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Locked Last Chapter

Combination lock prevents readers reading the ending too soon
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So, place your bets: how many seconds after the final Harry Potter book goes on sale before someone opens their copy, turns to the final pages, scan them and then yells out, "Hey, Harry dies!" or "Voldemort gets eaten by a squirrel!" or "George Weasley is Harry's real father!" or whatever the ending might be?

The rest of the over-eager kids and kidults in the queue would probably find that pretty annoying. They might even hunt down the plot-spoiler and rip him or her apart limb from limb.

Even for Potterless novels, some people buy a book but find it hard to resist flicking ahead to read the last few pages to find out the ending. But that's like wanting to know how a magic trick's done, it's like junk food, it's like unwrapping your Christmas presents early - it's tempting, it gives you a quick buzz, but then leaves you with an empty, hollow feeling afterwards.

If, as an author, you'd prefer your readers don't do this, if you'd like them to build up their appetite before gorging themselves on the final pages of your carefully-crafted novel, then you should publish your book as a 'Locked Last Chapter' book.

In Locked Last Chapter books, the pages of the last chapter or so are tightly shut between two metal plates (or maybe just laminated card if cost's an issue). The outer plates, which extend slightly out from the rest of the pages, are held together by a combination lock.

On the preceding page, after the end of that chapter, there's a one-page quiz where the reader can find out the code to unlock the final chapter. The quiz ensures the reader has read enough of the preceding plot to be allowed to open the lock.

This could also be a good selling point for the first few authors to publish in this format - "The ending of this book is so exciting, we're keeping it secret! You have to read the book to find out the ending!"

--

An example question for the quiz might be:

"Choose the correct answer to find the first digit of the combination:

While he was tripping out on the 'magic potion' his brothers brewed for him, Ron ate:

A bag of every-flavour sweets = 0
His dinner = 1
His essay = 2
His wand = 3
His sock = 4
Hermione's cat = 5
Harry's owl = 6
Hagrid's dragon = 7
Snape's hat = 8
Dumbledore's beard = 9"

imaginality, Jul 19 2007

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       The Victorians did this with the serial.
ldischler, Jul 19 2007
  

       How about if you just publish the last chapter three weeks after the book goes on sale? You redeem the last chapter at any bookstore or (gasp!) on-line using a coupon included with the original book.
methinksnot, Jul 19 2007
  

       you don't need locks or metal plates - a simple paper sticker would suffice,
po, Jul 20 2007
  

       I never read it myself, but I heard that William Gibson released a poem that erased itself as you read it - hmmm, actually that doesn't apply here does it - carry on.
zen_tom, Jul 20 2007
  

       This would not even need any fancy technology. Just include three alternate endings. The real one and two fakes. Clues in the text could easily show an actual reader which one was real.   

       Middle of chapter 7 "Harry and Hermione agreed that a Green scarf would be their signal when they needed to find each other.   

       Chapter 15a "Harry looked around, saw Hermione in her blue scarf and....   

       Chapter 15b "Harry looked around, saw Hermione in her red scarf and....   

       Chapter 15c "Harry looked around, saw Hermione in her green scarf, and ...   

       Publishers could even print three different versions of the book, just changing the scarf color and the order of the last chapter versions. So that no one could say "Chapter 15b is the real one!" or "The version with the RED scarf is real!"   

       This would be a boon for the publishers too because the truely insane die hard fans would HAVE to own all three versions, even though they only differed in one word.
Galbinus_Caeli, Jul 20 2007
  

       A rat's ass = 10   

       A sharp pair of scissors with which to cut the lock off = 11   

       [+]
david_scothern, Jul 21 2007
  

       My girlfriend says this is good, it gets a bun. That´s how it works I´m afraid.
theleopard, Jul 21 2007
  
      
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