Which Recipe Should You Use to Write Your Book Introduction?

As rule, I always follow a new recipe exactly as written the first time I cook something so that I know how it is “supposed” to taste. And then the next time I improvise based on my preferences.

You can borrow my cooking philosophy when you pick one of these recipes to help you write the introduction to your next non-fiction book.

Recipe #1: How-to Book Introduction Recipe

Use this recipe if you are writing a book that explains or teaches a process. Whether you are describing how to make your own non-toxic cleaning products, how to apply for grant, or how to plan for retirement without relying on the stock market, this recipe is a good starting point. It will probably be easier for you to write this introduction after you have finished writing the book contents.

Ingredients:

  • A concise description of your book’s message.
  • A concise description of who your book’s target audience is.
  • A clear understanding of what motivates your target audience members to read your book.
  • A clear understanding of the doubts your target audience is likely to have about:
    • their ability to understand your information,
    • how relevant your message is to their lives,
    • your ability to get them the results they want, and
    • whether they can really follow the steps you are offering.
  • A complete book outline.
  • An understanding of how your readers are most likely to read your book.

Procedure:

  1. Opening commentsBriefly share the story behind why you are writing this book and what you hope readers will get out of it. You want your readers to feel like they are getting to know you well enough to trust you, but don’t ramble on too much about things that are not relevant. Stay focused on information that is relevant to your book’s message. Knowing your book’s message is extremely helpful.
  2. Who this book is not forLet’s be honest. You had a specific problem in mind when you wrote your book. Your how-to book will not apply to every situation, so this is your space to talk about those situations-and the people who tend to have those situations-who your book does not address. Your target audience will love you for including this at the beginning because it helps build their confidence in your ability to understand their needs.
  3. Who this book is forWrite a statement that clearly identifies for whom your book is written. Is it for beginners or first-timers with no experience? Is it for veterans looking for a more contemporary approach? Is it for people who hate doing what you are demonstrating and are reluctant to do it?
  4. Message to the skepticsUse your knowledge about the doubts your target audience is likely to have to generate a list of benefits your book offers that puts each of those doubts to rest. For example, if your book is about how to create non-toxic household cleaning products on your own. Your readers may doubt that these recipes are effective at killing germs. This would be a good place to mention your research on how hydrogen peroxide and vinegar have been scientifically proven to kill e. coli and other viruses as well as bleach. If you are upfront when you address your target audience’s doubts, it will be easier for them to accept your message later.
  5. How the book is organizedYou thought long and hard about how your book would be organized, so take a moment to explain the different sections they will read. Think of this as a sneak preview of the information to come.
  6. How to read the bookWhen you were brainstorming your book outline, I’m sure that you thought about how your readers are likely to use your book. If you designed your book to be read from cover-to-cover because the information towards the end of the book builds on top of the information at the beginning, this is the space to explain that to your readers. If you designed it to be easy to skip around and read as the information is relevant to your reader’s situation, this is the space to let them know.

Recipe #2: Memoir Introduction Recipe

If your book focuses on your life experiences, this recipe is a good way to start your first draft of your introduction. This recipe is similar to the process I gave to my public speaking students when they needed to write their speech introductions.

Ingredients:

  • A concise description of your book’s message. (Although this is a memoir, be clear about the lesson you want your readers to take away with them after they finish reading your book.)
  • A concise description of who your book’s target audience is.
  • A clear understanding of what motivates your target audience members to read your book.
  • A complete book outline.

Procedure:

  1. Grab your reader’s attentionThere are a lot of memoirs out there, and chances are that someone else has already published a memoir with a similar message. So your mission is to stand out. Quickly. You may choose to do it through a short funny story about who or what inspired you to write your memoir, through a relevant quote, by asking a question or series of questions that are relevant to your story, by sharing startling statistics that show the significance or relevance of your message, a joke, a startling fact, by sharing a message that establishes common ground with your readers, or almost any other creative opening you can think of. It’s much easier to grab your reader’s attention when you have a clear understanding of who your target audience is.
  2. Introduce your story and your purpose for sharing it-Many readers will review the book introduction to help them decide whether they want to buy your book. So give them a quick summary of the key parts of your story. Don’t forget to clearly mention the impact you hope your story will have on them. In other words, let them know how you want them to think, feel or do after reading your story. 
  3. Drive home how your message is relevant to your readersYou will really need to understand your audience to successfully describe how your personal memoir relates to your readers. This is your opportunity to intrigue your readers and encourage them to continue reading all the way to the end. One way to do this is to offer a teaser about information you will share in the beginning, middle, and end of the book.

Recipe #3: Problem-Solving Book Introduction Recipe

A problem-solving book may be a book filled with tips, a book filled with FAQs, or nearly any persuasive book that presents a solution to a problem.

Ingredients:

  • A concise description of your book’s message-or solution.
  • A concise description of who your book’s target audience is.
  • A clear understanding of what motivates your target audience members to read your book and what they already know about the problem.
  • A concise description of your resume points, research and/or life experiences you have had that qualify you to offer this solution.
  • A complete book outline.
  • An understanding of how your readers are most likely to read your book.

Procedure:

  1. Grab your reader’s attentionYou will not be able to effectively present a solution until your readers fully understand the problem. So you don’t want to waste any time explaining the severity of the problem. You may choose to do it through a short funny story about who or what inspired you to write your memoir, through a relevant quote, by asking a question or series of questions that are relevant to your story, by sharing startling statistics that show the significance or relevance of your message, a joke, a startling fact, by sharing a message that establishes common ground with your readers, or almost any other creative opening you can think of. It’s much easier to grab your reader’s attention when you have a clear understanding of who your target audience is.
  2. Give information on the cause and scope of the problem-You don’t want to give the entire history of the problem-especially if you plan to talk about this in the body of your book-but you do want to clearly show just how big the problem is and why it is important to solve it.
  3. Highlight the main points of your solution-It’s not time to give a detailed description of your solution, but mention enough of it so your readers can get an idea of what your perspective is.
  4. Drive home how your message is relevant to your readersDepending on your topic, your readers may not be convinced yet that this is a problem they need to solve right now. Your job is to make sure they know that this problem is something they need to solve right now and the benefits they will receive when they do so. If the problem your book addresses is something your audience is already motivated to solve, use this space to highlight the benefits of your solution and how it compares to other options. If you think your audience will be hesitant about your solution, this is the place to address their fears head-on and let them know why your solution is strong enough to overcome their fears.
  5. Talk about your credibility-Your readers will be much more confident in your solutions when they know where your authority comes from. This is your opportunity to highlight things from your resume, research or life experience that qualify you to talk about this solution.

Final Thoughts

You can use any combination of these recipes to write your book introduction, but the suggested book types above simply outline how I often use them and how I see them used in the dozens of non-fiction books I read each year.

It’s usually easier to write the introduction after you have written your entire book manuscript, but there is nothing wrong with using it as a starting point because you can always edit it later after the rest of your book is written.

Let these recipes give you a starting point, but don’t let them limit your creativity.

Image Attribution: "1-2-3-4 Cake cooking implements" by me (w:User:pfctdayelise) - Image taken by me using Casio QV-R41. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-2-3-4_Cake_cooking_implements.JPG#mediaviewer/File:1-2-3-4_Cake_cooking_implements.JPG

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at DanielleFetherson.com.

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