However you go about writing your world-changing, business-growing book, most people might think that each chapter’s goal is to deliver that chapter’s information. But it’s not. Not if you want your book to produce tangible results, for both you and your reader. Each chapter of your book has a more important goal; one that too many authors miss.
Research shows that most books never get read beyond the opening chapters. And it’s even more of a problem with non-fiction books, where readers tend to quit as soon as they hit a sticking point.
Why is it such a problem if they don’t finish your book?
Because the compelling promise of your book has created a psychological contract with the reader: give me your time and I’ll give you a transformation / experience.
If they don’t finish the book, that contract is broken – and few readers will look in the mirror and take responsibility for that. They risk holding it against you.
Also, if they don’t finish the book, they’re less likely to take whatever action is your most wanted response from readers. So you miss out on the opportunity of getting to work with them.
In fact, aside from the kudos and ego of being able to wave a physical product around at networking events and on stage, there’s not much point in writing your book, unless you know how to get people to actually read it.
Most authors focus on marketing and launching to get people to buy their book. But the real goal should be writing it so that they buy it and then read it.There's not much point in writing your book unless you know how to get people to actually read it. Click To Tweet
The most important goal of each chapter in your book is to get people to read the next one.
So I’m going to start with a confession: I didn’t consciously realise this one until after I had written my first novel (my sixth book), You Take Yourself With You.
It was my author-dream-come-true when the first reviews came in and people were describing my novel as ‘unputdownable‘.
I knew it was a good book, but it’s always nerve-wracking as you stand in front of the Headmaster’s office, after sending your manuscript to print, wondering if you’re about to get praise or punishment.
And as more and more of those ‘unputdownable’ reviews came in, it suddenly hit me that, whereas I had consciously chosen to make each chapter of You Take Yourself With You make people want to read the next one, I had never applied that process to my non-fiction books.
The most important goal of each chapter in your #nonfictionbook is to get people to read the next one. It needs to be #unputdownable. Find out how.Click To Tweet
Imagine how much more likely a reader would be to read your book to the end if you could consciously weave in ways to make your book ‘unputdownable’ – to get each chapter leaving them hungry for more?
If you think back to the non-fiction books you have read in the past, most of them have chapters that end that topic, all neatly wrapped up, with no more to say about it.
That’s the equivalent of reading book one of a series of novels and there being no loose ends to entice you to read the next one.
Some of them have summaries at the end of each chapter and perhaps an exercise or some questions to help the reader to integrate and apply what they have just covered. These are incredibly useful for facilitating learning, but they’re like the world’s biggest ‘full stop’ when it comes to reading. They pretty much scream at the reader to ‘put me down and go and do something else for a bit!’ And, guess what: it makes them less likely to come back.
So What Can You Do To Make Your Book Unputdownable?
I’m not suggesting you should end your chapters mid-discussion or that you should ditch the summaries and learning integration exercises – but there are some super-easy things you can do, if you start to think like a novelist, instead of like a non-fiction author. It’s a matter of writing mindset.
Imagine if you could approach your book like a novelist, rather than an expert?
It’s all-too-easy to fall into the trap of writing like an academic paper, because it’s a non-fiction book. If, instead, we put our story-teller’s hat on, it would be easier to weave into the book’s flow the triggers that make someone want to keep reading.
The biggest trigger to keep someone wanting to read is curiosity.
In a novel, you can do it with a cliff-hanger or an unanswered, unspoken question or a teaser of what might be to come.Just because it's non-fiction, it doesn't mean it has to be dry and boring. Put your story-teller hat on to make your book unputdownable.Click To Tweet
In a non-fiction book, you still need to have a hook at the end of each chapter that entices people to read the next one. It needs to create an emotional connection so that your reader is invested in the next stage of the process.
It might be a case study that is left hanging on a problem that is solved in the next chapter.
You could have a discussion about applying that section’s insights and then outline another aspect of it, which becomes your next chapter.
You could use the classic fiction device of a teaser – like a film trailer – as a couple of lines at the end of the final page of your chapter.
Ninja tip: as you read non-fiction books – or look back at those you have loved in the past – keep notes of what makes you hungry to read more, vs ready to put it down to perhaps never pick up again. You might be surprised by the inspiration this can give you.
Note: if you’re on my From Expert To Author Mastermind, then the deep-dive how-to for the reader journey and structuring your book (including making it unputdownable) is in module three.
And There’s A Hidden Benefit
There’s a hidden benefit to making your non-fiction, expert book ‘unputdownable’:
Unputdownable books get talked about. They get raved about on social media. They create superfans who are ready to take action.
And surely that is every author’s dream?
I’d Love To Hear From You:
- What do you think makes a book unputdownable?
- How might you weave this into the structure of your book?
- And what have you seen and read that has worked for you, in the past?
Let me know via the comments.