Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Do Excerpts Work?

People debate the wisdom of including excerpts of other books at the end of a book the reader has purchased. While some readers say they like them, others feel they are “advertisements” and don’t like having “paid” for a book that includes that extra content. It’s especially bothersome, it seems, when the excerpts “pad” the apparent length of the story that was bought and paid for, making a novella’s page count appear to equal or exceed a category-length novel.

Despite what I perceive as fairly strong dislike of excerpts in some quarters, I decided to include them at the end of my ebooks anyway. I figured they couldn’t hurt and might help. I am very careful to disclose the excerpts and their word count/page length in my product descriptions to avoid misleading readers as to the length of the promised work. So far, I’ve heard no complaints and now, three months after the release of The Lesson Plan, I’m prepared to offer an unqualified answer as to whether they work or not.

Do excerpts work? HELL YES!

Here’s how I know. At the end of The Lesson Plan, I included the first chapters of both of my Spice Briefs, Grace Under Fire and Taking Liberties. These two stories are “related” to The Lesson Plan. Grace has been out since April of 2011 and Taking Liberties came out about three weeks before The Lesson Plan. Both had Amazon ranks that bounced between the 20k and 60k marks before The Lesson Plan came out. And now, because a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s what the ranking charts for those two books look like since December 1. (The Lesson Plan released on December 18.)

Grace Under Fire

Taking Liberties

Up until mid-January, when The Lesson Plan picked up more sales momentum, the rankings for the other two stories are still pretty erratic, but it’s absolutely clear to me that around about mid-January, the peaks and valleys became less dramatic (meaning more steady sales) and the average ranking trend is downward.

Moreover, I’m not seeing similar trends in the rankings of any of the rest of my backlist. It’s not just that readers who buy The Lesson Plan are liking it and then going out and seeking my other titles. If that were the case, I’d be seeing similar movement in other books, including Carnally Ever After, which has a lower price point than either of the Spice Briefs. (It continues to hang steady in the 5k-10k rank range as it has since December. That story did, however, double its sales when The Reiver went free and included an excerpt from Carnally at the end. Another data point in my conclusion!)

So, if you’re wondering whether excerpts will turn off readers, all I can say is that the readers they <i>do</i> turn off would appear to be wildly outnumbered by those who like getting a taste of your other books so they can decide whether or not to buy them.


  • Camryn Rhys February 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I agree, I think excerpts work at the end of books. If I make it to the end of a book, I like the author enough to read the excerpt, and I’d buy the next book.

    My question would be: do excerpts work outside of the ends of books? The typical website excerpt, promotional excerpt on a blog post, etc. That would be my question.

    Nice post, Jackie.

  • Merrian February 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Excerpts do work – they are key selling point for me giving me a taste of the story and author’s style and voice. Where they don’t is as excerpts from random works by other authors that have nothing to do with the content and style of the book they are found other than they share a publisher.

    I think excerpts work where there is a logic to them that is connected with the book they are located in as your example demonstrates.

    It is important that they don’t confuse the page count for the story too. I don’t like finishing a book feeling ripped off.

  • Bev February 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Oh, you don’t have to tell me. I know they work like a mother. I owe a lot of sales to the excerpt of my books I included at the end of my novella.

    I’m a huge proponent of excerpts. 🙂

  • Clisby Williams February 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve never bought an e-book (or e-story, or whatever), so I don’t know about the page counts. However, I’ve bought plenty of print books that include an excerpt at the end – I consider it a bonus. Either I liked the book, and would like to read more by the author – or I didn’t like the book and know to avoid the next one as well. Either is good.

  • Booklover1335 February 19, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I love excerpts from other books at the end of a book I just read. I just don’t like to pay for them, so as long as the price that I pay is representative of the actual story on the cover, not the overall word count.

    Everytime they are at the back of a book I always read them, especially if they are for the same author and I enjoyed the book I just got done reading.

    It’s one of my favorite things about Samhain ebooks, and the Brava paperbacks….those sneak peeks

  • Portia Da Costa March 9, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Wow… I’m definitely going to include some taster excerpts with my self published titles from now on!

    Thank you for the analysis.


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