How to write the all-important introduction chapter of your book

How To Write The All-Important Introduction Chapter Of Your Book

I went to the annual function at my kid’s school the first time. In a big city like Mumbai, the school that had many branches had booked a huge hall and brought kids from all branches on one platform. Of course, this was going to increase crowd. There were at least a thousand parents who had joined the event. Managing these many people would have been very difficult for any school if Mumbai public was not used to aligning in queues and create no fuss about it. When I reached the venue, there were already over 200 people in the queue. I had to wait a long time. My kid had already gone inside from another gate. I had to wait for 1 hour before I could reach the entry.

A long waiting time can be pretty boring, thankfully I had a book, “Indistractible by Nir Eyal”, a book that could engage me for a full hour and by the time I reached the entry, I had read 90 pages. I love reading books but at a time, I do not read more than a few pages. This happens with only a few books. A few others that could engage me for long were Story by Robert McKee, How to read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren , Creating Character Arcs by K M Weiland, Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker, and The Advertising concept book by Pete Barry.
No wonder why these books are bestsellers.
Do you now wonder – What do these authors do to engage readers? Your question should actually be – How do these authors understand their readers so well?
In the times when attention span of an average is reducing day by day, how are they keeping them engaged for long?
The answer to this question lies in our understanding of why reader’s attention span is so low. We are exposed to plethora of content and most of it is useless to us. Why would we pay attention then? Within a few minutes of reading, a reader categorizes your content as crap or useful and takes a decision whether to progress or not.
With books, you will have some benefit of attention as the reader picks it with an understanding that the content is long-length. So, instead of reading just 1-2 lines, the reader will spend time reading 2-3 paragraphs before taking any decision about your book. This means that within 2 paragraphs, you should be able to convince the reader that this book is for the reader.
Let us take an example of a reader who is from healthcare sector, grappling with challenges of inefficiencies. This guy hears that lean, if implemented in healthcare can improve things. So, he picks up a book to understand if lean is really useful for healthcare and if it is then what should be done to implement it. Also, since he is more interested in the healthcare business, he wants to understand if lean would do well for business. He might have many questions like – Will it help achieve business goals? Will it be acceptable to stakeholders? What are the tools that can be used in healthcare? Will it really benefit healthcare?
An author can use introduction chapter as an opportunity to tell the reader if the book answers these questions. An author can start it by telling an interesting story, stating a powerful fact, indulging reader into a vision or simply tell what the book has to offer. The last resort is most used for readers who are serious about the subject and want to read pointed content.
The image above shows the excerpt from a book, The Lean Healthcare Handbook. The introduction paragraph tells the reader that the book contains overview of lean healthcare and then goes deep inside the topics. It also answers a few questions that reader has such as stakeholder involvement, connection with business, and so on. This is one way to start a book. What are other ways to start a book?
Book: Good To Great By Jim Collins
The author begins with an account of personal experience ad follows a conversation between the author and another person. This is like telling you the background of the story and illustrating the reason why the book was written. The paragraphs might not tell you exactly what the book covers but it does make it clear that the book is about becoming great. Is it about becoming great as a person, as a leader or as an organization? The reader would continue to read to find out. Moreover, the conversation makes it interesting. When two real or fictional characters are talking, you want to know where the conversation ends.
Book: Atomic Habits By James Clear
The introduction begins with a story of the author who describes a horrific incident that changed his life. The second paragraph gives a very vivid description of the experience, enough to make a reader feel bad about a student who is hurt. This is another great way to start your book – appeal to the empathy of your reader by sharing an experience that generates emotions.
Book: Creative Confidence By Tom Kelly
The book begins with asking you direct questions. The author is directly talking to you. The book title itself is clear enough to tell you what the book is about and the first paragraph does the job of making you think deeper in the direction. This way works when the topic is concerning an individual and is helping one develop a skill personally useful.
As many bestselling books as you can read, you will find many different ways authors introduce them. We cannot cover them all here but we do that in our training sessions, at least cover a fair amount of them from the area that our authors are dealing with. But I would definitely like to add one more introduction, from the book that I mentioned in the beginning, the one that kept me hooked for an hour – Indistractable by Nir Eyal.
