Let Shoppers Sample Your Book on Amazon

by | Dec 9, 2010

I have a different kind of guest post for you today. It’s from Dana Lynn Smith, also known as the Savvy Book Marketer. To help launch her new book, How to Sell More Books on Amazon, Dana is “visiting” a dozen blogs in a virtual blog tour and contributing articles that relate to the subject of the book.

Dana is a very experienced online book marketer, and I think she has a lot to offer on a subject that concerns all self-publishers: how to sell more books. Here’s her post.

Let Shoppers Sample Your Book on Amazon by Dana Lynn Smith, the Savvy Book Marketer

In retail bookstores, customers tend to glance at the front cover, read all or part the back cover copy, then flip through the book scanning the contents before making a purchase decision. The best way to replicate that experience online is to provide sample content for potential customers.

Dana Lynn SmithOn your own website, you can offer sample pages and downloadable excerpts from your book. But it’s also important to let shoppers sample your book on Amazon.com, the most important online bookstore.

Amazon’s Look Inside program (formerly called Search Inside), allows customers to view the table of contents and sample pages, view a random page, or search for a specific keyword reference.

Participating in the Look Inside program can even improve your book’s chance of getting found when customers do keyword searches on Amazon. Keyword search results are based on words and phrases found inside participating books, in addition to book title and customer tags. For keyword matches inside the book, Amazon displays a short excerpt and links to the page where the query matched.

Some nonfiction publishers fear that customers might find the information they need using Look Inside instead of buying the book, but I think that for most books the advantages far outweigh any chance of that happening. The Look Inside program allows customers to view no more than 20% of the content of a book.

Learn more about the Look Inside program here.

How to Sell More Books on AmazonFor Kindle ebooks, Amazon lets customers view the first few pages of the book through the “send sample now” button on the right side of each page. You don’t have any control over how many pages Amazon includes in this free sample, so it’s a good idea to keep your title page and copyright information short so that the table of contents and first few pages of text will appear in the sample.

Free samples are a powerful book marketing tool and letting your online customers sample your book can boost your book sales.

Learn more about promoting your books on Amazon with How to Sell More Books on Amazon, (affiliate) by book marketing coach Dana Lynn Smith. This new ebook, available in both PDF and Kindle formats, outlines strategies for boosting visibility on Amazon.com, increasing sales, and improving profits. For more book marketing tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter and get Dana’s free Top Book Marketing Tips ebook at www.TheSavvyBookMarketer.com

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Alan K

    One other point that amazon mentioned to me that may be of interest:

    “Regarding your book description needing to have over 500+ words for google and other search engines to pick up keywords and phrases. Unfortunately, this isn’t something were able to confirm nor deny. How our search results are generated is all internal information that were unable to disclose with our customers/authors.”

  2. Alan K

    Hello Alan,

    It looks like they are keeping the banner, after all.

    “I contacted someone from our Look Inside team and they informed me that currently print books will have the ‘Look Inside’ banner appearing in the upper right corner of their Cover Image. However, they’ve made it a little more transparent so you can still see the image (Example: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0547519273).

    I understand this isn’t what you were wanting. It’s likely this will change in the future.”

  3. Alan K

    I just got off the phone with amazon and have been informed that because of complaints by authors that the “search inside” banner covers up part of the cover, they have very recently changed it, taking the banner and placing it back on top of the cover. The person I spoke with is emailing me later to verify this before I pull the trigger on the search inside feature.

  4. Alan K

    Thanks Joel and Dana,

    I will then seriously reconsider the “Look Inside” program for my first book. In subsequent books, I may have my cover designer place my name in a different place on my cover.

  5. Dana Lynn Smith

    Yes, it is a shame Amazon obscures part of the cover. But the benefits of Look Inside probably outweigh partial covering of your author name on the cover, especially for nonfiction.

  6. Alan K

    I would love to participate in the “Look Inside” program but Amazon’s banner unfortunately covers up almost half of my name on the cover! They do not have to place such a large banner covering the upper right hand of the cover. Their “Look Inside” banner, in addition, desecrates the design of the cover.

    There is no need to cover up _any_ of the book cover. They could indicate this around the cover, not inside of it.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Alan, even as a designer, I agree with Dana. You’ll sell more books if people can sample your content, no matter how good your cover is.

  7. Michael N. Marcus

    I agree, Dana.

    I like potential buyers to see samples of my books. My newest book has 520 pages, and I doubt that any potential customer would learn enough from seeing 20% to not need the other 80%.

    • Joel Friedlander

      I think the “look inside” program is one of the best parts of buying at Amazon. It digitally replicates the experience of flipping through a book at the bookstore. I believe I saw statistics at one time about how Look Inside increases sales. Anyone remember that?

      • Dana Lynn Smith

        Joel, I recall reading somewhere that Look Inside increases book sales by 10% overall. Of course, many customers come to the site already knowing what book they want to buy, so Look Inside may not influence them. I think the benefits of Look Inside are greatest for nonfiction, where customers tend to compare several books to decide which will best meet their needs.

  8. Dana Lynn Smith

    Good point Micheal, the information can be printed. But I do think that the benefits of Look Inside outweigh the risk for most books. People are more comfortable ordering a book if they can see some sample pages.

  9. Michael N. Marcus

    To Dana:

    Actually, anyone can use Print Screen in Windows, or SnagIt, to easily copy a page from Amazon and then save it or print it. It takes just a few seconds per page.

  10. Dana Lynn Smith

    Interesting idea Marcus! Also, I’d like to point out that the text that shows up on the Look Inside pages cannot be copied or printed.

    Thanks Tim – I’m glad you enjoy my work!


  11. Tim A Martin

    Thanks Dana for the advice! I’ve been checking out “The Savvy Book Marketer” for a while now. I’m really looking forward to reading your book.

  12. Dana Lynn Smith

    Joel, thanks so much for hosting my virtual book tour on your blog!

    Jessica, thanks for your note and congratulations on the success of your book. In my book I talk about how to potentially increase profits by printing through Lightning Source and bypassing the Amazon Advantage program.

    • Joel Friedlander

      It’s my pleasure, Dana. You are a source for a tremendous amount of book marketing wisdom. Best of luck with your new book.

  13. Jessica Tarpin

    Thanks for the great article! I wrote a non-fiction book, and now it is a great success on Amazon!

    I just printed myself, because if you use POD you get screwed on the price. Otherwise Amazon and other domestic printers are SO expensive! I used a company PrintHouseInternational.com from Shanghai & Seattle, then pay minimal Amazon warehouse fees.

    My friend uses Lulu and loves it too though…

    Thanks again for the great article,

  14. Michael N. Marcus

    Writers who are reluctant/paranoid/terrified to allow 20% of their book to be read online, can selectively put pages on Amazon.com with “Share your own custoemr images.”

    I often use this feature to display the table of contents, preface, etc.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: https://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
    — “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” https://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750



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