Should you use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature?
YES. (With an exception in the “Cons” section)
Amazon’s Look Inside feature allows potential buyers to take a sneak peek at your book. As a reader and an author, I am a big fan of the Look Inside feature. Read on and you will be, too.
How much of your book can people see?
Many authors don’t want to use the Look Inside feature because they are afraid that people will somehow find the exact information they are looking for and then not buy the book. The odds of that happening are pretty slim. (And if it does happen, they probably could have found the information with a Google search.) But Amazon just doesn’t show that much of your book.
Amazon has a default percentage of your book that will be shown: 10% for eBooks, 20% for print. However, you can choose a minimum and maximum amount if you want. The maximum amount for paperback and hardcover is 80% of your book and that would be a big Nope for me. I go with 10% to 15%, depending on the length of the book. It allows people to get a feel for what the book is about without giving away the farm.
The preview leans heavily on the beginning of the book so as to avoid any spoilers, particularly in fiction books. So, the Look Inside will almost always include the front and back covers, the Table of Contents, some of the front matter, and then show the actual content, up to ten percent of the book. If your book is very short, the Look Inside will be (proportionately) short, too.
The feature is automatically enabled for eBooks. It is available for print books with an ISBN (another reason to get an ISBN, your own or one through Amazon). If it’s a low content book without an ISBN, the Look Inside feature is not available.
Just a note: The “look inside” feature has a lag time behind your publishing date—nine to ten days for paperbacks and hardcovers and seven to eight days for eBooks. I think those are outside numbers—I’ve never waited that long for the feature to kick in.
The Pros of Using Amazon’s Look Inside Feature
- Enhanced Reader Engagement: The Look Inside feature enables potential readers to assess the writing style, tone, and overall quality of your book before purchasing it. I think it’s better for people to not buy a book than to buy it and leave a bad review or return it. Or both. This transparency results in a deeper level of trust and increases the likelihood of a positive buying decision.
- Building Confidence: By showcasing a preview of their work, authors can demonstrate their expertise and writing prowess to readers. This is particularly valuable in nonfiction where the author is working to establish themselves as a subject matter expert.
- Discovery and Visibility: This is a biggie to me: The Look Inside feature enhances a book’s discoverability. When a book offers the Look Inside option, it appears in search results and on various recommendation lists, thus increasing its visibility to potential readers.
- Opportunity to Hook Readers: The initial pages of a book play a crucial role in captivating readers’ attention. A compelling opening can lead to readers eagerly purchasing the full book to continue the story or delve deeper into the subject matter.
Cons of Using the Look Inside Feature
- Potential Spoilers: As mentioned, Amazon shows more of the beginning of a book to avoid potential spoilers, but it’s an automated system. Authors need to be cautious about the content they choose to showcase in the preview (i.e., by showing less or not using the feature). You need to check your Look Inside to make sure there are no spoilers. Revealing the big idea of the book or all of a process that the book is teaching might dissuade readers from purchasing the book.
- Limited Preview Length: The Look Inside feature usually offers only a limited portion of the book, typically a few pages or chapters. For longer or academic/scholarly books, the preview might not be sufficient to give readers a complete understanding of the work’s content and quality. You can increase the maximum preview length of your book if you feel it needs it.
- Formatting Issues: Books with complex formatting, such as graphic novels or those with intricate layouts, may not display properly in the Look Inside preview. This could lead to people thinking their “reader experience” will be poor, i.e., the interior formatting sucks. If your formatting is fine but the previewer makes it look like crap, deactivate the feature. This is usually not an issue, but if you have a lot of images, graphics, etc., it could be. Just something to look out for.
- Reduced Sales for Shorter Works: For books with shorter content, providing a preview might cover a significant portion of the book. (But man, that would be a really short book!) In such cases, readers might feel satisfied with the preview alone, leading to lower sales for the complete work.
Three Ways to Leverage the Look Inside Feature
- Use Blurbs: Because the Look Inside features shows the first few pages of your book, it’s a smart idea to put a page or two of blurbs/endorsements from your readers there. You can send your book to people in your industry, you can have an Advance Review Copy team, you can solicit peers and colleagues to read your book and give you a “blurb.” There’s a reason why the “big” publishers put blurbs on the back covers of books as well as the first few pages: Blurbs are basically third-party endorsements and provide social proof that the book will be worth reading.
- Your TOC: Another way to take advantage of the Look Inside feature is to have a smokin’ hot table of contents. You want your chapter titles to be catchy, engaging, thought-provoking. You want subheadings in your TOC because they let the prospective reader know what they’re going to find in the book. You may cover some things in your book that your prospective reader hasn’t considered yet—a strong way to hook someone.
- Build Your Email List: Put a freebie downloadable URL/link in the front matter of the book. Even if someone doesn’t buy your book (right now), they may go and download the freebie. When they opt-in for the freebie, you collect their name and email address for your list. They may not like you enough to buy your book (or services) now, but as you send out helpful content to your list, their trust in you grows, and they are more likely to move from potential buyer to buyer.
Amazon’s Look Inside preview lets readers know what to expect from you and your book. It can help your ideal readers find and connect with you. Being able to look inside gives readers a “try before you buy” experience and makes them feel that much more confident in their buying decision. This is one of the best marketing tools for your book—and it’s free! Use it well.
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