How to Nail the Writing of Your Nonfiction Book Introduction
The introduction section of your nonfiction book is critically important for your sales because most readers won’t read past it if they’re not sold by then. In essence, your introduction should be nothing short of a sales letter. How you go about writing your book introduction will make the difference between a book that moves the needle and one that gathers dust on the shelf.
In this article you’ll learn the eight steps required to write the perfect sales letter for your nonfiction book. Your book introduction is an important document tasked with engaging your reader’s attention early on by tapping their curiosity as you build your case why they must buy your book. Let’s get started.
Step 1) Hook Your Reader in and State the Problem
The first step in writing your book introduction is to hook your reader’s attention. You need to tantalize them by writing a good hook that will capture their attention and make them want to keep on reading.
There are many different types of hooks that you can write, for example:
- You can begin your introduction by writing a thought-provoking open-ended question, the answer for which contains the solution to their problems (it could be something like “Why do 90% of people who go on a diet end up gaining back more weight than what they took off time and time again?”)
- You can begin your introduction by writing a story that relates the life of a fictitious character who suffers from the same problem afflicting your reader. The main goal of your story is to convey to them the emotional journey of someone they can relate to. It could also be something from your personal life that shows them how you overcame their problem, or the story of a client. If you chose the latter, make sure that all personal information is fictionalized for legal reasons.
- You can begin your introduction by writing a quotation by a public figure or authority that reflects on the problem your book will solve. By using this type of hook, you get to project the credibility of the public figure onto your book’s thesis through the power of association.
- You can begin your introduction by writing about a statistic that illustrates a controversial piece of information that goes to the crux of your book and, by extension, the main source of your reader’s problem. Make sure to know that this statistic can be verified externally; better yet, provide a clear reference in the footer.
Step 2) Now Tease the Solution
Once your readers are hooked and know that your book will address their problem head on, you can tease the solution, but do it in a way that doesn’t disclose critical information. The main point of your book’s introduction is to make your readers curious enough to want to buy it, but not to find out how your secret sauce works.
If you reveal your solution in your introduction, even a summary of the solution, they won’t feel the need to read any further.
For example, you can write something like: “This book will show you the step-by-step approach used to overcome _________ permanently.”
Step 3) Let Your Readers Know Why They Should Listen to You
You’ll be writing this part of the introduction to establish your credibility. Here you can outline the actions and information that led to your discovery. You can certainly make this part personal in order to create a good bond with your reader, but it’s very important that you never write about your own achievements and your pedigree.
This section isn’t about you but about how you came into your discovery in a way that makes you credible in the eyes of your readers. Having said that, feel free to convey your passion for the subject and why you’ve made it your mission to help others afflicted by this problem.
Step 4) Reveal the Roadmap and Show them The Benefits
In this step of the introduction, let your reader discover your roadmap to the solution they’re seeking. For example, you could write something like: “First, in chapter 1 you’ll learn the three ways to ___________. Then, in Chapter 2 you will learn how to __________. In Chapter 3 you will learn how to ____________.”
The goal of this step is to summarize each chapter into a statement of the benefits your reader will receive as they progress in your book.
Step 5) Support Your Solution with Social Proof
In this step of the introduction you need to build your reader’s trust in your book by showing them proof from other people who’ve benefited from the information you offer. Client testimonials constitute the most important source of social proof (incidentally, never make up testimonials!) and if you have a testimonial from a good authority, even better.
Make sure to first ask your clients for permission to publish their testimonials in your book and whether they want their names spelled out in the testimonials or only have their initials shown.
Step 6) Anticipate Objections
This introduction step is optional but can be quite effective. If you already know from your own research what the main objections from your target audience are, it’s always a good technique to dispel them first in your introduction using clear, factual and logically-presented information.
Your readers might feel jaded by solutions they tried before that didn’t work and may have their skepticism barriers up when they read your introduction. By providing a logical framework that explains why those objections are unwarranted in the case of your book, you’ll be encouraging them to take those barriers down.
Step 7) Entice Your Reader to Take Action
Now, as you near the end of the introduction section, you’re beginning your closing arguments – this is where you close the deal by making statements such as:
- If you follow the step-by-step process in this book, you’ll double your investment income in just 3 years….
- … you’ll lose weight and never gain it back
- … you’ll cut your credit-card debt in half
- … etc.
Step 8) Transition to Your Book’s Body
Finally, it’s time to wrap up your introduction by inviting your reader on the journey, wishing them well and using this opportunity to transition them to the beginning of your book: Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, etc.
As you can surmise from this article, the introduction of your nonfiction book is the second most important part of your book after the cover. If your cover makes readers want to browse your book and read the description, your introduction will make them want to click the buy button.
But for this to happen, it has to first capture your reader’s attention and convince them that your book has the goods to deliver them to the promised land. For this reason, you never want to write this section first, but leave it for last after your book is 100% complete.
What you don’t want to do is to write your introduction while your manuscript is still in flux (say, still going through editing rounds) because if the order of your chapters were to change, you’ll be forced to rearrange your road map in Step 4.
Also, you want to run several drafts of the introduction by an advance group of members from your target audience (preferably not the same advance reader group that gave you feedback on your book’s content). You want your introduction drafts to be read by fresh eyes that have never seen your book before.
By running your text by members of your target audience in this way you’ll ensure that you’re hitting all the right notes.
What you don’t want to do is to write your book introduction pretending to be one of your readers, even if the problem you’re solving has afflicted you in the past. For your introduction to be effective, you’ll need to get the feedback from people who are currently suffering from the problem.
Finally, while you need to allow sufficient writing space to cover all sections in a clear and convincing way, you want to use an economy or words to ensure your readers are engaged throughout the presentation. So, try to keep your introduction between 1.5 and 3 pages long.
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions about this article or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to write and publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghost writing, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.
Thanks for sharing excellent points about a non-fiction book introduction. I’m in the middle of writing my introduction (after writing my book) so the information was very timely and helpful.
I would like to someday publish my writings but I have no idea where to start. I love writing short stories, not really a fan of writing novels.