One of the essential parts of your non-fiction book is your introduction – it sets the tone for your book and helps your reader understand what it’s about. But introductions can be tricky to get right – you’re aiming to pull your reader in and inspire them to read the rest of your book, not bore their socks off. No pressure, then!
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the job of an effective introduction for a non-fiction book, as well as the three must-haves I always recommend authors include to really make it stand out and the one thing that causes writer’s block.
The job of an introduction in a non-fiction book
Your introduction has a few important jobs to be effective. It must:
Hook Your Reader
The first sentence of your introduction is crucial because it sets the tone for the rest of your book. You want to grab your reader’s attention and make it impossible for them to put your book down and go and watch a cat video on Instagram.
One way to do this is to use a hook.
A hook is a statement or question that piques the reader’s interest. For example, if you’re writing a book about menopause, you could start your introduction with a startling statistic about the number/percentage of people going through menopause at any given time.
Shock and awe also work wonders to grab your reader and pull them in. If a statistic doesn’t float your boat, the opening to a compelling story can work brilliantly, too – often, your own experience is enough to get the reader’s attention.
2. Provide Context
After you’ve hooked your reader, it’s essential to provide some context, i.e. giving your reader an idea of what your book is about and why it’s important. You should also provide some background information on the topic you’re writing about.
For example, if we continue with the menopause example given above, you could provide a brief overview of the history of menopause in society and why it’s taken so long for it to be spoken about more openly.
3. Establish Your Credibility
Readers want to know that they can trust the author of a non-fiction book – particularly if you’re using your book to enhance other areas of your business (which you really should be, BTW).
Establishing your credibility in the introduction can help build trust with your reader. This means telling your reader why you are qualified to write about the topic you are writing about. And before you panic that this means you must have a PhD or Masters degree, I want to stop you right there.
Experience is enough. Being further down the road than your reader is enough. Plenty of happy clients is enough. Yes, degrees can help stamp your authority, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of writing a non-fiction book.
For example, if you’re a mid-life coach working with clients going through menopause, and you’ve found strategies and techniques that work for them, you are qualified enough to share this with others and help them, too.
4. Preview Your Book
After you’ve hooked your reader, provided context, and established your credibility, it’s time to preview your book. This means giving your reader an idea of what they can expect from their reading experience.
You should briefly summarise the main points you’ll cover in your book, helping your reader understand what they can expect to learn from your book.
But what does this all really look like in an introduction?
Now you know the job of the introduction, you might be wondering what all this theory looks like in practical terms. Don’t panic; here are the three sections I always recommend authors include and what to write for each of them.
Your Story – start the book off with a story – preferably yours. Why? It builds the credibility of your work and that important know/like/trust factor the reader wants. Yes, it’s all well and good to list your credentials, but actually walking in your reader’s shoes? That’s where the gold is.
Share your journey – especially the challenging bits and how you overcame them. Your readers will love you all the more for it.
Why you wrote this book – now you’ve shared your story with the reader, it’s time to turn your attention to them. This section is incredible at making the reader feel like the hero – you’ve shown them your journey; now it’s time to explain why this has inspired you to help them.
Focus on how they’re feeling right now – as they sit there at the beginning of their journey. Talk about emotions and show empathy – include your promise to the reader here, too.
How to read the book – while the first two parts of the introduction rely heavily on emotions and connection, this section is frankly more practical. You’re explaining how the book is laid out and why.
If you’re structuring it in a particular way, tell them why you’ve done it like this. If you’re using case studies, let them know. Tell them if they need to read it from start to finish before attempting any of the exercises. If they can dip in and out at their leisure, now’s the time to share that with them.
Why have this bit? Because you’re managing their expectations. And while it seems boring, people need reassurance and guidance – even on how to read a non-fiction book!
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by writing the introduction, so much so that it can cause writer’s block. But there’s a very effective way to prevent this.
Write your introduction last.
Yup, it sounds crazy, but it works. Why? Because then you’ll know what you’re introducing! It’s super hard to try and introduce something you’ve not written yet, particularly if you’re still working on the structure.
But once it’s time to write it, use the subheadings I’ve shared above to help you structure your introduction. I guarantee your readers will feel compelled to read the rest of your book as a result!
If you’d like support with writing your business or non-fiction book, get in touch and we discuss the different ways I could help you.