How to lose a reader
You see these two books?
I didn't buy 'em.
I have been burned by bad purchases, so now I sample books before I buy. If I like the sample, I buy the book.
Both of the books above failed the sample test and for the same reason: The 'sample' did not give me any of the book. No. Crewdogs wasted my time and exhausted my patience with a glossary of terms BUFF jockeys use. Mr Towery, the editor of the stories, could have put the glossary in the back of the book, but, no, it is up front, taking up the sample space. Mr Smallwood wasted the sample space of Warthog thanking everybody he talked to, all creatures great and small. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Put it in the back!
You wanna lose me as a reader? You wanna lose a sale? Easy. Throw your copyright notice, umpteen pages of reviews, your acknowledgements, your thank yous, your Twitter links, and your Christmas list into the front of your book where it will eat up your sample space. Keep me from reading one word of your story. And color me gone!
eBooks ain't paper. If it ain't story, put it in the back. If it was paper before, change the format to fit eReaders.
Shame, really. I love flying stories. Give me a half a reason to buy a flying book and I will. But I need half a reason.
How to lead
You see this magazine?
I don't know if you like science fiction, but if you do, subscribe to ClarkesWorld. Neil Clarke, the publisher, leads the way in eSubmissions and eMagazine publishing. Dr Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog, gave Mr Clarke credit for sharing his system and now Analog accepts eSubs.
More than that, ClarkesWorld is changing style and format to better fit eReaders. For example, the em-dash. Old style manuals dictate no space before or after an em-dash; thus, "[P]eople usually merely mention this fact—doing it in a way to make a body's mouth water—and judiciously stopped (sic) there." (Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi) But Mr Clarke saw that this style can cause some awkward format adjustments on the Kindle. To avoid those, he inserts a space before and after the em-dash; thus, "[P]eople usually merely mention this fact — doing it in a way to make a body's mouth water — and judiciously stop there."
I commend Mr Clarke for his wisdom. I shall adopt that style — a space before and after an em-dash — myself.
Do yourself a favor. Subscribe to ClarkesWorld. It's $1.99 a month. Money well-spent.