Sunday, 11 July 2010
Rough online preview chapters - good or bad idea?
Some time ago I read the opening chapter of Blake Charlton's Spellwright on his website. It was a rough version that - I think - was unedited.
I didn't think much of it at all, and decided largely on the basis of this rough chapter that the book wasn't for me.
Fast forward a few months, and I chance upon a hardback copy of Spellwright in my local bookstore. So I picked it up and scanned the first few paragraphs to remind myself why I didn't like the opening chapter.
Instead I found myself thinking, "Hmm, actually...this isn't bad at all."
Obviously, the chapter I read in the bookshop was the finished version - it had gone through the extensive editing process, and had been polished, polished, and then polished some more.
The result was that I changed my mind and decided that maybe I would give Spellwright a shot after all.
So the question I'm asking is this: is it a good idea for an author to post up rough, unedited sample chapters of their debut novel on their website? It's a trait I'm starting to see more and more of, yet I question its value.
Based on my own experience, I'd have to say no. It's very hard for debut authors to make a significant impact - for every debut that causes a buzz, there are a dozen that barely cause a ripple. Why make it harder for yourself by showing everyone your rough, unpolished prose?
I suppose the counter argument is that perhaps a lot of readers will like the sample chapters, and they act as a sneak preview sort of thing, which some readers appreciate - and this may even help create some buzz. But for people like me, for whom strong, stylish prose is highly desirable, it has the opposite effect. I don't really like the majority of writers' polished prose, so showing me your rough version is not really advised.
There are certainly two sides to this argument, and I'm interested to see which side people fall on.