Ebook Success: Your Sample; Your Book

Welcome! Today, I'm going to talk about my Rule # 6: Give a smart sample, and Rule #7: Write a good book.

Ebook Success: Joan Sells & Tells All

In a few weeks, I'll publish an ebook that will be a compilation of this series on SlingWords and many more blog posts about this subject posted on this blog and my old blog that I've terminated. Then you can have all the information in one place.

In the meantime, here's my book list for those of you who are new to the blog. If you've seen it before, just scroll down.

Just One Look

Still The One

JANE (I'm-Still-Single) JONES

The Trouble With Love

Romeo and Judy Anne

Written Wisdom

Parts Of This Series Previously Published

Ebook Success: Get Educated

Ebook Success: Write Business Plan

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 1

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 2

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 3

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 4

Ebook Success: Working With Cover Artists (addendum published the next day)

Ebook Success: Ad Copy, Part 1, Keywords

Ebook Success: Ad Copy, Part 2, Categories

Ebook Success: Ad Copy, Part 3, Bio & Book Description

Ebook Success: Rule #5, Price

Joan's Golden Rules

Here's my list of golden rules--called golden because I hope they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales.

1. Get educated.

2. Write a business plan.

3. Choose cover art wisely.

4. Write professional ad copy.

5. Choose price wisely.

6. Give a smart sample.

7. Write a good book.

8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Rule #6: Give A Smart Sample

Some digital publishing platforms like Smashwords, XinXii, and AllRomanceEbooks.com allow you to post a sample or excerpt from your book. Smashwords lets you set a percentage of the book. Amazon automatically selects a percentage. XinXii and AllRomanceEbooks let you post whatever you wish as an excerpt.

This rule is simple and is probably something you've heard constantly if you've pursued print publishing: make that first chapter amazing.

You have a couple of chances to hook someone. That couple of chances are the first couple of sentences in your chapter. Don't be boring. Don't start with a mundane description of something. Don't start with any of the no-no's of writing: weather, a dream, a flashback, introducing a dozen characters in the space of a few sentences, introducing someone doing something amazing that makes the reader think, "Wow. I like this guy." if that character is not your protagonist.

Dynamite First Sentences

I've written several articles over the years about how to hook readers. Here are a few that I think deliver sharp hooks.

"Death was driving an emerald green Lexus." (Winter Moon by Dean Koontz)

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York." (The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)

"I never knew her in life." (The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy)

"Andie Luft peered through the bridal veil, searching for the slimeball photographer who had ruined her day. "(My romantic comedy San Antone Blue, to be published Summer 2012)

"Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not at the subconscious level where savage things grow." (Carrie by Stephen King)

10 Tips For Hooking Readers

I always give these tips on how to hook the reader from the beginning. These will also help you write a first chapter that yields a stunning sample for your book.

1. A story begins with change. Change alters the environment for the character and/or threatens the character’s self-concept. Begin with what changes the status quo.

2. Never warm up your engines when writing. Start the story immediately.

3. Establish a threat or worry or story question at once. The king is giving a ball. Will Cinderella get invited? (Classic fairy tale Cinderella) There’s a bomb on the elevator. Will the bomb squad be able to rescue the people inside before the bomb detonates? (Movie Speed)

4. Keep character confusion to a minimum by introducing your characters carefully--one at a time.

5. Get something happening immediately. A novel is characterized by rising action.

6. Make the story go forward by pushing the hero/heroine back.

7. Don’t pick up the story threads too quickly--make the reader wait. Make the reader have questions about why something is happening, but not necessarily what is happening because you don't want the reader to be confused. Confusion negates a sale.

8. Do not give the entire life story of your characters immediately. This bogs down the story. Sprinkle the backstory throughout.

9. Evoke some kind of emotional reaction in the reader which will cause the reader to stick with your story from the first word to the last.

10. Do not be afraid to write and toss it away. Sometimes you have to write just to figure out what you’re trying to say. Don’t look at your words as if they are carved in stone. Throw away the boring words. Keep the exciting ones that build a compelling scene.

Rule #7: Write A Good Book

No, I'm not going to teach you how to write a good book even though that is what this rule is about. If you're publishing a book, then you should already have mastered the necessary narrative skills. Yes, writers do go on studying and learning and improving their skills, but I'm not here to teach you how to write.

If you don't think you know how to write, then why are you publishing a book. Adopt the mantra espoused in a very old wine commercial that said: "We will sell no wine before its time."

Promise now that you will publish no book before its time. Hone your skills. Make sure you give your story the best shot by using good writing skills because all the marketing and promotion in the world won't sell a bad book.

Readers are a discerning lot. They know a bad book when they see one. I don't care if you invest thousands in ads or if you have a gazillion FB friends and Twitter followers. None of that will help you if you put out a boring, ill-conceived book.

So, if you are uncertain as to the quality of your writing, get a second, third, fourth, or tenth opinion. Do NOT ever ask someone with whom you have a love or friend relationship or to whom you're related for their opinion of your book. They will not tell you what they honestly think because they don't want to hurt you. Even if it's good, you'll probably think they're praising it just because they don't want to offend you.

Get with a critique group or pay for a critique from someone who knows. Join a writing organization and find someone you click with. Read each other's work. If all else fails, print it, and find a retired English teacher who'll agree to read it. In other words, do whatever is necessary to get someone who knows something about good writing to read it.

Rule #7 exists to emphasize the importance of a quality product. Like many of the bestselling ebook authors, I may not write great literature, but I do write great escapist fiction. We all bring good narrative skills to our craft. I know I work hard to create stories that make people feel good and laugh.

You may say my books or John Locke's books (or whoever) sell because of sexy covers or that we were lucky or that our books are cheap or that readers have bad taste or whatever the slam of the week is. BUT, the bottom line is that no book will continue to sell if it isn't well-written.

So learn to write well. Write a good book. Then, you'll have a good sample to offer.

Why I'm Sharing

I'm sharing all of my secrets--essentially everything I've had to work hard to learn. That's just the way I'm made. I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer. Like I've said, I'm not an expert. I'm just a working writer who has had some success.

I hope this will help shortcut the process for you. I hope you can achieve your own brand of success and have fun doing it.

Next week I'll conclude this series--I think--with a discussion about Rule #8: Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Takeaway Truth

A rising tide floats all boats. I wish you magnificent ebook sales. If my advice helps, please let me know.

Note: If SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books or making a donation by clicking the button below or, perhaps subscribe, for only $.99 per month to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.


  1. Another excellent post, Joan!!!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

    Write On!!!

  2. AnneMarie Novark ... And thank you for sharing yours on your excellent blog Just Write With AnneMarie Novark

    Best wishes,

  3. That's a great first line from your San Antone Blue -- which I read and still have -- but I was wondering why the long wait before you bring out more of your back list.

    I'm sure someone as saavy as you has a good reason for it, and I'm very curious.

    Now that my ebooks are really starting to sell well, I thought it would be good to have the whole back list out, but I'm probably making a mistake. I've made plenty over my long publishing career. . .

  4. Cheryl Bolen ... Very perceptive, Cheryl. I do have reasons for my publishing schedule, but I don't know if there's enough here for a blog post.

    I listed all my previously published books and manuscripts that never resulted in a contract as well as partials. I estimated how long to get a manuscript ready to publish (each needs various levels of editing then proofing, cover design, and format).

    Okay. Maybe there is enough here to blog about it. Look for the answer in a couple of weeks. *g*

    Best wishes,