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Short eBooks as Samplers

One of the common strategies I see larger publishing companies taking with short ebooks is to use them as samplers for a larger series. While I strongly dislike the practice of breaking something that is properly a novel into several small "novellas," I enjoy series of novellas and I enjoy the sampler approach. The difference is that in the latter two approaches, the short ebook stands on its own. It has a full story arc, and comes to a statisfying ending within that arc, even if it is clear there is more to the overall story.

I may write about series of novellas in some later post. Today, I want to highlight some of my favorite short ebooks that function as samplers for a series of novels.

My first exposure to the practice came with Cathrynne Valente's The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While. This was one of the first short ebooks I found when I started looking for them, and it cemented my love for the form. It is a delightful story, and I didn't even realize it was part of a larger series until I decided to start this site, and went back to the Amazon listing to leave a review.

Two other samplers I think are delightful on their own are:

A Market Tale, by Martin Walker. This is a story set in the world of a larger series of detective novels. There isn't a mystery in this story, but it showcases the rest of what (presumably) makes that larger series so popular: the author's ability to capture the aspects of small town French life that make it unique and so appealing to many people, and his well-drawn characters.

Kia and Gio, by Daniel José Older, which is set in the same world as his Half-Resurrection Blues. This story is a wonderful showcase for Older's unique style of urban fantasy,but it also stands completely on its own, and is just a great story.

Finally, I want to metion Jphn Scalzi's Unlocked, which may be the only sampler on this list that functioned the way the publisher hoped: it made me go out and buy the longer book to which it is related. I intend to read the longer books associated with the other books on this list, but I haven't gotten to them yet. I bought Lock In almost as soon as I finished Unlocked. However, this was a special case. I had already heard a lot about Lock In, but was a little creeped out by its premise. Reading Unlocked convinced me that the premise wouldn't give me nightmares, and left me really intrigued about the larger story.

I'm sure there are other samplers I've read and haven't realized are samplers (or at least am forgetting that they are samplers right now). I know that there are a lot of samplers out there that I haven't read: they are particularly popular in some of the action/thriller series, and that is not a genre I read a lot. I think it is a great use of the short ebook format, and no doubt I'll be recommending more in the future!

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