Savvy marketing, a killer cover and an impressive bio are all designed to capture the interest of a writer’s target market. But once potential readers have the book in their hands then the first page or so will either lure them into reading further and buying it, or they will simply return it to the shelf. A good introduction is the hook which entices the reader to want more. It piques their interest, tells them what the book is about, and what is in it for them. A poorly written introduction is unlikely to convey the book’s message or enlighten the reader to the benefits of pursuing it.  It is like sending out the written equivalent of “blah blah blah”.  

Before starting, make sure you distinguish between a foreword, preface and introduction. They can be defined as follows:

Foreword This is usually written by another person – often an expert or a well-known author. It serves to endorse and lend credibility to the book and can spark interest. It will include the name of the person who wrote it together with the place and date.

Preface This is really about why the book was written and for the author to set out their credentials. It is particularly relevant in scientific fields. It is not always essential.

Introduction This should reveal and explain what the content of the book is about and how it can benefit the reader.

Tips for writing a good introduction:

  • Length – there is no hard and fast rule although three or four paragraphs seem to be quite common. A lot will depend on the type of book. Some introductions will need to be longer. A good idea is to research books in your genre and see what works well. Your aim is to sell your book not bore the reader before they have started to read it.  
  • Be informative and persuasive but succinct.
  • Focus on the reader. Explain clearly what the book is about and why it is important and relevant for them.
  • Provide background and brief details about the solutions/advice you are offering.
  • Personalize only if it is relevant. Remember that people are reading this to find out what they will get out of the book not to hear your life story.
  • Make sure your writing style for the introduction is the same as, or complements, the rest of your book.
  • Quotations. Some people start an introduction with a quotation; some writers end with one.  
  • You may also use an anecdote, introduce a noteworthy fact or ask a question to engage interest.

Much success can be attributed to a good beginning; give your book the best possible start with a great introduction.

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Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.