IU Survey: Do Reviews Belong in the Book Preview?

We get a lot of requests to feature books here on Indies Unlimited. As time allows, we like to preview those books before we commit to showcasing them here for a couple of reasons: If there is an obvious mistake (such as a typo in the book description or even the title), we can let the author know and give them an opportunity to fix it; and,
Since we don’t cover all genres of writing, we like to make sure the submission is a good fit for our site.
Lately, we have noticed a lot of authors seem to be using a large percentage of the front matter that makes up the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. In some few instances, there was so much front matter, that none of the actual story was included in the preview.

You end up with a preview that consists of a title page, a page of boilerplate copyright info, an acknowledgements page, a dedication page, a list of other titles by this author, a poem, song lyric, or quote that author likes, a couple of pages of excerpts from pre-release reviews and then you’re out of space.

Is this a clever use of yet one more space to deploy marketing, or does it deprive the prospective buyer of the promised sample? Is it a deliberate attempt by the author to hide a weak start to an otherwise good book? In short, WTF?

We’d like to know your thoughts.

Is including reviews in the preview section of your book a good idea?

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Author: Administrators

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23 thoughts on “IU Survey: Do Reviews Belong in the Book Preview?”

  1. Speaking as a reader, if I see reviews in the front of the sample I am MUCH less likely to buy the book. The reason is simple: I read samples that look interesting. I buy books if the samples hook me.

    I skip pages that don’t are not either a table of contents (for nonfiction) or actual content.

    So all those reviews? I pass right over them. I don’t need to read your hand-picked reviews. Heck, I don’t even know if you made them up or not. The proof is in the prose. And if your book does not have a good chunk of your ACTUAL prose in the sample, I am going to pass.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. Even in paperbooks, I pass those pages by–“Yadda yadda, whatever…” I want to form my own opinions of the story, not to be influenced by someone elses’s, after I’ve already bought the book.

      1. I agree with Kevin and K.R. on this one. As a reader, I skip the reviews at the front of the book–either printed book or eBook. As a writer of eBooks, if I must, I’ll put them at the back of the eBook. I want to hook my readers right away with my story.

      1. Other than the table of contents (if needed) I prefer books that are putting “front matter” at the back instead. Well I like the dedication at the beginning as it gives insight into the author or some are humorous and a hoot to read.

        1. Many are starting to put the TOC at back of book. It’s useless in the preview, but readers can see it at a single click.
          It always takes some time for people to figure out that a new format can wokr different than the old ones did.
          (Hell they made plastic cameras look like machined metal ones for decades for no real reason)

  2. Personally, I don’t mind seeing reviews on the book’s page on Amazon or B&N or wherever (Amazon has a space for it on Author Central, after all), but I get really irritated if the review is mainly quotes of reviews of the author’s *other* books. I mean really. If I wanted to see a review of some other book, I’d go to that book’s page, all right?

    As for sticking them in the front matter — nuh uh. I’m with Mr. McLaughlin on that one. If the sample is taken up mostly or even entirely of reviews, and there’s little to none of YOUR prose in it, I’ll pass, even if I’ve read and liked other books you’ve written. There are WAY too many books on my TBR list for me to regret passing up one author, even a favorite one!

  3. This is the format used by traditional publishers. That doesn’t mean that it’s good or bad, just thought I’d voice it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with listing one or two short reviews, especially from other writers or press media, but it can be waaaaaay overdone. In my opinion, the list of other books should be in the back. I made that mistake in some of my earlier ones but soon found it too cumbersome and moved it to the rear. I was recently disconcerted when the Look Inside took the reader back into the book so far that it hit the exact page where the murderer was outed and how it was figured out by the detective. UGH! If only we could have some small degree of control over what is used. This is why I like using Bublish!

    1. I’ve noticed at least one of the big 6 is starting to put more of the front material at the back and cutting down on reviews at the start. I can’t remember the imprint or the publisher at the moment.

  4. It’s also bad for metadata to have the beginning taken up with reviews. A short blurb of the book and then the story with copyright and other information at the back makes the book more readable IMHO as well as giving a good sampling and good metadata for search engines. I’ve downloaded the book or if sampling it I don’t need reviews I need the story.

  5. I always skip over all the review quotations and get to the preview as fast as possible. Then I might go back and scan the review quotes to see if they answer any questions for me, sort of tip the scales one way or another if I’m seriously thinking about purchase but not yet sold. I think I’m a fairly typical reader, even if a miserable excuse for a person. Still, I feel its up to the author how they want to present their preview. Vague answer, yes… but then I’m a vague and apathetic waste of skin. Well then, aren’t you just tickled I answered then aren’t you?

  6. I’d add another choice.
    X No, this is a stupid mis-use of the “Look Inside” or “Preview” format. This is a formatting mistake I continually warn people against, most recently in my pieces on anthologies. You want to give people stuff to hook them on the book, let them make a solid decision.
    I would say the less stuff up front the better. I recently commented on a book designer’s blog about this. eBooks are different… they have this limited preview space and you don’t want to clutter it up with the sort of crap you have in print books
    It’s telling that a lot of more experienced ebook authors/designers are even putting the table of contents at the end of the ebook where it doesn’t wastes preview space, but is immediately available to the reader at a single click.

  7. I checked “in moderation” to allow for the exceptional quote. For example, if you wrote a horror story and Stephen King gave you a two sentence thumbs-up, who wouldn’t want to include that? As a reader, that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing.

  8. I agree with Kevin and others. All the copyright, dedication, author’s comments etc going after the title page is a tradition that fits print books, but not the digital age. We should be innovative enough to see that and place all that at the end of the book with the author bio, leaving the first paragraphs/pages to the reader in the preview.

  9. If I download a sample, and if the amount of front-end verbiage, be it disclaimers, examples of book reviews, extended dedications, and whatnot, exceeds more than one or two pages, then I’ll pass on the book. I’m not going to get the kind of excerpt I need to assess the quality of the book.

    In my mind, said author is quite obviously that author has either 1) not had the common sense to think about his readers needs in assessing his book prior to purchase or is 2) a petty, cheap bastard who doesn’t want to give away content.

    Reviews are for the item page, back cover blurbs and newspapers – not the inside of a book. Readers want to pay for a writer’s work, not his accolades.

  10. Agreeing with just about everybody here. Even in print books, I will skip over the pages and pages of accolades in the front of the book. I might read the first page or two, but once I get to the pages with reviewers’ names that I don’t recognize, I lose interest. At that point, I just want to read the book.

    Putting nearly all the front matter at the end of the book is an interesting idea.

  11. I’m not in favor of long reviews, but a few one-line excerpts from respected reviewers couldn’t hurt.

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