How to write a great introduction

How to write a great introduction: the structure that works every time

So many writers focus on the body of their book – the key points they’ll use to express their argument, which case studies would work, which experts to quote, etc. – that they forget about their introduction. In fact, I even had one client say something along the lines of “isn’t the introduction just fluff?” when I recommended moving content from her opening chapters to the beginning.

No, your introduction is not fluff. In a nonfiction book, your introduction is where you make your case – yes, it’s where you tell your readers what your book will be about, but it’s also where you tell them why it’s so important, why you’re the best person to teach them about this, and why your book is the best one to read. In short, your introduction is what convinces your readers to read the rest of your book.

So how do you write a great introduction?

Here’s a structure that works every time:

1. Draw them in (optional)

A good way to start an introduction and really draw your readers in is with a brief story. However, a lot of writers go wrong by making this where they go into their story, which usually isn’t brief. This leaves the reader wondering, “What’s in it for me? Why should I keep reading if they’re just going to keep talking about themselves?”

Instead, focus on a hypothetical story (or a brief version of yours), that either:

  1. 1
    Builds up the problem that your book solves
  2. 2
    Paints a picture of what it will look like once they’ve found a solution

2. Cover the ‘what’

What is your book about, and why is it relevant to the reader? This is where you create context. While it can be tempting to go straight into the ‘why’ (see my article on chapter structure for more on this), if your readers don’t know what you’re talking about, they won’t care why it’s important.

3. Give background

This is how you bulk up your introduction – this may be background into the industry (which answers the question, “why is now the best time to be learning this?”), or background into your story (which answers the question “why are you the best person to be writing about this?”).

This background focuses on building your case – why they should read the book. However, remember that you only need to make your case once – some writers have a tendency to get lost in examples. Just stick to one or two per point and you’ll be fine (this goes for your chapters as well as your intro).

4. Give your solution

Introduce the topic of your book. In some cases, particularly if you’re sharing your story, the background will lead into this.

From here you can go in one of two directions, depending on whether or not you think your reader will be sold on your solution yet:

  1. 1
    If they aren’t sold on your solution:
  • Cover the main problems they’re suffering from at the moment, and how the framework of your book will solve these. OR
  • Cover some of the common objections people have regarding your solution, and how the benefits of your solution outweigh these objections.
  1. 2
    If you think they’re already sold on your solution, go straight into breaking down what the book covers (this may be a five or seven step process, outlined with a paragraph on each step). If you need to sell them a bit more, simply cover this once you’ve gone into the problems in more detail.

5. Final note

Add a final note before going into the rest of the book. This can be as simple as wishing them well and hoping that they enjoy the book, or a couple of sentences recapping the benefits of what they’ll learn by reading.

There you have it – your map for an awesome introduction!

Ready to write your book?

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