This neat little piece of advice is brought to you from the blog of Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents. Although it mainly applies to fiction novel writers, short story writers would do well to heed its message.
The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book. –Mickey Spillane
Agents, editors and book buyers only read far enough to make a decision.
If they don’t like what they read on page one, they won’t turn the page.
Book buyers may not read the second sentence of a book in a bookstore.
This leads to the need for “The S Theory of Storytelling” for fiction and narrative nonfiction that writers want to read like novels:
or Something Else
on page one must be compelling enough
to make agents, editors, and book buyers turn the page.
Your book will compete with all of the ways consumers can use their free time and discretionary income.
So every word you write is an audition to get your readers to read the next word.
Every line you write must convince your readers to read the next line.
Assume you have only one sentence to convince browsers to keep reading.
Every page you write must arouse enough interest to keep readers turning the page.
And you face that challenge on every page you write except the last one.
The last page must make readers want to read your next book.
Michael Larsen-Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents
Helping Writers Launch Careers Since 1972