Breathe. Write. Breathe. - 18 Energizing practices to spark your writing and free your voice by Lisa Tener

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18 Energizing Practices to Spark Your Writing & Free Your Voice

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How to Write an Introduction: Think Like Your Readers

Read Your Reader's Mind
Can You Read His Mind?

Many aspiring writers meet their first challenge when they face the writing of their introduction. If you think like your reader, you should find the job much easier.

In the introduction your reader is trying to find out:

1.  Will this book help me solve my particular problem, challenge or goal?

2.  What kind of results can I expect to get by reading this book (for a self-help or how-to book) or What kind of experience might I expect in reading this book?

3.  Does the author have some kind of system to help me and is it something I can easily learn, use and incorporate into my life? (for a self-help or how-to book)

4. Will this book be fun to read? Will I enjoy the time I spend reading it? Is it entertaining? Moving?

Your reader also wants to know about you:

1. Has this author helped many people? or What are the author’s credentials?

2. What kinds of results have other people gotten with the author’s system or work?

3. Do I trust this author?

4. Do I like this author? Do I relate to him or her?

This is clearly a sophisticated reader

Your introduction should:

1. Motivate your readers to read the book

2. Inspire your readers to envision what they might get out of the book

3. Begin to develop a relationship between you and your readers

4. Help readers understand how the book will help them

5. Tell readers how to get the most out of the book (for a how-to book)

You want your book to come alive for readers starting on page 1: show your readers by providing details and actions that help readers draw conclusions. When you tell (“He was angry.” “I hate politicians.”), you’re not making your story real for your reader. The book is two dimensional. When you use the five senses to show your reader, the book pops off the page.

Fill your introduction with plenty of stories that make your points and your readers will become engaged.

Let’s hear from you:

  • Have any questions on writing an engaging introduction?
  • Any tips you’d offer others on writing an introduction?
  • Want to share something you did with your book’s introduction?
  • Or a writing challenge you’re experiencing right now?

Comment on the blog and let’s hear from you.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Stephen Monrad says

    I find that I often skip introductions in the books I read. I figure out from the table of contents and jacket material if I want to read the book. If I am still in doubt, I flip to a random page and read a paragraph or two to see if I like the style. Once I have decided that I want to read a book, I want to get started. I don’t need to be told how the book is organized. The table of contents does that. I don’t need to be convinced to read further. I’m already committed. Introductions usually aren’t that interesting and can be skipped without losing anything.

    Are introductions necessary? Do people actually read them? I am tempted to keep the sales material short enough to fit on the jacket and start the book right away with chapter 1 presenting core material.

    • scott says

      I also skip introductions, and I have the same approach of sampling a couple of paragraphs from the middle of the book. Style of writing is important for me. If a writer has a lot of good information, but fills the book with a lot of trivial stories, or back stories, I loose interest. I also don’t really care much about their “credibility.” I wonder how many people read introductions?

  2. lisatener says

    Great question.
    There are definitely a fair number of people out there who, like you, skip introductions and then there are others who read them and need them–it helps them make the commitment to the book. I would have one for those folks who read them. But feel free to keep it short. If you don’t have an introduction, then your first chapter will need to motivate your readers (even if you think they are committed).

  3. Pat Hastings says

    Hi Lisa, When people pick up my book, they seem to automatically go to the back cover to read the endorsements, and thankfully yours is there!

    PS the pictures are priceless!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  4. lisatener says

    Hi Pat,
    That’s a great point–endorsements can make a huge difference–you go from “unknown” to “Wow, one of my favorite authors/celebrities/etc. likes this book.” And even if not all your endorsements are from celebrities, if those people write something meaningful, it still has the potential to impact your prospective readers.

  5. yareliz says

    All these comments were very helpful to me being that soon I myself will become a writer. It really helps to hear others opinions.

  6. Fitsum says

    The comments gave me an insight how an introduction of a book actually interpreted among readers and as i am in the verge of writing a non fiction book ,it provided me an idea what i should include there.In my opinion an introduction should be the model of the the prototype.

