Here’s the thing with book conclusions: if the reader got all the way to the conclusion, then it means they read the whole book, they liked it, and now they want to wrap this up.
So don’t ramble on and on. Give them what they want.
The goal of the conclusion is to tie everything together, neatly summarize your book, and then provide a specific call or calls to action for your reader.
Don’t overcomplicate the conclusion—just let it do its job, and it’ll work great.
What a Conclusion Should Do
- A conclusion should clearly summarize the book. That’s the best thing you can do, not only to deliver value to the reader, but also to make the book memorable (and recommendable).
- A conclusion should address any lingering issues, and close any open loops. The reader should feel like everything is wrapped up in a bow.
- A conclusion should have a call to action of some sort. In essence, tell the reader what to do.
- A conclusion should point them to any additional resources you have for them that could help them.
What a Conclusion Should Not Do
- A conclusion should NOT introduce any new content. This should only be summarization of what is in the book. You can have new stories or anecdotes, of course.
- A conclusion should not be too long. The rule of thumb is that it should be the shortest chapter in your book.
- A conclusion should not break faith with the reader. Don’t tell them “operators are standing by” or try to sell them in a preposterous way that turns them off.
We like to outline the conclusion with this template:
- Restate the book’s thesis
- Summarize chapters
- Call to action: what should the reader do when they finish the book?
This is similar to what you put in the introduction, but instead of getting them to read the book, now you are wrapping everything up. This can be a story that summarizes the book, or you can close a loop from earlier in the book. But the point is, the reader should feel like the end of a movie, where everything feels nicely summarized.
By this time, you’ve mentioned a lot of different topics. Usually the easiest and most compelling way to begin the conclusion is by referring back to one (or more) of them. Or you can add another dimension to a story you already told or tie up loose ends.
Restate the book’s mission/thesis
This is pretty simple, but make sure you again restate the book’s thesis. People like repetition, it reinforces and brings home points.
This is optional, but most good non-fiction books do this. They summarize the key points so succinctly and clearly that the reader can’t help but understand your lessons the same way that you do.
You want the reader to think about and talk about your book to their friends the same way you do, and the best way to ensure they do that is to tell them precisely what to say to their friends. Put the words in their mouth.
Specifically, this is about nailing what it is you want them to remember about your book. What are the takeaways that really matter? How do you want them to talk about them?
Call to action
When they finish the last word and put the book down, what is the first thing you want your reader to do? This is usually the final word, and this is what you leave them with.
Note on the Call to Action
A call to action (CTA) is not required in a conclusion, but most non-fiction books have them. It’s usually the very last bit of the conclusion, the final word to readers, and it ensures they know what you want them to do.
Authors generally adopt a different tone with the CTA—one that’s not just more explicitly inspirational but is also framed as an imperative. The underlying message of the call to action is straightforward and empowering: now that you have all the tools, go out there and use them.
This is good, and readers tend to like it. Some authors feel uncomfortable including such a direct appeal to readers because they may feel it’s unprofessional, and they can be right (sometimes). Authors often want to be too inspirational in the introduction, and not enough in the conclusion. This is when you can really tell your reader what to do, and be very direct.
What you do not want to do is write a glorified sales brochure. The last thing you want to do here is try and pitch them something of yours to buy.
Think about it—you’ve spent the whole book earning their trust, and now you sell them?
Don’t do that. Most importantly because it doesn’t work very well.
Readers are smart. They’re interested in your topic because they’ve picked up your book, and they’ve already read pages of your knowledge and expertise. They can form their own conclusions when it comes to contacting you.
If you want to ask them to contact you, though, do so authentically—from a place of trying to help them, not yourself. Tell them you want to hear from them, or assist them moving forward. If your website or the name of your firm is in your bio or About the Author page, that’s sufficient. Give them your email in the conclusion if you like, and you are sincere about responding to them.
Ultimately, your goal is to provide so much value to them that they respect and admire you and your work, and choose to contact you because they have sold themselves, not because you sold them.
Some authors want a more explicit CTA, such as directing readers of the book to a specific landing page. This can work, as long as the page you are directing them to gives the reader something.
A key here is to give them something that they don’t feel should have been in the book. For example, a map or chart that is additive, but not crucial, to the content is great (and it doesn’t have to be in the introduction).
What you don’t want to do is give them something that makes them think, “Why isn’t this in the book?” That just breaks faith with the reader.