1. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    The "Look Inside" feature - a writer's best friend

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by BayView, Jul 2, 2016.

    I just realized how often I use the Amazon "Look Inside" feature (other booksellers have similar functions) not as a reader, but more as a writer.

    So often we rely on second-hand advice about what works or what doesn't, what's selling or what isn't. But with a totally free, totally convenient "Look Inside", we can get first-hand knowledge of how the books on the best seller lists are being written. We can't get novel-length understanding (like, we won't get a great idea of pacing or plot construction or certainly not of resolution) but we can see a lot about writing style.

    Possibly this is something everyone else takes for granted, but I thought I'd mention it, just in case.

    Does everyone else use "Look Inside"? Any great epiphanies gained through it?
     
  2. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    It gave me a really good feel for first paragraphs, how hard (or soft) to hit the reader over the head. :)
     
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  3. Brindy

    Brindy Member Supporter

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    I often 'look inside' too, especially popular fiction, to see how they start. I think it's useful to see the way different writers approach things. I sometimes check early and later work to see how their writing has changed as well. Can be quite interesting.
     
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  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It is a really good feature!

    Unfortunately with self-published books I've found it unreliable. Very often the first three chapters are polished and the fourth (which you generally don't get to see from Look Inside) nosedives. I see the same in beta reads all the time.

    Edit: Sorry, that was obviously from a reader's perspective. I've never thought of using it as a writer - intriguing!
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I agree, it's dodgy as a book-selection tool. But it's pretty good for free writing research!
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Interesting - it gave you the EXACT same feeling yesterday...
     
  7. Mike Kobernus

    Mike Kobernus Senior Member

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    I do this not only with books I want to buy, but for books that are selling well. Also, I frequently look up other indy writers on Amazon, and use the feature to determine just where they stand in terms of writing ability. For example, I would not take advice from someone who switches between 3rd person past, and present tense within the first few pages.

    But I agree it is an easy way to get insight into popular author's modus operandi, when it comes to openings.
     
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  8. Scot

    Scot Senior Member

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    I do this occasionally and the two biggest put-offs are sloppy dialogue, including punctuation, and tense changes. One book I sampled had POV changes every other paragraph. I had no idea who the MC was after a couple of pages.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    I just had a though on this...

    If novels with the Look Inside feature were set up the same way non-fiction books are, we could read the first few paragraphs, then skip along to later in the book to see if the quality holds. Now it's just a matter of convincing a multi-billion-dollar corporation that this is a good idea.
     
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  10. esshesse

    esshesse Member

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    Great post!
     
  11. Crybaby

    Crybaby Active Member

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    I use this feature having been sucked in by a great blurb only to find the quality of the writing embarrassing further on. The look inside feature is good for what Bayview mentioned, but I have been burned by this as a paying customer. I downloaded a book that seemed great first few pages in and then, all of a sudden, the writing changed dramatically. It was like reading a first draft. Money grabbing shits. It shouldn't be allowed.
     
  12. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    This is the main reason I'm a big fan of agents simply READING the start of all submitted works, rather than requiring the slick salesmanship of blurb query letters first.

    I almost never buy a book (either fiction or nonfiction) if the Look Inside feature isn't activated—no matter how wonderful the blurb sounds. I've been burned too many times.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that would work as well.

    If I'm buying a nonfiction book to use for research purposes, a table of contents is pretty much essential. I like a look at the index as well. These things help to tell me if the book actually covers the subjects I'm researching. The writing style isn't as important to me as the content.

    For fiction, though ...I really want a notion of the writer's style. Either random pages or the first chapter or so will do.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    In fact, that's exactly how I decide whether or not to buy a book when I'm in a bookstore. I almost NEVER read the first page. I thumb through the book reading snippets here and there. If it looks interesting, I'll buy it. That's why I'm not a complete fan of the notion that the first sentence must seize the reader by the throat, in order to sell the book. Obviously the opener needs to work and needs to make me want to continue reading. But it doesn't sell the book to me. Unless, of course, I'm buying online and the opener's all I've got to judge by.
     
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  15. Amy Brahams

    Amy Brahams New Member

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    I also have gone through the "Look Inside" option and served me well.
     

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