When it comes time to set up your author website, one page or component you’ll want to include is an excerpt of your book. Why? The excerpt is a marketing tool used to entice people to read your book.

What Makes a Good Book Excerpt

Because the point of an excerpt is to convince people to read your book, you’ll want to make sure that’s precisely what it does. A good excerpt will showcase your writing style and give readers an idea of what kind of experience they’ll have if they read the rest of the book. Give them tension. Make it interesting. Leave them wanting more.

It’s important to remember that context is everything; you wrote the book, so you know how it fits into the whole. Be sure that whatever portion of your book you share can stand on its own. Your excerpt shouldn’t confuse readers.

How to Choose Your Excerpt

The easy answer is to use the first chapter.

As the beginning of your book, it will guide your readers into what the book will be like. It provides a promise, if you will, of what’s to come. (Which is true for any first chapter, whether you use it as an excerpt or not.) It’s also one of the chapters most likely to stand on its own, especially with fiction and creative nonfiction.

Other nonfiction often has self-contained chapters, which means you have more options to choose from. The first chapter might be introductory, so selecting a later chapter—something with a little meat in it—can allow readers to judge how well your book might benefit them.

And contrary to what you may think, “giving away” this information (or excerpt) won’t hurt your chances of making the sale. It’s actually easier for readers to click the “Buy” button once they’ve been able to try your book out. It’s a bit like samples at the grocery store.

If you’re a nonfiction author, you might also consider placing your table of contents on your website. The table of contents gives your readers an idea of the scope of your book and how the material presented there might help them.

Additional Information to Consider

Most distribution sites and retailers (think Amazon or BN.com) typically allow book browsers to sample 10 to 20 percent of your book. While you can offer the same excerpt to your website visitors, showcasing exclusive content on your website acts as a special bonus for visitors. Who doesn’t love a special bonus?

If you select a passage from your book that’s not your first chapter, consider finding someone who hasn’t read your book yet to judge whether the excerpt truly stands alone. It’s absolutely vital your excerpt sells your book.