How To Create Excerpt Books For Promotional Gifts


hard over excerpt bookYesterday, I had my first book signing/reading at Moultonborough Public Library, about an hour south of where I live. What an awesome day, too! For years, I’d heard nightmare stories about an author sitting alone at a table and no one showed, so I wasn’t expecting much. Still, I figured it was good practice for speaking in public, which makes me sick to my stomach.

I did the signing with another author, Marni Graff, who had four books in print. Four! And Marred, well, it’s not even available yet in Kindle never mind in print (which won’t be till 2016). What would I do? Sit there with my postcards like an idiot? No frickin’ way!

I went on all the promotional sites…Vista Print, Zazzle, Oriental Trading, etc…to look for something to give to potential readers. But who needs another pen or magnet? Two minutes out the door and they’d probably toss it in the trash. No, that wouldn’t work, either. Besides, it can be costly to buy this junk. And for what? It won’t sell your book. Isn’t that the point of doing the signing in the first place? Though I did buy postcards and business cards with my cover. I think all authors should have these in stock.

I needed to think of something that would sell books and work for a promotional gift. So I came up with excerpt books. They were a huge hit, too. Incidentally, if you self-publish and can’t afford to buy print versions right away, or publish with a small press who only publishes Kindle versions, you can use these excerpt books so you don’t have to miss out on book signings.

How To Create Your Own

As a writer my imagination sometimes is more creative than my ability to produce. As such, I had visions of elaborate mini-Marred’s (pictured above). Do yourself a favor and keep your imagination in check. I wasted hours. I will complete a few of these hardcovers for librarians as a lure for them to stock my book(s). I’ll let you know how it works.

For readers, I made soft covers.soft cover with business card See the business card as a bookmark? Works great!

before excerpt book
What they originally looked like.


First, I bought postcard-size notebooks (4″ X 6″) at the dollar store.  Then I printed the prologue and part of Chapter One, leaving the reader hanging at a suspenseful moment to ensure they bought the book. You wouldn’t want to give them a satisfactory ending because then there’s no reason to type that link into their search engine. No, leave them off at a moment where they must find out what happens next.

After that key point, when you’ve got them on the edge of their seat, hit them with the buy links. At the end I added a short note thanking them for their interest, my website and mailing list links. I didn’t include my social media links, but you could. The only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to overwhelm them with too many links.

Once you have the right section and your buy prompts, shrink to 4″ X 6″, which you can do in Word. It’s easieexcept pagest if you print four pages to each sheet of paper. If you can’t figure out how, I’ll walk you through what to do. Let’s say you could only print one excerpt page per sheet of paper. Then you’d want to take a clean sheet and glue your book pages to that so there are four to a sheet. The reason you want four to a sheet is because otherwise you’ll waste half a realm of paper. Save trees! Pictured on the right is one the printer screwed up, but you can get the idea.



Print your desired copies — I started with twenty — and then cut the paper in half and half again, so you end up with four tiny pages the same size as your notebook. Actually, my husband was in charge of the cutting. He took a straight edge and a razor knife and sliced ten page at a time. Nice and clean with no jagged edges. Perfect!

When I first started making these I had visions of gluing each page to the existing pages of the notebook, but soon realized glue sticks suck these days. Within minutes they curled and peeled. Not good. So I tore out all the pages of the notebook and left only the cover and elastic (you don’t need the elastic, but my notebooks came with it). If you buy your notebooks at the dollar store, this is a lot easier than it sounds.

See? The pages come out in one chunk.WIN_20151031_120104 Now my husband has paper for notes. Great for kids to scribble on, too!

Once you have the empty shell, you place your pages inside and staple along the spine. Take one of your cover postcards and, with Elmer’s glue, adhere it to the front of your notebook. The staples won’t show; don’t worry. I stuck a business card in there as a bookmark. And voila!

Here’s the finished product with the elastic…soft cover excerpt book Adorable, right?

Before the excerpt I included my back cover blurb and title page with copyright wording, except I reworded the first line this way:  “This excerpt book is for your personal enjoyment only and may not be resold.” Publisher, cover artist, editor, proofreader, same as in the actual book. And I left this wording too: “This story is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.” Not only do I believe it’s best to protect ourselves but I wanted it look as close to the actual book as it could.

The book signing was a huge success! We nearly filled the room. Each of us took turns talking about ourselves (which was when my stomach turned the most) and then our book(s). Then we each did a reading. I read part of the Prologue and half of Chapter One. Afterward we had a Q & A. People asked really great questions, too. Some asked about our process. I had people ask about my research, how I go about it and so forth. Some wanted to know how many hours a day we worked. Some wanted to know if we become our characters in order to write them. If we miss our characters once the book is complete. Wonderful questions!

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@SueColetta1″]DIY yourself project: Excerpt books for promotional gifts.[/tweetthis]

Lines of fans (yup, I have fans now. Yay!) formed in front of each of us, everyone chatting, signing, talking books. It was the best day ever! They loved the excerpt books, too. Because they couldn’t buy the book right there on the spot, this made them feel like they left with something special from the author. Personalized and signed. They all told me they couldn’t wait to place their order. I even had some folks who tried to pay me for them.

