I’ve never downloaded the sample chapters from Amazon when looking for new books to buy. It was suggested to me the other day as a way of weeding out the dross when looking for Self Pubs to review.
I’m wondering if I should start, because clearly looking at the reviews is not a good indicator of quality.
The book I’m reading at the moment has an average of 3.96 on Goodreads with over 9000 ratings. I’m not convinced I’m going to be able to give it more 1, not because of personal taste or a dislike for the story (though to be honest, I’m five chapters in and a plot is yet to surface) but because it’s so poorly written. I don’t know who gave it all these 5 star reviews, but I’m starting to wonder if they were reading the same book.
If I had read the sample, I don’t think I would have picked it up. One page would have been enough to let me know the the quality of writing would be a problem. But does it always work?
I’m thinking about Can’t Live Without, which had a cracking first chapter, and no obvious grammar/clumsy writing problems. Three chapters would probably have been enough to grab my attention and make me want to read it. What I wouldn’t have been able to tell is how the story went downhill after that, with a rush of revelations I felt no emotional connection to.
Of course, this is a problem in traditionally published books as well. The first three chapters of Slated would have had me hitting ‘buy’ as quickly as possible. I would have been very disappointed (and annoyed that I’d spent my money) to find that the first half was great, but the second rubbish.
Is there any foolproof way of finding if a book is any good? Apart from reading it, I can’t think of one. Reading the sample might give us a clue, but I think I’d feel more cheated if I read three good chapters then was let down, than I feel frustrated that I’m reading something dreadful that I didn’t look at before.
What do you think?