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“There’s no second chance to make a first impression.” Not only does this apply to meeting your future in-laws, it applies to readers first impressions of your book.
Alright…maybe not their first impression of your book, that comes from your book cover. However, their second-first impression is going to be formed while reading your book’s introduction.
It’s easy to think an introduction isn’t important because so many people skip them, but did you know your book’s introduction is actually a vital sales tool if you’re a non-fiction author?
In this article, we’re going to tell you how to write an introduction that will actually boost book sales.
But first, let’s talk about…
Why Your Book Introduction Is Crucial.
You’re about to learn about the most wonderful page in your book to boost sales. It’s going to be your secret weapon to stand out from the competition.
Amazon offers customers a chance to give your book a sneak peek before purchase. It’s called the Look Inside feature, and when shoppers click on it, they’re treated to a free preview of the beginning of your book. This means you’ve been given the opportunity to grab their attention and make them reach for their wallets.
This is why your book’s introduction is crucial to your book’s ultimate success. Readers will pick up your book and make a decision about you as an author and your book based on those first few paragraphs.
Introduction, Preface, Or Foreword?
Before you write an introduction, you first have to check if what you’re writing is actually an introduction. If you aren’t careful it might be a preface or a foreword instead. While this difference might not seem like much to you, mislabeling this section will signal your book as an amateur piece of work to your reader, harming your brand and sales in the long run.
So, what are the differences between an introduction, preface and a foreword? Where do you use them? Can you use several of them? We’ll go through these questions in detail.
Though they may initially seem the same, and serve the same purpose, a preface is different from an introduction. The author and/or editor of a book can write a preface, but no-one else can. A preface discusses how the book came about, the scope of the book, why the book was written, it’s limitations, and any acknowledgements the author or editor has.
What it doesn’t do is talk about the meat of the book. It doesn’t go into the subject matter, the point of view, or arguments that the book presents.
The purpose of a preface is to let the reader know how you came to write the book. Without delving into the book matter, it gives the author a chance to talk to the reader and let them know your story, why you decided to write this book, why the world needs this book right now (helpful if you’re writing about something that’s been written about several times before, such as the hundredth biography of a famous figure,) where you got your information from, and why you are the best author to write this book. If you have several editions of your book, your preface is also where you discuss why there is a new edition, and what’s different from the old edition.
An author’s preface requires tact; you can’t be too self-promotional. You have to address your selling points indirectly. This is why it’s best to have an editor’s preface or to have someone else write a foreword.
According to the Chicago Manual of Style, a foreword is written by someone other than the author or editor and is usually someone with authority to lend credibility to your book, with their name appearing at the end.
Think of a foreword as a letter of recommendation that someone with credibility writes for your book. It’s usually by someone the reader will respect, and the foreword will contain reasons for why the reader should read the book. There are less rules for a foreword than a preface, for instance it can talk about the subject matter if the foreword writer desires. However, forewords tend to be short, usually one or two pages.
Many non-fiction book deals wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the foreword. Publishers are less likely to offer a major advance to first-time authors as they are untested. However, this becomes a different story if they can secure a foreword from someone of influence, (known as foreword deals in the industry.) John Romaniello (with his co-author Adam Bornstein) was able to get an advance of more than $1,000,000 for his first book, Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha, a practically unheard of amount for a first-time author. How did this happen? John credits securing Arnold Schwarzenegger to pen the foreword as a factor that helped.
An introduction differs from the previous two as:
- It’s written by the author
- It does talk about the subject matter.
An introduction can include everything that would be in a preface; how the book came about, the scope of the book, why the book was written etc. However, an introduction also supplements the subject matter of the book. Whether by presenting a point of view the reader should take, outlining to the reader what is to come, or by teasing the writer’s conclusions.
What They Do.
Each one of these exist to sell your book in the opening pages. They exist to hook a reader who flips to the beginning of the book and give clear reasons why they should read on to the end. A potential reader or buyer will judge whether your main argument, point of view, or tone of voice is worth reading on your introduction, preface, or foreword. If someone they admire recommends your book in the foreword, they’ll sit up and listen. If your preface reveals some main sources that have never told their story before, they’ll be curious to read more. If your introduction shows that you’re a great writer and you know what you’re talking about, they’ll give you a chance by reading more.
