How To Write A Powerful Introduction For NonfictionAug 29, 2023
“The first impression is the best impression”. How familiar is that statement? It not only holds true in the people we meet but also in the books we write. The introduction of a nonfiction book serves as the gateway to a powerful reading experience. Your introduction is what shapes readers’ expectations and determines whether or not they’ll continue reading.
A brilliant introduction has the power (and flexibility) to engage, intrigue and set the tone for the expertise you deliver. Here’s my step-by-step process towards captivating readers from the very beginning
Step 1. Begin with a hook
The opening sentence you hook is an opportunity for you to grab your readers’ attention and ‘hook them in’. Your hook could be a surprising fact, a thought-provoking question, or a compelling anecdote. Here’s the hook from my first book ‘The 6 Pillars Of A Rewarding Life.’
‘We all have certain memories that stay with us. Some are good, and others we prefer to forget. Those memories give us a sense of continuity as we move through time. They provide details of who we are and who we want to be.'
The title of this introduction is ‘What Got Me Here’. You can see that I haven’t even started speaking about myself yet because I want the reader to think deeply and relate to memories they have. Always remember that a nonfiction book takes the reader on a journey.
2. Establish Relevance
After hooking your readers, it’s time to establish why your topic is relevant. You’ll need to address potential questions they may have before they read any further. Why should they care about your topic? How does it relate to their life and interests? You’ll need to connect the topic to a broader context or real-world scenarios to make it relatable and significant. You want to make it as EASY as possible for the reader to relate to and understand. If you’re writing a book about climate change, you might start by discussing the recent weather events to communicate why climate change is relevant. Or perhaps you’re writing a book about being productive in the office. You can acknowledge the increase of employees working from home and how it’s shaped office culture.
3. State Your Purpose
What’s the main argument in the introduction? Use your purpose as a roadmap for what they can expect to learn and discover as they read further. A clear statement of purpose helps your readers understand the upcoming value of your book. Back to the productivity example, your introduction could outline the aim of helping readers achieve more in less time while maintaining a solid work-life balance. Don’t be afraid to get specific. You want to hit the readers’ pain point in your purpose as a response to the questions they may be wondering about.
4. Build Intrigue
Introduce a sense of mystery or curiosity that encourages your reader to want more. Tease ideas and concepts that you’ll introduce later in the book. Drop hints that you’ll tell a personal story that helps the reader problem-solve. When you create curiosity, you keep them engaged and wanting answers. Fiction books do this well, but historically, it’s forgotten in nonfiction writing. Be someone who doesn't forget.
5. Showcase Your Authority
It doesn’t make sense to tell the reader why you’re qualified to write the book halfway through. So, you must build their trust off the bat. Readers are more likely to trust and invest time with knowledgeable and reliable people. Briefly share your qualifications, experiences or reason why you’re a credible source in your subject. If you’re writing a book about building an online business, give the reader some confidence in why they should listen to you. It could be how many clients you’ve helped or other streams of credibility. Use your authority as a way to build trust.
6. Set the Tone
What’s your voice going to be like? You want to match how you write in your introduction with the rest of the book. Is it conversational? Will you write humorously or light-heartedly? Your introduction should glimpse what readers expect regarding the narrative voice and writing style.
7. Be Concise
The challenging part of writing your introduction is the temptation to fit EVERYTHING in. Don’t make your introduction overly long; aim for a balance between essential information and maintaining your readers’ attention span. Keeping your introduction clear and concise ensures your readers aren’t overwhelmed or lost in the content.
8. Bring Up Subtopics
If your nonfiction book covers multiple subtopics or chapters, gloss over them in the introduction. This provides a preview for your readers and helps them understand the structure of your book. Even though a table of contents lets them know what’s coming up, your introduction communicates structure with personality as they anticipate what’s coming next.
9. Paint A Picture
One of the best ways to maintain readers’ attention is to use descriptive and vivid language. Paint a mental picture that allows them to visualise the topic. You might be describing a scenario or explaining a concept. Using language your readers can immerse themselves in creates a memorable reading experience.
10. Revise and Refine
This is where you’d expect me to tell you to revise and refine your introduction - but it’s not the case. You want to get clear but don’t want to overthink how you write it. When I write my books, I’ll write an introduction with all the elements and then move on to writing the actual book. As I write, I gain more clarity in answering the readers' potential questions. The strongest introductions are those that are edited after writing your book. So use the introduction as a draft, then after you’ve got your manuscript ready, go back, and I guarantee you’ll know exactly how to edit and revise a powerful introduction.
Write Your Introduction
There’s an art to writing a solid introduction. Like anything related to a good book, it requires planning. Remember to be concise but have depth. Start with a solid hook and set the stage for what’s to come. Using these key elements, you can master the art of an introduction that leaves a lasting impression, with your readers eagerly turning the page.
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