It begins with evidences of success of the method covered in the book. Big companies, prominent leaders and the immense success of the first book by the author builds trust and you are curious to know what author’s new book is bringing. You can do this only when you already have a success story on a shelf.
But let us move to the first chapter of this book and see how to topic is introduced by the author.
This is similar to the book, “Good to Great”, except that the experience is more personal as the discussion leads to a conversation between the author and his daughter. The author uses very straightforward statements to tell you how he feels and you can relate with it because you are familiar with the same feeling – the feeling of indulgence. The author is appealing to your empathy as you can relate with the situation.
The sentence, “Worst of all was what I let distractions do to my relationship with my daughter” – sends a pang of guilt, something we all are familiar with and do not like it. We do not want it and if there is a way to not do what we are not supposed to, we would like to know more. It’s a strong emotion that is generated. When read this, I could relate it with too and definitely felt guilt for I have also done something similar several times when I found myself so distracted that I did not pay attention to what my kid was talking. It was unintentional, like any other parent, but it still happened. We love our kids but we are still humans so we can at times, want space for ourselves, which is difficult to get so we end up distracted and it takes a bigger toll.
We listed a few ways authors start the introduction chapter. It is clear that your first job is to grab the attention of your reader. Now let us see what all your introduction chapter include:
Background: How did you come up with the idea for the book and why do you think it was needed in the first place?
Ex. We came up with a book , “How to write a self-help book” for we saw that there was no concrete framework or guideline available.
Relevance: What kind of a reader should read this book and how will this book be beneficial to the person?
Ex. A subject matter expert who is interested in becoming an author would like to know how a book can be written. It will help the person find the relevant elements to include and the process to follow.
Core concepts: What are the main ideas, theories, models, principles, methods, etc. on which you have based your book?
Ex. It covers concepts of storytelling, empathy, principles of writing, author development framework, and so on.
Benefits: What ways will your reader be benefitted personally, professionally, socially, physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.?
Ex. A reader would be able to write a self-help book to find professional success. The experience of writing would be transformational and would make a person better at managing and using emotions for good. The person will develop empathy and learn how to use one’s experiences and skills to create knowledge to help the world.
Evidences: What is the proof that your methods or concepts discussed in the book actually work in practice?
Ex. The framework offered has been tested by the author when writing books for others as well as has been introduced to her students who have successfully completed and published their books.
Author’s potential: Does author carry the relevant knowledge, experience, and skills to help the reader in the area?
Ex. The author has more than 15 years of experience in writing and is an author of several books. She is also a trainer and has trained many writers across the globe on content writing, business writing, and book writing. She has worked with close to 100 companies to create website content, training documents, and eBooks for them.
Outcome: What change will reader experience after completing the book and how will it affect one’s life?
Ex. A reader would be able to convert knowledge into a book and complete writing it within 60 days. The book will be unique and of high quality, enough to get a publisher. The book will be published and launched on popular platforms like Amazon that will create a personal brand for the reader. The reader would be respected as an expert of the topic in the industry and would be sought by others seeking advice in the arena.
Inclusions: What key content is included in the book? Does it contain theories, models, stories, examples, case studies, frameworks, etc.?
Ex. The book contains descriptions, logical explanations, writing principles, worksheets, practice assignments, visuals, and elements of a diary that author can maintain to capture book ideas.
Flow: How is the book structured? How are chapters connected to each other? How is an individual chapter shaped and why?
Ex. The book begins with concepts and then gives exercises. It then takes the reader through examples and provides a worksheet to practice. At the end is provided a diary with sections to document ideas, record research findings, maintain industry vocabulary, and so on.
In our courses and workshops, we cover these elements in detail but for now, if you are planning to write a book, you can keep this list in mind when writing your introduction chapter. It doesn’t matter in what sequence or ways you over these elements but cover them all in your introduction if you want to give your reader all the reasons to continue reading your book as these are essential elements. There can also be some hooking elements to engage readers and advanced elements to add more perks but they are not in the scope of this article
If you want us to help you discover more and become an author, join our next live demo and find out what we can do for you.
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