    • Lisa Tener says

      A great question, Sophia. No, you do not have to write an introduction. Many readers skip them. If you have something like a 10 step system, it can be nice to have an introduction so the step numbers can match chapter numbers. And an introduction can be appropriate and valuable. At the same time, if your inclination is to skip the introduction and start with Chapter 1, that can work fine, as long as the first chapter accomplishes the take of addressing readers’ concerns and needs, as mentioned in this article.

  7. Doug W says

    Hi, I have been given permission on writing a book on a Native American who was murdered in 1887. His great-grand children have OK this. It is to be somewhat of an autobiography of his life, however, I cannot find enough information about this man to complete an entire book. However, the family knowing this has granted me the right to use where necessary fictional situation for that time period and embellishments, etc. In other words situation that fit into the realm of that time-period and would be realistic in nature. My problem is how do I explain these changes or exchanges in time and place in a legal and proper manner in the Introduction?

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Doug,
      You would either write the book as historical fiction based on the person’s life (probably the most realistic scenario) or you could attempt a book that’s creative nonfiction. With the latter, you’d need to be clear in an introduction what your embellishments were. You’d want to be specific. Specifically for legal advice, you will need to consult with an IP (intellectual property) lawyer.

  8. John Moore says

    Hello Lisa my name is John and I and my girl friend our born again Christians and I have always had a book in the making, because of the life that I lived. This book will be a collaboration of my life, and my fiance life in one book, and as we reach our lves when we met as adults that will be the conclusion. See my target is the people of The Kingdom of God, and then the younger generation who thinks that certain paths are ok. See I am 46 years old to date, and my life have been extreme on many levels. Then i have my fiance who is a woman that can also speak to the hearts of women who have exp. things that many would not even talk about. It will be alot of high profile people in this book on my part, but not to sale a book, but to reach those who The Lord want to be reached. So on that note i will end here but it would be nice to hear from such an intellegent woman…Peace Lisa.

    • Lisa Tener says

      John, It sounds like a heartfelt book. Enjoy the process of writing it with someone you love who is on the spiritual journey with you.

      • john moore says

        Thank you Lisa I really appreciate that, and It was received as A true blessing. Be blessed, and will be in touch on progress as it unfolds. I also would like to say that you are such a blessing, and you are doing a great thing here. God Bless John/ Michelle Moore.

  9. Edward Eddybless Frimpong says

    Please madam Lisa, I’m just about to write my project work titled “The adherence of the local media to ethics.” Please how do I go about the introduction?

    • Lisa Tener says

      I often suggest writing the book first and then writing the introduction at the end. It may be much clearer what you want to say in the introduction once the rest of the book is written.

  10. Kristen spradling says

    I am wanting to write a book, but am having trouble with the introduction. I want to write about life, and use my personal life as an example to help others.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Kristen,
      With a memoir, you can start anywhere. Maybe start with a very specific story that illustrate why you are writing the book or what readers might gain from reading it. It can relate to the challenges the book will help them resolve. But it’s good to start with a specific moment in time. Does that help you?

  11. randell samuels says

    I never normally read introduction because most times they are boring but now since i am writing books i realized the importance of it

  12. sarah says

    I am writing an introduction to a group of images, there is about 200 words of text (from the person photographed) with each image. How long do you think the intro should be?

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Sarah,
      I would tend not to impose an artificial limit but think about what you want the introduction to accomplish. It could be one page, it could be 15 or more. However, if there is a specific publisher or several that you have in mind, do look at comparable books and see how long their introductions are. That can be a guideline, but again, go for what works organically more than imposing an artificial limit.

  13. Cynthia says


    I am writing a memoir as well, I have found your input helpful. My life took an interesting turn in 1998, and as a result I have been inspired to write about my experience. This is my first attempt at writing a book. How does one go about getting people to endorse their book? Thank you for your input.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Cynthia,
      That is a great question. Here is a post I wrote on how to get blurbs from bestselling authors and celebrities. It will give you a bunch of ideas. Of course, all is contingent on writing a great book–so I would also recommend you hire an editor when you are ready to show your work to someone you hope to endorse your book. And support the author you hope to ask by commenting on their blog of facebook page, retweeting their tweets, writing positive reviews of their books and any other way you can think to become a productive member of their community first.

