Writing a Book: The Important Final Chapter

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Writing a good book is a long slog. It takes months of hard work to pull things together and make your thinking clear. It’s natural end to let up a bit as you get toward the. Don’t do it.

This Is Not the Time to Slack Off

When I ran track, we learned to “run through the tape.” Our coaches wanted us to ease up only after we had crossed the finish line. It’s the same with a book.

The people reading your book at the end are special. They’re the ones most likely to remember you and your book and the most likely to engage you for other things.

Most readers don’t finish the business books they start. You can see this for yourself if you use a Kindle reader. That reader lets you see “popular highlights.” Check those for any book that you’ve read. You won’t find many highlights beyond about 10 percent of the book.

The people reading the final chapter appreciate what you have to say. They’re also the people most likely to apply the lessons of the book.

There’s another reason not to slack off. There’s a cognitive bias called “The Peak End Rule.” Readers will remember parts of the book they liked or disliked.  They’ll remember the end of the book. The final chapter has an outsized impact on how readers remember your book.

Give them quality. The people who’ve read your book so far are valuable. Treat them like that. Here are some ways to make your final chapter helpful and memorable.

Summarize Your Key Points

Your final chapter should summarize your key points in 2000 words or less.  It should be brief and crisp.

Tie Up the Loose Ends

As you work through the summary, you’ll notice loose ends in the manuscript itself. Tie those loose ends up before you complete the manuscript.

Make Suggestions for How Readers Can Use Your Material

Include recommendations about how to use the book so your reader gets the most from it. Tell them what to do first. Identify the most important insights. Point them to the book website.

Make the Ending Motivational

Mystery writer Mickey Spillane said, “The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.” That’s perfect for mystery writers.

The rule is slightly different for business books. The first chapter still sells the book. People are likely to use the chapter as a guide to whether they will buy or read a book. The last chapter of a business book sells everything else.

What’s everything else? Everything else is your other books. It includes your training and speaking, or consulting services. In other words, the last chapter of your book is the part of the book most likely to generate the results you want your book to deliver.

Takeaways

Most readers of business books don’t read the whole book.

The readers of the last chapter are valuable. They read all the way to the end.

Readers will remember the last part of the book more than the rest.

Summarize your key points.

Share suggestions for how to use your material.

End your book with a motivational or memorable sentence or two.

Note: Thanks to Julie Winkle Giulioni. A conversation with her inspired the thinking that led to this post.

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