When it comes to writing a book, most authors put so much time into the content of their book that they completely overlook their introduction.
And it’s easy to see why…
Many readers skip over the introduction and dive right into the first chapter, so authors may assume that it’s not worth spending too much time on.
But this is a mistake.
A well-written book introduction can be a powerful tool you can use to convince readers to actually read your book.
And that means they’ll actually reap the benefits of your great content and go on to improve their business or life–which is a huge reason you wrote your book in the first place. But writing a great book introduction is not always easy. If you need help, consider using a professional editing service like Paperwritings.
A poorly written book intro, on the other hand, can convince readers not to read your book. It can be so dry and boring that you’d actually be better off if readers didn’t read it at all.
Luckily, there’s a proven framework you can use to write a book introduction that:
- Readers actually read
- Convinces people to read your book
- And further sells your readers on your expertise and authority
And that’s what I’ll outline in this post.
The Purpose of a Book Introduction
The purpose of a book introduction is to answer a HUGE question every reader asks before reading a book…
“What’s in it for me?”
Your book introduction is an opportunity to sell readers on the idea that your book is worth their time and attention. It’s where you convince them that you’re about to give them something incredibly valuable that they won’t want to miss out on.
But, unfortunately, many book introductions fail to do this effectively. They simply summarize the book or provide some background information without giving readers a compelling reason to keep reading.
This isn’t the role of your book intro–which is why many readers skip over the introduction entirely or let a book collect dust on their shelf.
Your book introduction is more of an appetizer.
It gives readers a little taste of what’s to come and excites their hunger for more.
Approach your intro with this perspective and you’ve already won half the battle.
How to Write an Introduction for a Book: My Time-Tested Framework
The process for writing a great book intro is very similar to writing a great chapter.
Your goal is to create an “Open Loop” that hooks your reader and leaves them wanting more.
From a big-picture perspective, this happens by starting with the climax of a compelling, relevant story and ending the story somewhere in the book itself.
Here’s how you can implement this psychology-based principle–found in movies, novels, and more–in your intro.
Step 1. Select Your Story
Stories keep readers engaged. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction–90% of readers will get bored and maybe even stop reading without stories.
Our desire for stories is simply ingrained in our psychology as humans.
That’s why the first step in writing a great book introduction is selecting a great story or anecdote.
Your story needs to be:
- Compelling – it needs to have some drama, twists and turns, and more. It doesn’t need to be something off a soap opera, but it needs some amount of conflict to grab readers’ attention.
- Relevant – it needs to be relevant to your entire book. You want to set the tone for why you wrote your book, how you learned the lessons you’re about to impart, and more. Your goal is “opening the loop” for them to read your entire book. Then, in each chapter, you’ll open other, smaller loops to keep readers engaged.
- Short – there isn’t a hard and fast rule here–you just need to keep your introduction brief. You want the story you use here to be powerful even if you condense it to just the necessary details. You can expand on the story little by little throughout the book from there.
Step 2. Open the Loop
Drop readers right into the middle of your great story. Start your introduction right before the story’s climax.
This triggers a desire for the reader to “close the loop”–meaning hear the rest of the story and fill in the gaps.
And the stronger the hook you start with, the more your readers will engage.
That’s why many TV shows start with the car dangling over the cliff–the moment of highest tension.
So, how can this look in your book? Especially if you’re writing a business book or something where you don’t have an obvious “dangling car” moment?
Analyze the plot points of your story to find the moment of highest tension.
You don’t have to have this crazy high-stakes hook, you just need to find the best hook you can with the story you chose.
For instance, maybe you’re telling a story about how you started your business.
You could start by describing the emotions you felt when your checking account was nearing $0 and you had no clue if it was going to work out.
Or maybe you’re teaching your readers how to use a new framework or concept.
You could start your anecdote at the moment of highest uncertainty–when you decided to go full steam ahead with this new concept and weren’t sure how it would play out.
Simply look for the moment in your story that had the most conflict or tension and start right before the climax.
Step 3. Content
Usually, you would go straight into the concept you’re trying to teach here. But since you’re writing a book introduction, your “content” is the big-picture idea you’re writing about in your book.
You want to give your reader a picture of how your book came to be, what problem it solves, and the effectiveness of the solution it presents.
You aren’t teaching in your introduction–you’re selling.
Give your reader a short pitch on how reading your book will improve their life.
Step 4. Plan How You’ll Close the Loop
There’s no best answer here. The right strategy on closing your loop depends on the nature of your book and the story you chose to use.
A lot of introductions in business or self-help books tend to open a big-picture loop that is closed at the very end of the book.
But this often plays out in many different ways.
Some authors choose to use their introduction story in each chapter because it’s so meaty and can tie into each concept.
Others wait to close the loop until the very end of the book and use smaller stories to open new loops with each chapter.
The choice is ultimately up to you. But either way, your goal is to keep your reader engaged until the final page.
Book Introduction Examples
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is by no means a traditional introduction, but it’s one of the best for a reason.
Dale Carnegie’s one-page introduction contains only a list of what the book will help the reader achieve.
It’s completely focused on the reader, not the author, and compels anyone interested in these benefits to keep reading.
Your book introduction doesn’t need to be this simple, but this is a fantastic example to start with to get you thinking about being completely reader-focused.
2. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
After a brief introduction talking about the importance of the Shephelah region in ancient Palestine, Malcolm Gladwell dives into the most interesting details of the famous David and Goliath story.
He describes this high-stakes situation right before the climax where David and Goliath actually fight. He goes into detail about what Goliath said, his physical stature, and how David was basically the opposite in every way.
Dropping the reader in at this point in the story:
- Grabs their attention and alludes to additional details of this famous story they may not have heard before.
- Aligns directly with the bigger concepts he talks about in the rest of the book
FAQ: How Long Should a Book Introduction Be?
There’s no rule for this, but generally, you want it to be as short as possible.
Maybe 3-5 pages.
Can you have a 10-20 page introduction? Sure. Just keep in mind that your main goal is to sell the reader on reading your book.
You don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty of your content. Just give enough to sell the reader.
Your Book Introduction Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle
While a great book intro plays an important role in convincing readers to actually read your book, it’s only one component of writing a great book.
You also need to:
- Create a compelling cover
- Write a powerful title
- And create chapters that give incredible value (plus keep the reader engaged)
And all of that can be incredibly overwhelming.
That’s why I wrote my book Publish. Promote. Profit.–which outlines the exact process I used (and have helped countless others use) to write bestselling books.
It covers the entire process of writing a great book in much greater detail, and you can get your copy FREE if you cover shipping.