Since we’re dealing with non-fiction, we haven’t discussed prologues or epilogues, though they have the same purpose; to hook the reader and sell them on why to read on.
Where Do They Go?
So, do you only have to choose one for your book? No.
Your book can have all three if you want, though you don’t want to go too overboard, as your reader might end up skipping it anyway, or might feel like you’re trying too hard. Getting a foreword can be a lot of hard work if you don’t have the network or credibility to get an influencer to write one for you. And if your reader ends up skipping it, it’ll be a waste of your time.
But if you want to have all three, this is where they appear in your book, (relevant sections are highlighted in bold. We provided a comprehensive overview of a book’s matter for reference:)
(Each point gets at least its own page.)
- Half title page (Sometimes called the bastard title, it’s a page that has nothing but the title. No subtitle, or author name.)
- Blank page (Or “Also by the author…”)
- Title page
- Copyright page
- Dedication (Optional.)
- Epigraph (Quote, or poem that highlights the theme of the book. Can be before main text. Optional.)
- Table of contents
- Book quote (optional: A quote chosen by the author based on the subject matter of the book.)
- List of illustrations, tables or maps (Optional.)
- Foreword (Optional.)
- Preface (Optional. Editor’s preface comes before author’s preface if you have both. If you have a separate preface for a new edition of the book it comes before the old preface.)
- Abbreviations (Optional. Or in back matter.)
- Chronology (Optional. Or in back matter.)
- Introduction (Optional.)
- Prologue (Optional. Not applicable to non-fiction.)
- Epigraph (or after dedication and before table of contents. Optional.)
- Another half title (Optional.)
- Main text
- Epilogue (Optional. Not applicable to non-fiction.)
- Afterword (Optional.)
(These are all optional.)
- Acknowledgments (Yes that’s spelled correctly. There isn’t an “e” before ments here.)
- Chronology (Or in front matter.)
- Abbreviations (Or in front matter.)
- List of contributors
- Illustration credits
- Colophon (Optional brief statement by the publishers on the book’s production, where it was printed etc.)
- Authors or Editor’s bio
- Invitation to review the book [Usually found in eBook formats asking readers to consider a review if they liked the book]
Don’t panic if your book doesn’t have up to half of these sections. Many of them are not necessary unless you are writing for a higher education audience. What matters is knowing where your foreword, preface, and/or your introduction needs to go in your book.
How Your Book Introduction Will Help You Sell Books.
Your introduction serves two goals. Think of your first 1,000 words as the foundation for the rest of your book’s chapters. Writing your introduction is going to be a useful exercise to help you distill down your ideas and to succinctly encapsulate the message of your great work into a few, short paragraphs.
The second goal of your introduction is to act as a sales pitch to intrigue readers so they’ll buy your book.
It’s intimidating, yes, and a lot of pressure is riding on just a few paragraphs. This is why writing your introduction can be one of your first major stumbling blocks as an author. This article is going to help you overcome this significant hurdle so you can continue merrily on the path toward your finished manuscript, and ultimately higher sales of your book once it is published.
How to Write a Book Introduction: 8 Steps.
Self-Publishing School created a roadmap, much like we did for mind mapping and outlining, to nail down that book introduction—and also to jumpstart your writing process for the rest of your chapters.
As we go through these 8 steps to writing your introduction, we’re going to use the example of a book called How to Get College Scholarships. As you read, take notes, and insert your own book’s topic into your thinking and note-taking process.
Step 1: Identify the Problem.
Don’t dance around the problem. What’s the problem your book promises to solve? State the problem clearly for your readers from the outset. Be straight-forward, unambiguous and concise when you identify the issue that readers hope you can solve for them.
Don’t try to be all things to all people—you want readers to know the specific problem your book will solve for them.
Using our example of How to Get College Scholarships, the problem is simple: college is expensive, and scholarships seem out of reach to most high school students.
Step 2: Present the Solution.
Now that you’ve identified the problem that readers are struggling with, you’re going to make their day by telling them you’re going to share the solution in your book. You’ve helped them with a problem AND you’ve revealed that your book holds the solution on the first page. Your book’s going to be a winner!
