How to write a great introduction

Picture of blue neon light on dark background spelling 'hello'

Introducing your book well is vital to grab readers’ attention and gain traction.

Think of it this way: when potential readers are ploughing through numerous books on online platforms, they can experience overwhelm.

What they’re looking for is a title that speaks to them.

And as an author, you don’t have much time to engage that audience.

Your introduction will be one of the first things readers see as part of your online book preview (e.g. the ‘Look Inside’ facility on Amazon).

Readers check this to decide: (a) if your book is right for them; (b) whether it’s interesting and sufficiently relevant to them to invest their time and hard-earned.

How you set out your stall for your book can heavily influence their motivation to buy, so that first chapter has to be really good and sell, both you as an author and your value proposition.

Before going any further, it’s worth mentioning that a preface and introduction are not the same (for more on this, see here). A preface briefly discusses how the book came to be written, what informed its creation. It doesn’t go into the actual content or what it’s going to do for readers – that’s where your introduction comes in.

Here’s how to create a snappy intro that turns book browsers into buyers – and, hopefully, your very own loyal author tribe.

Give them a brief outline
It’s fine not to go into great detail of your content here, we’re just talking precis: a teaser.  Don’t give it all away; instead, whet the reader’s appetite with the promise of your content.

If you’re writing a how-to guide or practical book, appeal both to their emotions and their rational side: let them know you see and understand what their pain points are, and discuss how this book is going to solve these for them.

Be honest
But – and this is really important! – don’t oversell, make outrageous claims or promise things your book genuinely isn’t going to deliver.

Trust and authenticity are key: non-fiction readers – businesspeople especially – are a savvy bunch. Employing hyperbole is by far the fastest way for them to feel cheated – not only into having bought your book, but believing in its offer.

The aim should be for readers to come out of your book raving that it did exactly what it said on the tin for them: that it’s useful, engaging and fantastic.

Establish authority
Tell your own story, and position yourself as someone who has the expert knowledge to solve their problem.

If you have a system, outline it briefly, so the reader sees that by the end of the book they’ll have a clear process to follow and practical takeaways.

Be reassuring: let them know that it is possible, they can address their issue and the book will guide them through it.

Write a strong sign-off
This is something I often see as an editor: chapters that end somewhat abruptly, saying what they need to say but without a clear pathway forward.

Segueing readers smoothly into the next content is a significant part of navigating them through your book. This is an important mark of good construction and narrative flow, as it avoids stopping the reader in their tracks.

At the end of an introduction, you want to pique their curiosity, entice them to continue. End the chapter with upbeat, positive feeling and a sense of embarking on a journey through the problem or process together, side-by-side, by encouraging them to read on.

This can be as simple as a brief sentence or short paragraph, but do ensure you include one. It’s also a valuable strategy for online preview, because it plants the thought in readers’ heads to discover more of what you’ve written and have to offer.

A solid introduction is a great way to make your book stand out from the crowd. When readers respond and hit ‘buy’, you’ll know it’s doing its job.

For more handy tips and information on editing and preparing your book for publication, see my free mini-guides!

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