  14. Marcy Breier says

    Hi, Lisa,
    I am writing a self-help book for people like myself, who lost mobility due to injury, chronic pain and nerve and spinal cord damage. I am re-writing the introduction, and struggling with how much of my own personal story to put in it.

    It is a book of gentle releases and exercises for people who are currently less active than they need to be. I went from being a highly energetic runner, exercise instructor with an extremely active life until a catastrophic head-on collision. Years of P-T, Docs. Meds, every alternative therapy, and every supplement still did not help. After 8 years in a rigid back brace, and 22 years of constant pain, I have found many types of stretches and releases that reduce the pain.

    For many years, I told no one about the chronic pain, fibromyalgia and other nerve damage that causes continuous suffering. (I was working F-T, raising children as well.)

    I want to let the readers know that no matter how they feel, they can do simple stretches and pain release to increase their mobility, maintain better posture and strength. Currently, I teach Pilates and Ballet-Barre, and have added my releases and techniques which has helped many clients with hip, shoulder, neck and back pain and even foot pain.

    I would love any input into how to make this intro appeal to the audience that I was in, about 12-13 years ago, when I had lost all muscle strength, and found nothing that I could do in any gym, yoga or any place, without making it about “me” too much!

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Marcy,
      You are right to be thinking about the balance. It sounds like a dramatic story and one that would inspire people in pain. On the other hand, one of the biggest motivations to read the book are the people you helped. So maybe start with a few before and after pictures of people you’ve helped (without necessarily teaching anything about the steps you taught them) to help readers feel you can help them too. Then maybe tell a bit of your own story–how you got there.

  15. Sam says

    Hi Lisa
    I am writing a guidebook foe Arabs in my school to help them adapt to the new environment. I am currently having a trouble writing the introduction. I don’t know what to start with and I hope that you help me.
    Thank you very much

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Sam,
      It’s unfortunate this book needs to be written (I assume you mean the new, intolerant environment). Your book is also much needed at this time. You might start the introduction with a personal story or a story from the news that indicates the problem and may even create an emotional reaction in your readers. You also want the introduction to touch upon pain points–the reasons they need this book, and also painting a picture that brings in the emotional component. It’s the emotional component that gets people to actually read the book. And then you want to paint a picture of some of the benefits and results of reading the book. Does that help? You can include some statistics that paint a picture of the problem as well. A personal story (with rich details) will be really helpful, though. Good luck with your book Sam.

  16. Dominic Cruz says

    Great advice! I appreciate it! I am writing my second book and you have opened my eyes to things I need to improve on. I realized I need to focus more on building that personal relationship/connection with my readers.

  17. mo says

    Hello Lisa,

    I don’t usually leave a comment after reading an article, this is a first for me. I was simply compelled as I read all the comments here and your responses. No doubt you’re not only a coach but a motivator.

    I have tried to begin a series for children for a long time now. I am still at the brainstorming stage and I know I should have progressed further than that. I haven’t been able to ‘see’ how to present my message, and that’s the challenge.
    I intend to present various non-fiction topics to children by making the books, themselves, ‘play out’ the text. Sort of like presenting a book as a ‘get-away’ for an experience to unfold and featuring the book as a character if necessary.
    I would be ever so grateful for any help from you.


    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Mo,
      I’m honored that you see this as a safe and supportive space to respond to a blog post for the first time! Thanks. Your idea sounds intriguing. My specialty is books for adults, but my colleague is steeped in children’s book publishing with extensive experience and she now coaches, advises and guides aspiring children’s book authors. Would you like her contact info? If so, just email me.

    • Lisa Tener says

      An excellent question, Denise. A foreword is not necessary but it can help expand your audience because a) fans of the foreword writer may find your book on Amazon due to its search algorithm b) it can lend credibility and authority from someone your readers know/like/trust and c) if well written it can be a wonderfully motivating beginning. So, I’m a big fan of the foreword for nonfiction books. As to a preface, you do not need one for a how-to book. An introduction is generally helpful because it also helps motivate readers to buy and read your book. It helps them decide whether they think it will help them with their problem or challenge. And it should give them a sense of the kinds of results they might get. It will also give them a sense of your voice and personality.

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