Continuing with our series on the front matter of a book, today’s discussion is about the book introduction. The introduction to the book is different than the foreword, preface, and prologue. We’ve already learned that a foreword is written by someone other than the author of the book, that a preface is a sort of disclaimer statement from the author, and that the prologue is a “before” section of the story, but what is an introduction to a book? We’re so glad you asked.
The book introduction is written by the author and is entirely about the content of the book – what the reader can expect to find and what’s important for them to know. This is a chance for the author to tell the reader anything they’ll need to know in order to fully understand or appreciate the book. The introduction can go so far as blatantly stating the book’s purpose or end goal.
How To Write a Book Introduction
Not only does the introduction introduce themes, motifs, and possible discussion questions, but it will also serve as a marketing tool. Just as the writer of the foreword markets the book, the introduction is the author marketing the book themself. The book introduction is one of the first sections your reader will encounter, so it must persuade them to keep reading the book.
The introduction needs to be well-written, intriguing, and inviting. Here’s what you should cover in it:
- First, a hook. Draw them in, hook them, keep them there.
- What the book is about. This goes beyond a summary: what are the themes? What are the deeper undercurrents?
- Why this book? You’ve told them what they can expect to find, but why should they continue reading
Introduction to a Book Example
Denise Kiernan is the writer of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II. This nonfiction book is about women recruited to work in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during WWII. Their work was secret – not many even knew the town existed – and even to the workers themselves, the reasoning and outcome of their work was very much kept in the dark.
In the introduction, Kiernan gives a very basic rundown and history of Oak Ridge (as she’ll expand upon it in the novel), and she tells of her travels to Tennessee to interview the women herself. She has all of the components listed above. There’s the hook:
There have long been secrets buried deep in the southern Appalachians, covered in layers of shale and coal, lying beneath the ancient hills of the Cumberlands, and lurking in the shadows of the Smokies at the tail end of the mountainous spine that ripples down the East Coast.
The “what” the book covers:
Many of these workers on this secret project hidden in the hills were young women who had left home to fight the war in their own way. They left farms for factories willingly, wrote letters hopefully, and waited patiently and worked tirelessly.
A number of these women – and men – still live in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, today. I have had the fascinating and humbling privilege of meeting them, interviewing them, laughing and crying with them, and hearing firsthand their tales of life in a secret city…
And there’s the “why”:
Without them, this sun-snaring – this Manhattan Project – would not have achieved its objectives, and because of them a new age was born that would change the world forever.
Book Introduction for Self-Published Books
Self-published books present the writer with the unique opportunity to tell a story that hasn’t been, but needs to be, heard. Newer authors are especially dependent upon a solid introduction. This is their first chance to be read and understood.
The self-publishing journey is a unique one: this isn’t the traditional publishing story. The self-published author is all things rolled into one: writer, editor, designer, publisher, etc. The list goes on and on! This culminates into really special perspective on their own writing, and so the introduction will be a great place to talk about how that journey impacts the story at hand.