Hi. I was checking out another author's page at crimespace, was interested in reading first chapters of her novels online, and asked if she had them up. She said she didn't, and also didn't know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing to do so. What do you think? My idea is that sharing your first chapters is a good way to show other crimespace members your writing style (and a little about your personal style). Also, I think it gives readers a chance to approach your work in a more leisurely manner than scanning first pages in the book store. Any thoughts?

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If the book is published, then posting first chapters sounds like a good idea. If the work isn't published, then it shouldn't be posted - with the exception of the exceptions wherein some bloggers have turned posting chapters online into book deals. So the answer is a definite It Depends.
Grant, I would love to hear some specifics about how bloggers turned posted chapers into book deals. It's my sense that more and more business is being done electronically rather than via the traditional query letter with SASE, sample chapters by mail, etc. I plan to post chapters ASAP - but first I need to launch my website!
I think it's a great thing for readers - you can get a taste and decide if it's your thing while still on the couch in your jammies (which booksellers may or may not object to. Probably depends on the jammies). And the easier it is for me to discover and get involved in a book, the more likely I am to buy it, unless it truly isn't my thing.

But you probably should make sure it's okay with your publisher since they generally have the rights to first publication of print and electronic versions. I think they'd be loony to say no - but hey, my thesaurus gives "loony" as a synonym for "publisher" so who knows?
When a new-to-me author makes an interesting post anywhere online, or I run across an author whose work I think I want to read, but I'm not sure if I want to expend the time and significant gas cost to drive to the bookstore to invest in that book, I like to go online and read the first chapter. I can quickly learn if it's my cup of tea or not, and if it's a book I have to have right now. If no first chapter is there, I don't often bother to look them up later, unless reminded by something else.

And for me, with such a significant delay between my old series and the new series coming out next year, it's a good thing to have online (the first chapters of the old series. I wouldn't post the first chapter of the new series until right before publication date.) I can hand out bookmarks, cards, etc., and direct potential readers to that site, hopefully picking up a few new readers along the way, even though I'm not actively touring or promoting (though you never stop, even between books).
I agree with online posting for several reasons. Most of all, to show your writing style, to gain feedback, crticial or otherwise, while you can still make changes. Readers like instant gratification..if they are interested in the synopsis, they want to see some part of the the book as soon as yesterday.

If you are concerned about other writers copying your work, at least with it being posted, the more exposure it gets, when it shows up someplace elese, those that have seen it posted as a part of your work can attest to the fact that it's yours. Welll....assuming you aren't the one that lifted it from some other writer...ooops.
If you are unpublished, don’t bother to post any works in progress. While it is possible to get an agent or publisher that way, it is much easier to get them by sending queries. Get your work out there with a short story. Gets a similar payoff and prevents any of the “has this work been published anywhere before?” questions. For a more snarkly opinion, check out the famous Miss Snark’s post on the subject ( http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2007/04/stop-wasting-your-time.html).

For a published author, there is a caveat. Review your contract carefully and see how many words you can post without it becoming an excerpt. A few contracts I am aware of put limits between 5000-7500 words that can be posted without permission. Better safe than sorry.

Personally it can be a nice introduction to a new author or one who writing a new series. But if you want to post a chapter or two, try to make it as reader friendly as possible. A nice formatted PDF, for example, is easy reading and is more likely to be printed off and shown to friends of the reader. And most importantly, make sure it doesn’t have spelling or grammar mistakes. Just as people might be impressed by a nice flowing style and great character development, they might be put off by those mistakes.
I got permission from my editor to publish first chapters on my web site. It was given enthusiastically. Publishers like to sell books. I got the idea after running one of my out-of-print stories. Readers liked this and I got a bit of extra publicity when one web site chose it as the best historical mystery short story. Since my web site gets quite a bit of traffic, I think it's a very good idea.
From a publisher standpoint... absolutely. We enthusiastically encourage it. It's cheap advertising, unless the book is no good, and, well, we wouldn't publish it if it was.

We also encourage people to podcast their books, sell chapters to magazines, leave photocopies of them in your local grocery stores, and whatever else the authors come up with. I'd even be tempted to offer a pdf of the whole book under a creative commons license if the author knows he/she can play that angle up and get people interested. This works better for us if we have a two-book deal, and can capitalize on the second book...
Oh, I like you folks. You are enlightened, smart, hip, AND you publish Donna Moore.
The upside would be having friends and acquaintances able to take a peek. The downside would be (if they don't know you well but bump into your website) someone might read it, think "hey, I like it!" but (naturally) fail to find a copy for sale. Then, when they are browsing over a year from now, they might pick up the book, read the opening paragraphs and say to themselves "huh, I think I already read this," glance at the handsome but familiar-from-somewhere cover and pass on the sale.

So I'd share with friends but pass on putting it at a public website.
I think it's a good idea to post an excerpt from your latest novel, but I'm not sure about an entire chapter. One page is enough for people to tell if they like your style or not. If they do, they'll buy it. If not, they'll quit reading anyway.

Morgan Mandel
I include the opening chapters or excerpts from my published books, but not my work in progress. Personally, I don't recommend people post their unpublished works (partially or in total) on their websites or blogs or whatever. Posting unpublished work can create issues, such as rights issues to name one (a particular problem when it comes to short stories).

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