The old saying that you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression is totally appropriate when applied to a book’s introduction.
While an introduction may or may not appear in a fiction book, it’s an essential tool in hooking a potential reader for a non-fiction work.
An example of why that’s true is Amazon “Look Inside” feature, which allows potential buyers to see part of a book before a potential buyer makes a purchase decision. That part often, if not always, will include the book’s introduction. This is your chance to hook a potential customer.
An introduction versus a preface or foreword
The purpose of each of these potential pieces of front-matter is to promote or sell your book—by hooking a reader in the early pages. These sections inform a potential buyer about your main thesis, perspective, voice, etc. If someone has written a recommendation in the foreword, the reader may look twice.
Preface—The purpose of a preface is to share why this book was written, the scope of the text, and its value to the reader. It may also share any limits of the scope of the book and any acknowledgments. This is something that only the author, or sometimes the editor, can write. However, a preface does not discuss the content of the book or its point of view. If this book is a new edition of a previous writing, the preface may share what’s different from the previous edition(s). But caution: While you’re trying to persuade a potential customer to buy your book, you need to be subtle.
Foreword—A foreword is a recommendation written by someone other than the author or editor, who’s respected or has authority or credibility. That person’s name usually appears at the end of the foreword, like a signature. The content will present reasons why this book will be important or valuable to read, and it’s usually short (maybe one to two pages). Unlike the preface, the foreword may discuss the subject of the book. One interesting purpose of a foreword that’s written by someone with influence is to help “sell” the book to a publisher. That’s especially true for new authors.
Introduction—The introduction, as opposed to the preface and foreword, is written by the author and actually discusses the subject of the book. In fact, it can actually supplant both of these other sections by including why this book was written, its scope, value to the reader, etc. More importantly, an introduction can provide an outline or overview of the book’s contents and can be a teaser of what’s inside. When you think about it, writing an introduction can be useful to help you distill your ideas and can succinctly encapsulate the message of your work into a few, short paragraphs.
How to write an effective introduction
- Identify the problem—As any scientist or engineer learns, you can’t solve a problem until it’s been clearly defined. So, you need to clearly and concisely state what specific issue your book deals with, and how it will help the reader in some way.
- Present the solution—So, you need to tell the readers that by the end of your book they’ll be provided with a solution.
- Emphasize your credibility—You now have to convince a potential buyer why you’re qualified to provide that solution. This is the place to assert your credibility and share with readers why they should trust you and your advice. It’s also a good place to share and demonstrate your passion for your subject.
- Show readers the benefits—It’s important to inform readers what new knowledge or skills they’ll gain, how they’ll improve, what problem will be resolved, or how this book will make their lives better in some way. You can make a promise to your readers, but don’t make a promise that your book won’t be able to keep.
- Provide proof—Share a few examples of how the content of your book has worked.
- Create a call-to-action—You want your potential buyers to read your introduction and be so taken that they’ll want to read more. By providing the above elements, you should have intrigued them and hinted that there’s more to come in the body of your book. Let the reader know that now’s the time to get started, and that buy owning your book they’ll be on the way.
Writing an introduction may appear daunting, but once you get the idea from the above suggestions, it’s not really all that difficult—and it can be very rewarding. By applying some of these principles, you get to share with potential buyers what they’ll get and how they’ll benefit from your book. Your introduction can effectively help sell your book.
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