My husband carries a few excerpt books wherever he goes. When the subject of books comes up, which usually begins with him, he hands them one of these puppies and the next thing I know, they’re buying the book and emailing me to tell me they can’t wait to read it. They’re a wonderful solution when you don’t have print versions available yet.

Personally, I’ll always make these for upcoming novels. I can’t tell you how fantastic they work. People love the personal touch. They like to think of the work you’ve put into these excerpt books, something just for them, so they can have a special memento. And these folks are special. Without our readers, we’re nothing. The excerpt book is a nice way to show folks how much they mean to us. In my opinion, it’s the least we can do for them, especially while building our audience.

Yesterday, I fell a little in love with each and every person who approached my table. What a fantastic feeling! Now, I’m hooked. I can hardly wait to do another signing. My FB friends saw the photos, but I’ll post a few here too, for you. I look terrible in most of them. Oh, well.


Signing away, and lovin’ every minute of it.


Before the event Marni signed a book for me.


Signing and signing and signing…

book signing

She was the first person at my table. I’ll always remember her.


My reading.


Folks raved about my reading. I was so nervous, too.

Left side was full. Right side had quite a few too.

Left side was full. Right side had quite a few too.

Fans who already had me sign and wanted to chat. Awesome!



When there’s a line you try to write neatly, but there’s a feeling of being rushed.


About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine published her flash fiction and her short stories are published in numerous anthologies and collections. InSinC Quarterly featured her forensic articles about Radiocarbon Dating and Skeletal Differences. In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue's also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She's also a proud member of the Kill Zone, where she blogs every other Monday.


  1. A fantastic post. Must go see if my euro shop had some cheap notebooks to rip out and redo like you suggested. Thanks, Sue.

    • I’m so glad you found it useful, Mary. A euro shop…that strikes me so funny. I’ve never heard that term. I’m assuming it’s our equivalent of a dollar store. Have fun making them!

  2. Very nice idea. I am working on an excerpt covering all of the books in my line that I could give away as an ebook for signing up for my newsletter, but it didn’t occur to me to see one book done DIY style like this.

    We just did an appearance at the local craft show, and my wife baked butterscotch crunchies to give away. We also gave away the recipe, on the back of which was a list of our books. Everyone seemed to appreciate getting a copy, especially after trying a cookie!

    • Ooh, the crunchies are a nice touch, Bill. Get them high on sugar and go in for the kill. LOL Seriously, I’m so glad you found the post useful. If you decide to make the excerpt books, have fun!!

  3. I’m a stucker for all things handmade, and this book looks so nice. Very cool idea!
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  4. Great idea! Many thanks for sharing the details 🙂
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  5. I love this handmade idea to promote your book. Very cute!
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  6. Sue, oh my gosh, how did I not know you were doing this? If you set up another New Hampshire date…especially southern NH…I want to go! So glad to hear how well it went.

    • OMG, Liz. I was so stressed before the event I totally spaced inviting you. All I did was put a notice on FB seconds before I left the house. Next time for sure. We should do a signing together sometime. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  7. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are awesome. Proud of you Sue. 🙂
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  8. Sue, I’m so happy for the success of your presentation. You always put so much work in all you do. You deserve that success!

    And I love the idea of the book excerpt! If I will self-publish my novella, as I hope, I will definitely remember this post! 🙂
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  9. Clever, Sue! Very clever. You’ve blown the doors off my toe tags 😉 So… how does one get a signed Marred booklet?

  10. Sue, this is so cool. I love the idea of excerpt books and I’m doing the happy dance that you had a fab signing…and reading! Wow!!!! I’ve got to arrange one of these when I get back from my vacay (leaving tomorrow). I’ll look to you for tips. 🙂 Congrats, congrats, congrats!!!
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  11. Great idea, Sue. I found rubber cement works better than glue sticks. Elizabeth Aisling Flygare has her books spiral bound at Office Max. Now that you’ve passed you baptism by fire, you’re ready to sign and speak at Bouchercon and Thrillerfest.
    pauldaleanderson recently posted…Halloween WarningMy Profile

    • Rubber cement is a fantastic idea, Paul! And so is having them bound at Office Max. Originally I was going to bind them with leather strips, but this was way easier for my first time out. I’m sure over time they’ll evolve. Bouchercon and Thrillerfest? I’m sick just thinking about that many people in the audience. I think I need a few local signings under my belt first. How you teach and speak to large crowds amazes me. You know, it was a bit like baptism by fire. LOL

  12. Thanks for sharing this, Sue. I’ll definitely be making some of these 🙂

  13. That’s pretty cool. Labor intensive, but cool. When you’re uber famous these will show up on eBay anyway.

    All I managed to think up were paper dolls.
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  14. Hi Sue. Sounds like it went well. Looking forward to hearing about the release.
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  15. Oh, this is a fantastic idea, Sue! It’s perfect whether you’re self-published, with an indie publisher, or with a traditional publisher. And it doesn’t look difficult, either. Thank you so much for sharing. Oh, and I’m so glad you had a good experience with your book signing. Aren’t they great?!
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    • They’re addicting, too, Margot. The ooh’s and ahh’s from the audience were like a drug. I want to do them all over New Hampshire now. So much for my fear of public speaking. 🙂

  16. thelonelyauthorblog

    Best of luck

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