The Potato Chip Test

Do you keep tempting people to read one more page?

I hadn’t plan to listen to the music festival’s next band. It was about supper time, and I needed to catch a bite before the following group played.

My expectations for the Ellis Island Boys weren’t high, but I decided I’d hear their first tune. A bright, catchy number, it matched the performers’ style. They not only played with excellence, but they also made eye contact with the audience –– and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I decided I’d stay for one more tune. It followed the first one perfectly. So did the third, and the fourth –– all the way through their hour on stage. Over the next days, I caught three more of their shows.

What did they do right? Everything. The players were professionals, masters of their craft. They used their skills not to show off their own talent, but to entertain their audience. They chose distinctive tunes and performed them with a unique instrumental voicing.

I told someone, “Listening to just one of their songs is like trying to eat just one potato chip.”

Or I could compare them to a well-crafted book.

You don’t have a full chapter to get readers hooked — not even a full page.

Authors don’t have the luxury to take a full chapter, or more, to get readers hooked. They don’t even have a full page.

Open any published book and you’ll see. The typography on the first page gives you only a few paragraphs before readers encounter their first point of decision: Should they turn the page and keep reading?

For readers to stick around, your first sentence, first paragraph, and first half-page must pass the potato chip test. Do they offer tasty, engaging content to make readers crave more?

To keep people keep reading through to the end, start by opening a bag of chips.

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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