Starting Strong May Not Be Enough

Author and leadership speaker Robin Sharma says, “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

As humans, we start new projects strong, but often our efforts peter out when we don’t see results that meet our expectations. As writers, we can start a story or book strong, but keeping that strength in the story or writing until the end is difficult.


Companies that study book completion rates for readers find that readers’ attention often decays as they progress through a book. One of the benefits of ebooks, is that they can provide data on just how many readers complete a given book.

Jellybooks is one of the leading voices collecting data from readers engaged with ebooks. This company tracks all sorts of reading data. One of the pieces of data Jellybooks collects is how many chapters a reader finishes in a given book.

Most of Jellybooks’ data collection for reading completion rates is collected from fiction books. Fiction reading is linear. It is a story, so the reader starts at the beginning and progresses to the end. Nonfiction books, by nature, are not always linear. Readers can opt to read random chapters on the subjects that most peak their interest.

Jellybooks has found that readers don’t get past the first 50 to 100 pages for the majority of fiction ebooks they read. Wow. That is the majority not the minority. Of course, some books boast a higher dropout rate—up to 90% of readers give up after the second chapter, while some boast higher completion rates of 70 to 90+ percent.

Jellybooks is not alone in their discovery about fiction ebook reading completion rates. Other companies are confirming this data. Authors have about 50 to 100 pages to grab a reader’s attention and keep it. You must get your reader hooked and get them hooked fast.

The reasons readers don’t get hooked usually include:

  • The reader does not like the writing style.
  • The reader can’t identify with the main character.
  • The reader can’t get into the book.

Jellybooks feels that the cure for reading incompletion rates is to have a strong beginning that grabs your reader within the first 30 to 100 pages. I agree.

A strong beginning is important, but I believe it is not enough. A strong story throughout a book and a strong finish are also necessary. A strong finish is required to turn the reader into a fan. Turning a reader into a fan means that reader will seek out the other books you have published to also read. A win for you.

Related Posts:
Interesting Data on Reading
What Are People Reading?
The State of Fiction Reading

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2 thoughts on “Starting Strong May Not Be Enough

  1. I’m commenting about non-fiction and tangible books…

    Authors do need to consider how to keep their reader’s attention. I wrote a non-fiction book and did various things that I hoped would keep the reader reading. For example, I ended chapters with a lead in for the next, had an “intermission” in the book to clarify potential concerns if I was starting to loose the reader, etc. Whether I was successful, I am uncertain.

    However, can we totally blame authors? Sometimes, I think, readers are to blame. They just lack perseverance! We live in a modern age of entertaining, and if a book doesn’t grab on every page, the reader quits. TV and internet has affected our reading attention spans.

    I read mostly Christian non-fiction, and there seems similar stats as Jellybook for fiction. I acquire mostly used books, and many of these books were not completed. How do I know (or assume this)? Well, the first chapter alone has highlighting or underlining, and the rest of the book – nothing! And this often really puzzles me, as I find the said books worthwhile and finish reading them.

    Anyways, I am rambling…Thanks for your post and efforts to assist authors!


  2. Laura: I have seen statistics that say most people only 50% of a nonfiction book on average. So, it is real that people don’t finish them. For myself, sometimes I get what I need from the first half of the book and don’t feel like I want to spend time continuing to read. Other times, the book is not quite what I thought it was going to be about and therefore, I don’t finish it because I am not interested.

    Liked by 1 person

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