There are a set of touchpoints that the reader moves through in making the decision to buy a book. Their journey starts with the front cover with the title, subtitle, and design of the cover itself. If the cover appeals, the reader next reads the book description, either on the inside flap, back cover, or the retailer’s website. If the reader’s interest continues, they look through the opening pages, maybe the table of contents. And finally, they start reading the book, sometimes with the introduction, but more often, the first chapter.
Bringing a focus to the importance of the throughline requires looking at those touchpoints as more than standard parts of the book. The untapped opportunity is for those touch points to act as interlocking pieces that draw the reader into the book.
Think about a book as machine made out of paper. The purpose of the machine might be to tell a story, teach someone to bake bread, or deliver the definitions of words. Each of those machines requires different parts. You might use different user interfaces. As you think about the throughline, you want to figure out the best combination of components and how to optimize each component toward the end mission.
If you look at the Table of Contents as more than a list of existing chapter titles, you might see the need to revise opaque names or add descriptions to summarize the chapters. Endorsements might shift from notable figures in the author’s network offering generic praise to a group of people who represent the reader’s aspirations and whose praise further reinforces the message of the book. The first page of the book creates the first impression, but what do readers see? A half-title page, followed by a full title page, a copyright page, a dedication page, the table of contents, and possibly a page of additional praise for the book. What would happen if the very first page of the book opened with an idea for the reader?
A book is a product and there is an opportunity to better design the product for the reader. There is a similar opportunity to build marketing into the book to help it sell itself. Think about how you can on-board your readers through building a clear and compelling throughline.
- Pull your five favorite books off the shelf and look at what they did to build their throughline. Being a fan, what could they have done better to pull you into the book?
- Look at the dimensions of those same five books – the width and height along with the thickness. Does the shape of each book further reinforce the throughline or is there conflict with the mission of the book?
- Read my analysis of The Passion Economy and how the throughline could have been improved.