Many authors in the field today can tell you that the most challenging part of writing is just getting started. Sometimes called ‘blankpage-itis,’ the stress of starting a new project can be extremely daunting. However, for writers preparing to script their book’s introduction, it could be a lot harder.
The introduction of your book is a critical part of the manuscript. It sums up the action to come, foreshadows the themes of your story, and ultimately sets a precedent for the genre, tone, and voice of the book.
It’s a lot of weight to carry!
Fortunately, the act of writing an introduction is a lot easier than people would have you believe. Creating the perfect introduction for your book is surprisingly simple, and once you get familiar with some basic tenants of writing, it will become that much easier to execute your next story.
Without further ado, let’s go further by covering some of the most essential elements of your book introduction!
Let’s take a closer look at:
- What a book introduction should be
- Outlining your book and intro
- Genres that require a book introduction
- Examples of great book introductions
- Book introduction troubleshooting
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What Is A Book Introduction Really?
The book introduction, sometimes called the book outline or a prolegomenon, is the first part of a book that audiences read. Depending on the genre of the story, it could be written to the audience directly, or it could be an introductory part of a novel. It is often very brief, no more than a chapter’s length at most. It is often considered to be a part of a book’s ‘front matter,’ including the title page, copyright section, and table of contents.
Unlike a boring research paper or the book reports you wrote for school, a book introduction should be designed to engage, support, and surprise readers. It should explain why your book is important, and why readers should take the time to finish your entire story.
A book introduction should be able to execute these simple tasks:
- Generate interest in your story or topic
- Create an atmosphere for engagement
- Be about the story, not the author
Writing an introduction to your book could take just a few hours to create, with the right techniques in mind. Do what you can to shape up your skills before trying it for yourself.
How To Make The Perfect Outline Of Your Book
Before you start writing the introduction of your book, you need to understand precisely how and where your book wraps itself up. More than anything else, book introductions summarize your thoughts, chapters, and subject matters into an outline you can work from.
Even if you don’t have a finished product yet, you can still use the basics to make a comprehensive list for the future.
In order to make the perfect outline of your book, you’ll need to start with intuition:
- What are the main chapter sections of your book? What are they going to be about?
- Is your work separated, or going to be separated, into smaller books (i.e., Book One, Book Two, etc.)
- If you are writing a nonfiction story, think about the purpose of your book. Will you take a ‘problem and solution’ structure, or a ‘compare and contrast?’ Depending on your topic, you may want to follow a chronological structure instead.
- If you are writing a fiction story, map out the immediate beginning and end of your story. Use these two endpoints to fill in the other portions of your story, and create a chapter-by-chapter framework.
Now that you have the bigger questions answered, you can create a winning book outline! This will be extremely helpful as you start scripting up your book introduction.
Books That Require An Introduction (5 Major Genres)
According to literature professionals, there are five types of book genres that are benefited by an introductory section:
The purpose of the introduction may change along with the genre in question. While nonfiction and drama books may use intros for descriptive reasons, fiction and folktale stories use them for flavor and story-writing. Poetry falls somewhere in between.
In other words, it’s up to you!
Bear in mind that the actual steps required to write your book’s intro do not change with the genre. However, you may want to employ some different skills when tackling one subject over another.
Award-Winning Book Introductions
Some book writers just seem to have the perfect sense of style, succinctness, and prose. To help you craft the best possible book introduction, let’s take a look at a few different works with particularly noteworthy introductions:
- Think and Grow Rich is a nonfiction novel about putting yourself in a mindset to make money. The introduction of this book reads, “The Thirteen Steps to Riches described in this book offer the shortest dependable philosophy of individual achievement ever presented for the benefit of the man or woman who is searching for a definite goal in life. Before beginning the book, you will profit greatly if you recognize the fact that the book was not written to entertain. You cannot digest the contents properly in a week or a month.”
- The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer is a nonfiction novel written about young children at the turn of the 18th century. Its introduction is noted for its playful address to audience members. It reads, “Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.”
- Silent Spring was a research novelette published in July 1962. In the book, author Rachel Carson details the devastating effects of pollution on animals, plants, and surrounding fauna. Her nonfiction book opens with an introduction that is still quoted to this day. It reads, “There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. . . There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example–where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. . . No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of life in this stricken world. The people had done it to themselves.”
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Troubleshooting Your Book Introduction
Deciding on the right words, terms, and sentences for your book introduction is the easy part. Perhaps the most long-winded and challenging portion of writing your book introduction starts with creating a cohesive, measurable product. If you feel as though your book introduction is missing something, or if the cadence doesn’t sound quite right, use these helpful questions to troubleshoot and refine.
My book’s intro seems boring or dry.
When writing up your introduction, be careful not to lose sight of its bigger purpose: engaging your readers! Your book introduction should be quippy, fun, and engaging, prompting readers to purchase your book.
Think about the example introductions we discussed earlier. Rachel Carson uses her literary skills to paint a picture of pollution in the natural world. In your writing, consider ways you can connect the book’s purpose with its audience.
I had fun writing my intro, but it doesn’t outline everything I’m going to talk about.
Here’s a great fact about book introductions: they don’t have to be comprehensive to be good. While your intro should sum up some of the bigger points of your novel, there’s no reason for it to hone in on smaller details. Think about the introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain doesn’t bother to explain every situation or event in the novel. Instead, he makes two statements: this book is based on a true story, and its audience can be just about anyone. Allow yourself to summarize without Sparknoting, and just like Silent Spring, do your best to identify your audience.
The beginning/ending of my introduction sounds terrible!
Once you have taken the time to create your book’s introduction, your first and last sentences may start to look a little weathered. As some of the most important sections of your book, these sentences may need a little push. Think about the introduction used for Think And Grow Rich. The author begins his introduction by defining his book and his theory. Once it was established, he created a hook for the audience. This has been a consistent pattern in all our book introduction examples. Your first sentence should describe the book. Your last sentence should connect with the audience. Look for ways to make it happen as quickly as possible!
While all this advice can be useful along your writer’s journey, bear in mind that every introduction is unique to the writer. All this to say: there’s really no right or wrong choice! If you feel that your perfect introduction needs to be longer or shorter, autobiographical in nature, or even just a few sentences, go with your gut. You need to be proud of your work.
So start summarizing! Explore styles and techniques. If you get stuck, try troubleshooting until you’ve found a format you prefer. At the end of the day, have fun with it! Your book deserves an introduction that you love.