by Dan Walsh, @DanWalshAuthor
Last month, I submitted Part 1 of a 2-part column about The Power of the Review. I highlighted some exciting news that one of my novels, Rescuing Finley, had just passed the 800-review mark on Amazon (while keeping a 4.8 Star average). A month later, it’s added an additional 113 new reviews, most of them 5 Stars. And–supporting my premise that strong reviews boost sales–the novel is still selling very well.
I ended the column talking about endings. Specifically, how important great endings are in motivating readers to WANT to write a great review. I was freshly reminded of this dynamic this week, as my wife and I watched yet another potentially-great movie on Netflix that we had previously never heard of. Don’t recall ever seeing it in the theaters and have never heard anyone ever talk it up (like friends, for example). It had brand name actors, a great premise for the story, great production values, and kept us on the edge of our seats the whole time.
Well, not the whole time. But for at least 97% of the time. Then guess what happened? We watched THE ENDING. And we instantly realized WHY we had never heard of this movie before.
The ending STUNK!
We were angry, both of us. That whoever had produced this film had the gall to ruin it with such a dismal and dumb ending. That we had wasted 2 hours time watching it. The movie instantly went from receiving a 5-Star review to 1-Star in the last 5 minutes. This has happened SO many times. But it doesn’t just happen with movies but also potentially great books.
What do you think the chances are that a reader will want to take the extra time to post a great review of your novel if they hated the ending? Or even if they didn’t hate it but found themselves frustrated, bored or indifferent about the story when they finished the final page?
I’d say the chances are slim to none.
The good news is…the opposite is true if you take the time to craft a great ending for your book. Readers will often, totally on their own, want to give it a great review. Or if they’re not thinking about it, they might easily be encouraged to do so after reading one of your back pages inviting them to (with a link).
The late bestselling crime fiction author Mickey Spillane said, “Your first chapter sells your book. Your last chapter sells your next book.”Which provides a great segue to my first suggestion: Spend as much time crafting your novel’s Ending as you do its Beginning. Don’t leave anything to chance (even if you’re a pantser). Take the time to think it through. Don’t just hope it all comes together, because without serious effort, it may not.
You want readers’ reaction to be what I’ve used as this month’s Title: “Don’t say it’s over.” You want to create a growing, intensifying climax over the last 75 pages or so, forcing the reader to keep reading at a frenetic pace (because they must, to find out what’s going to happen). Then you want the ending to be thoroughly satisfying, so that now they’re sad it’s over.
But see, that kind of sadness is a good thing. Because it quickly converts to total delight. And the reader’s next reaction is to find out if this author has written any other books. And even if they got that book for Free (or seriously discounted), they’ll be willing to pay good money for the next one, and the next (assuming they’re all written equally well).
I know this is true, because that’s what happens to me, as a reader. And that’s what dozens of other readers have told me they do when I ask them about this when I speak about Writing Great Endings.
And…I follow this strategy myself, with every book I write. Including the one I recently finished, Saving Parker, which is available for pre-order now and releases on November 15th.
Why not share some of the better book and/or movie endings you recall (as well as some bad ones that totally ruined the experience for you).
After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy is terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he decides to take him in. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free and Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell tries to hide a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He was also bullied as a child, the main reason he became a cop. But, really, what can he do? A series of tragic events occur. What vital role does Parker play in bringing these three lives together?
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 18 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 4 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 42 years. You can find more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.