John B. Thompson contends in Merchants of Culture that whereas publishers previously engineered all “marketing and publicity effort” — including advertisements, author interviews, and book reviews — to
break at the time of publication . . . the theory being that this would maximize the public’s awareness at the very moment that the book appears physically in the bookstores. But in the new media environment of today, marketing managers and publicists will often try to build the marketing campaign over time, getting people talking about a book and generating interest and excitement well in advance of publication. (p. 249)
This pre-publication publicity means that readers are made aware of some titles before the books are available for purchase. So one may read a glowing review of a book, skip and hop eagerly from the review over to one’s favorite book retailer only to find a sign like this
While I think it’s quite reasonable that publishers promote books before they are published, I don’t understand why they don’t release small excerpts/samples of the books at the same advance date. Is my belief that nothing sells a book like the book itself unfounded? Why would publishers send out free galleys to reviewers, pay for costly advertising, sponsor expensive author tours, yet all the while withhold a sample chapter? Why would publishers spend all this money out of pocket and not take advantage of a relatively costless and (I think) greatly effective marketing tool that is releasing a free sample?
Are they held back by egalatarian concerns? Perhaps publishers feel that releasing an advance sample to big retailers with established web presence like Amazon and Barnes and Noble unfairly disadvantages independent bookstores? If so, can the publishers not host the samples on their own websites so that customers of indie bookstores can access them as well as those of the big e-retailers? Is this not preferred? The authors get more exposure; the readers make more informed choices; the publishers profit. So, why aren’t advance samples released for every book to coincide with other promotional measures?