Directional phrases such as, “In this book, I am going to show you …” or “This book is going to solve your problem by …”
Thinking back to our example, some solutions we’d present in our book would be teaching readers how to write a good essay so you can stand out from the competition, and how to find and apply for the top scholarships.
Step 3: Assert Your Credibility.
Now that you’ve presented a problem and posted a solution, your next step is to convince your readers that you, the author, is qualified to help solve their problem. You need to build your credibility and provide readers with a reason to trust you and follow your advice.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- Why should people trust you?
- How do you know about this topic?
- Why are you passionate about writing this book?
Sharing your own struggles and how you overcame them is the first step to building rapport with your readers
Step 4: Show Them the Benefits.
How will your book improve your readers’ current circumstances? Now’s the time to really sell them on how reading your book is going to change their life for the better.
Sold! Who doesn’t want a better life? (It’s rhetorical: We all do!)
You’ve briefly touched on the solution—in our case, how to write a great essay and how to apply for scholarships. In this part of your introduction, you’re going to go a little deeper and explain what good things will happen if your readers take advantage of the information you present in your book.
In short, tell your readers what they’ll get—what knowledge or skill they will gain from reading your book and how that’s going to impact their future for the better.
In our example, the benefit of our book is that readers will go to school for free and live a life without the financial burden of student loans. Readers can achieve their dream of getting an education, without breaking the bank.
Step 5: Give Them Proof.
Show your readers the proof of why your book is the answer to their prayers. Give the most tangible and relatable proof you can provide.
In our example, we might share how we put ourselves or our children through school on scholarship. We might also include testimonials from other people we know who followed our advice and got a free education.
Step 6: Make a Promise (The Bigger the Better.)
Don’t make a promise you can’t keep, but make the biggest promise that you CAN keep. Aim high.
To come up with your promise, circle back to your books’ purpose—what is the problem your book is solving? Now promise that this book with solve their problem! It’s that easy. You need to be able to deliver on your promises, but don’t be shy in stating what they will get in return for reading your book.
While we can’t promise someone they’ll be awarded a scholarship (after all, their grades will have a big impact there,) but we can promise that we will increase their chances of getting a scholarship by showing them where to find them and the steps to take to apply.
Step 7: Warn Them Against Waiting.
You need to create a sense of urgency so your readers know that if they pass on your book, they will regret it because readers will miss out on something really good.
A sense of urgency is created by two magic words, “RIGHT NOW!”
In our example, we would urge people to start well ahead of the scholarship application deadlines so they can submit the best applications they can. Don’t delay, or others who are in the know will snatch up those scholarships! So, let’s get started on getting you a free education RIGHT NOW!
Step 8: Prompt Them to Read (Call to Action.)
You want readers to continue reading your book the second they finish the introduction. To do that, you have to hint at the juicy secrets your book will reveal to them that will change their lives. You want to intrigue them, and hint at the exciting revelations you’re going to make inside the book. They will have to buy it in order to find out.
Here’s how to craft a compelling Call to Action to prompt them to read your book right away:
The scholarship tips and tricks you’re about to read have proven results. Each chapter provides new secrets that will help you stay in control of your financial future AND get a leg up on the competition for scholarships. If you follow the formula we reveal in this book, it’s highly possible you can enjoy the rest of your life unburdened by debt.
Time to Get Started
There you go—not too hard, is it? By applying a few principles of psychology as you draft your introduction, you can demonstrate to your readers how and why they need to read your book, right now. Take advantage of this one chance you get, to explain in a few short paragraphs how readers will benefit by reading your book. They will thank you later, after they buy your book and they’re reaping all the benefits of taking your advice.
- Joel Friedlander’s Unabridged List of the Parts of a Book, a great resource on an amazing page of articles by The Book Designer
- What’s the Difference Between a Foreword, Preface, and Introduction? (Donald Bastian, BPS Books)
- Forewords, Prefaces, and Introductions: Where to Begin? (Carol Saller, Lingua Franca, The Chronicle of Higher Education 4-5-12)
Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and use them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!