodreads recommended it and why not? It’s supposed to be a edge-of-the-seat financial thriller.
Two women in black stood next to their priest on the stairs of St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Varna, the bustling Bulgarian shipping city on the Black Sea between Romania and Turkey. A heavy scent of incense wafted out of the open doors. This church had served the women’s large extended family since 1865. Now, family and friends carried three heavy caskets toward idling hearses. The women watched with immobile faces.
So, setting the scene. Reading ahead a bit, I can see that the women are not happy about losing their loved ones and that an investigation of the deaths is probably what we’ll start with. I wouldn’t necessarily have explained to the reader where Varna is and that it is a bustling port city; to me that seems a bit infodumpy, but it’s just one sentence, I’d definitely read on before deciding. And if this is going to pick up into a page-turner of a thriller, then I bet stuff will start happening sooner rather than later. Let’s see what’s going on by the time we reach the end of the sample.
Grand Central Arena by Ryk Spoor, because Elaine T recommended it a few days ago in a comment, and it sounds fun.
“Watch that next keyhole, Ariane, that bastard’s going to try to force a scrape – or worse!”
Ariane Austin heard the concerned voice in her helmet as she pulled round the third turn, spinning Whip Hand and then relaxing the gyros, lining up the nuclear rocket blast through instinct and experience, firing to skirt the marker asteroid and get on a vector to pass through the next course obstacle – the “keyhole” that Carl had mentioned. The power of the rocket pinned her to the acceleration chair with the thrilling force she sometimes felt was drawn from and through her, making her feel a part of the little racing ship.
Oh, it’s fine, it’s fine. Nothing especially catchy. However, the book description makes me pretty sure I will really enjoy this one when it gets going. I’m looking forward to it, actually. It just sounds fun. I want to see Our Heroes actually in the arena, so if they haven’t gotten there by the end of the sample, I will probably simply get the book and go on.
A Veiled Antiquity by Rett MacPhearson because I met her at Archon and I thought I’d like to try one of her books.
I marched across the street still in my vintage clothing from the tour I had just finished. I wore a pink paisley-print gown with wide lapels, a high neck, puffed sleeves, and straight skirt. On my head was a large flowered hat that matched the dress. In one hand I carried a lace-trimmed parasol. In the other was a copy of the town newspaper.
I was a woman on a mission.
My mission was to find and strangle Eleanore Murdoch, the town gossip and inkslinger.
Not bad! The narrator is obviously on her way to hand somebody her head for something, so I’ll let that situation unroll and then we’ll see. Since I’ve met the author personally, I’m fairly likely to buy her book if it looks okay, even if I’m not as interested in contemporary settings as F / SF and historical.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, because someone or other recommended Libba Bray. Oh, I think that might have been people at Archon.
A word from your sponsor: This book begins with a plane crash. We do not want you to worry about this. According to the U.S. Department of Unnecessary Statistics, your chances of dying in a plane crash are one in half a million. Whereas your chances of losing your bathing suit bottoms to a strong tide are two to one. So, all in all, it’s safer to fly than to go to beach. As said, this book begins with a plane crash. But there are survivors. You see? Already it’s a happy tale. They are all beauty queen contestants. You do not need to know their names here. But you will get to know them. They are each nice girls. Yes, they are nice, happy, shining, patriotic girls who happen to have interests in baton twirling, sign language, AIDS prevention in the animal population, the ancient preparation of popadam, feminine firearms, interpretive dance, and sequins. Such a happy story. And shiny, too.
This story is brought to you by The Corporation: Because Your Life Can Always Be Better ™ . We at The Corporation would like you to enjoy this story, but please be vigilant while reading. If you should happen to notice anything suspicious in the coming pages, do alert the proper authorities.
My goodness. That’s kind of fabulous. What an unexpected beginning. I would be astonished if I don’t buy this book, and then look up other titles by Libba Bray.
A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel, because though I haven’t read the book by her I got this year, when I try a new-to-me author who keeps getting recommended, I generally want to look at more than one book. There are a whole lot of authors I love who have written one or two books I didn’t like, so trying more than one of an author’s books seems better than trying just one, and this one looks like a good contrast to her title listed above, which looks like it has a more Regency setting. This one looks like light UF.
“Charlotte! We got Anatole Sevarin!”
I replied to this news with the most reasonable words in the most reasonable tone I could manage: “Get out of my kitchen!”
In case you think I overreacted, let me tell you that my kitchen is in the back of Nightlife, the restaurant I co-own with my brother, Chet. . . . It was Friday night and the house was packed. Because we cater to vampires, paranormals and their guests, our dinner rush happens later than at most places, even in autumn, but I’d already been on my feet for eight hours . . . and in another hour the vampire theater crowd would be out looking for someplace to eat. We had to get those full tables served, satisfied, and cleared.
Okay, you can see the tone at once, I think. Don’t you think it looks like a cheerful, not-very-serious urban fantasy? Probably rather fluffy. Something to read when you don’t necessarily want All The Feels. While not particularly compelling, when I’m on my next UF kick, I might enjoy trying this. Of course I will read the full sample first and then decide.
The Gatekeeper’s Son by CR Fladmark; I have no idea why I got this sample. Someone must have said something about it, but I don’t remember. Let’s take a look at the first few lines:
I waved at the security cameras as I crossed the cobblestones and headed toward the arched gateway of the old carriage house, and the wrought-iron gates began to swing inward. A little creepy, I always thought, but convenient. Behind me, the street sloped down a steep hill lined with manicured gardens. The Crescent was home to some of the finest mansions in San Francisco, including my grandpa’s.
I was about to enter the driveway when I felt a weird sensation on the back of my neck, a tingling, like hot water hitting cold hands. I turned back to the street and looked around. The street was empty, nothing out of place – except the girl.
Well, it’s okay, but not too catchy. This one has an Asian thing going on, judging from the cover. For this one, let me quote the back cover copy:
Junya’s grandfather is a billionaire who keeps the secret to his success hidden in a heavily guarded safe. His mother is a martial artist who wields a razor-sharp katana—and seems to read his mind. And a mysterious girl in a Japanese school uniform can knock him over—literally—with just a look. What do they know that he doesn’t? Junya’s life takes a dangerous turn on his sixteenth birthday, … Junya’s journey takes him from the narrow streets of San Francisco to Japan, and through hidden portals to the top of the ancient Japanese Izumo Shinto shrine, to places where death and violence are a way of life. And in a mystical world he’s never imagined, he finds his true destiny.
Yeah, NOW I can see why I wanted to take a look at this one. This is a book where the beginning lines are just okay, but the description is excellent.
Alternate Susan by Kater Cheek, I believe because of a mention at World Fantasy last fall.
I realized I was in an alternate reality when I came home Thursday night and tried to order pizza.
What a fun sentence! I don’t need to quote more than just this one sentence, this is catchy right here.
Okay, that’s it: the current samples on my Kindle. Do you all like and use the sample function, and do you think the sample generally gives you enough to go on? Every now and then the whole thing is taken up by, I don’t know, the table of contents and then an infodumpy prologue, and that’s generally not very appealing. I don’t know how samples are set up or how much choice the author has, but really, it would be a question whether to skip straight to chapter one for some books. In Libba Bray’s case above, though, the prologue is amazingly catchy.