January 23, 2023
If you’re writing a nonfiction book, a book introduction is essential. It offers a summary of what’s ahead. More importantly, it gives the reader a reason to continue reading your book. Here’s how to write a book introduction that will keep them turning the pages.
In a nonfiction book, the introduction works as a marketing tool for the book. It is directed at the ideal reader of your book, that is, the person who’s turning to your book to learn something new.
Although it should be well written, it doesn’t need to be flowery or overly descriptive. It should be clear and to the point. It serves three purposes:
Although every introduction is a little different, the best ones share these characteristics. If you’re having trouble writing your introduction, write down this list. Make your way through each element one at a time as you think about your ideal reader.
The key to writing a good introduction is to remember that it’s a sales tool. Most novels don’t have introductions because readers already have an idea of what the plot is. They don’t need to slow down and read an introduction because they already know they want to read the book.
In a nonfiction book, however, the reader will read the book introduction before deciding whether they want to continue reading your book. Readers of nonfiction books have a practical approach. They want to know why they should choose your book over the many others on the same subject.
The book introduction is your chance to sell this reader on your book. Typically, you only have a few paragraphs or pages to make your case. Make the most of your opportunity by spending time crafting a sales letter that will make readers stick with you.
Some nonfiction books have pages and pages of front matter before you get to the start of the book. This is especially common in academic books, histories, biographies, and books that deal with contested social issues. The authors of these books spend time preparing the reader for what’s ahead.
What is all this front matter? Here are the usual things you’ll find at the front of a nonfiction book.
Although it looks the same as an introduction, a preface serves a different purpose. It focuses on the reasons you wrote the book. It describes what inspired you to write it, touches on the research you did, and expresses hope that the reader will find it useful or engaging.
The preface should also discuss the reasons the book is a necessary contribution to the subject area. If you’re covering a topic that has been written about extensively, explain why your book stands out and why the world needs it.
A preface does not get into the book’s subject matter the way an introduction does. It doesn’t go into your opinions, perspectives, or arguments. Leave those for the introduction.
You don’t write a foreword for your book. The foreword is written by someone whose name can give your book more credibility. If you’re a first-time writer on a subject or not a recognized expert in the field, a foreword from an expert will help market your book. Their name on your book is like a recommendation to readers.
How long should your book introduction be? That’s a question many writers struggle with. The answer is that the length varies on the subject and the complexity of the book.
The introduction for a self-help, how-to, or advice book should be short. Readers of these books want to get straight to the meat of the book, so grab their attention quickly and hold it.
The best way to engage a reader’s attention is with a descriptive story. If you are writing about how to solve a particular problem, start by describing someone who had the same problem and successfully overcame it. Use one or two stories that illustrate this point. It should be a relatable story that makes the reader think, “If they can do it, I can, too.”
Plan for an introduction that ranges from 500 to 1,200 words.
A nonfiction history or biography should focus on why the book is necessary. There may be new information that’s been uncovered about the subject. Your book might challenge a long-held view of the person or subject. It might be a contrary position that you back up with evidence and argument.
Book introductions for these books are typically longer than those for how-to books. Readers of a history or biography might be new to a subject, but many of them are already familiar with the person or topic you’re writing about. Use the introduction to make your case.
You should probably count on writing a book introduction that ranges from 1,200 to 2,000 words.
However, don’t get hung up on the length. If you can create a compelling introduction, the length doesn’t matter. Always focus on selling the book to your potential readers.
Your book introduction should start with an interesting story, anecdote, or major event that grabs the reader’s interest. This could be something that happened to you, or it could be a historical event. It should be compelling and have all the elements of a great story, including a plot, characters, conflict, and resolution.
Why should your reader trust the information you’ve presented in your book? You can’t assume that every reader recognizes your name or knows that you’re an expert in the subject.
Use a compelling personal story to explain why you are the best person to write it. Don’t brag about your accomplishments, but be straightforward about your background. Describe an event that made you realize a book was necessary.
Don’t go into too many personal details unless they specifically relate to the subject. In some cases, your personal experience may be the strongest selling point.
The introduction is your opportunity to explain what the various parts of the book are. Describe what the reader can expect in each section or chapter. Summarize what you think the reader will gain from reading your book.
A solid introduction can help you sell more books. Professional printing is another strong selling point for readers. When it’s time to print your nonfiction book, count on Publishing Xpress for fast, expert service.
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