Book Introduction Examples: What Works in Five Genres

Gloria Russell
April 21, 2022 | 9 mins

The introduction of your book can make or break a reader’s decision to buy it. 

That might sound like a lot of pressure, but that’s because it kind of is—your book’s introduction is your book’s first impression (aside from the cover), and it’s important to make a good one. Regardless of what you write, whether it’s a fiction novel or a nonfiction book, you want to put your best foot forward. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of great book introductions out there for us to learn from. 

In this article, we’ll cover a list of book introduction examples across five genres to give you a sense of what a good book introduction looks like. Then, we’ll talk about what these introductions have in common and what makes a good book introduction for fiction and nonfiction books. By the end, you’ll be able to apply these lessons to your own work, and you’ll be able to spot both weak and strong introductions from a mile away. 

Let’s get started!

This guide to book introduction examples covers:

  1. Self-help introduction example
  2. Memoir introduction example
  3. Mystery/thriller introduction example
  4. Romance introduction example
  5. Fantasy introduction example
  6. Elements of a good fiction book introduction
  7. Elements of a good nonfiction book introduction
  8. Next steps

Since there are approximately seven billion genres and subgenres under both the ‘nonfiction’ and ‘fiction’ umbrellas, I’ve narrowed down these examples to include a few nonfiction and fiction examples. 

If you don’t see the genre or subgenre you write listed here, don’t worry—the things we learn from these book introductions can be applied to just about anything you write. 

Self-Help Introduction Example

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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What makes this introduction work? 

This list actually appears before the first dedication or the table of contents in the paperback version—it’s one of the very first things the reader sees after the title page. Oftentimes, it's the first thing that comes up when you “Click Inside” on a book published on Amazon.

First, we have a promise made to the reader right away: “the more you get out of this book, the more you’ll get out of life.” This hooks the reader in—even if you don’t believe it, you want to know why Carnegie thinks that. And he’s offered you a quick bullet point list, which is easy to read and follow. Readers are likely to go through it, and that gets them reading, which makes them more likely to keep reading. 

Not only is the format engineered to hook the reader, but the tips themselves are interesting. Before we even get into the content, Carnegie’s giving you guidelines on how to stay engaged with this book. This makes it feel like the reader is about to learn something very important, and it makes it feel like the reader needs to pay special attention to whatever’s coming next. 

The combined result of these tactics is an engaging introduction that promises to change the reader's life, convinces the reader of the book’s significance, and makes them want to read on to figure out what sort of enormously important advice Carnegie has to offer. And he does it in the space of a single page, which isn’t half bad! 

Related: How to Write a Self-Help Book

Memoir Introduction Example

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet  by John Green 

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What makes this introduction work? 

In this memoir, which is a collection of essays, Green rates aspects of the human experience on a five-star scale. He covers everything from Canada Geese to Diet Dr. Pepper to the internet. What makes his reviews so memorable and so poignant is the way he connects these things to other, bigger aspects of the human experience. He connects abstract concepts to personal anecdotes, everyday objects to vast, existential fears. 

This introduction does exactly that. He opens with a personal anecdote about cutting a trail in his backyard and his experience with labyrinthitis, and he connects this experience to a quote from Allegra Goodman. This prompts him to talk about his experience as a mentally ill writer struggling under the scrutiny of the public eye. And he closes that second scene with a hook: “I realized I didn’t want to write in code anymore.” 

As a reader, you’re immediately pulled in. You want to hear more about what Green means by this, and you also might be caught off guard by the sincere tone—”reviewing on a five star scale” sounds silly and unimportant, but with Green’s introspection and thoughtfulness, it’s anything but. 

(I give this introduction five stars.) 

Mystery/Thriller Introduction Example

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

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What makes this introduction work? 

First, we have to talk about part one’s title, “Boy Loses Girl.” This simple phrase prompts the reader to ask: “how?” 

In three words, Gillian Flynn has asked a question of the reader to hook them in and keep them reading. 

Next, we have our perspective, followed by another subheading: “the day of.” Like “Boy Loses Girl,” this isn’t explained, so the reader has to wonder what it means. They have to wonder—the day of what? What’s going to happen? And they’re probably assuming that it’s something to do with the boy losing the girl. 

All of this happens before we even get into the prose. When we get to the opening paragraphs, we’re met with a very personal, intimate description of Amy from Nick’s perspective. We get both the promise that Nick would know Amy’s head anywhere and the fact that Nick doesn’t feel like he knows his wife at all. This theme of knowing Amy on a superficial level, on the level on which she presents herself, is huge throughout the novel. 

Finally, we’re given one final hook at the end of this section: “What have we done to each other? What will we do?” 

There’s a sinister undertone here when you factor in “Boy Loses Girl” and “the day of,” along with Flynn’s use of words like “stormclouds,” “catch and pin,” and “fast, frantic centipedes.” 

In a few paragraphs, Flynn has hooked the reader, given the reader a sample of the themes the book will explore, and given us a good sample of Nick’s character. 

Romance Introduction Example

The Duke Heist (The Wild Wynchesters Book 1) by Erica Ridley 

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What makes this introduction work? 

Ridley gives us the setting immediately, which is useful for the reader to have an idea of what sort of time frame they’re working with. We open right on our main character, Chloe Wynchester, performing a strong action (‘bursting’ through the door). Her pulse races with excitement, and we get a funny jab at a Duke. 

The reader’s wondering: what is Chloe excited for? Who is the Duke? Why is she upset with him? Why doesn’t he stand a chance—in other words, what are they planning to do? 

This is a lot to fit into one short paragraph, and it’s done seamlessly. 

Then, we get a snapshot of the Wynchesters. Ridley gives the reader a taste of how the Wynchesters interact, then she leads us to the problem at hand. A painting has been stolen, and the Wynchesters are working to recover it. 

This puts the reader right in the middle of the action—hitting the ground running like these makes the reader want to keep reading and find out what happens, how we got here, and what’s at stake. 

Fantasy Introduction Example

American Gods by Neil Gaiman 

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What makes this introduction work? 

Gaiman opens the book with a quote about the boundaries of America as a country. American Gods explores the difference between the spiritual world and the literal, physical land, so putting this quote at the forefront of the novel puts this theme at the forefront of the reader’s mind. 

These opening paragraphs also establish a ton of character and tone in writing.

“Shadow had done three years in prison” raises a ton of questions for the reader. What did he do? Was he really guilty? Readers get a sense of Shadow being a big, tough character from the first few lines, and then Gaiman adds a twist at the end of the paragraph with “and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.” 

We instantly get a sense of Shadow as a character, and we instantly get one of his core motivations. He loves his wife, and his love for his wife drives much of his action throughout American Gods. Gaiman’s got character, character motivation, the themes of the book, and a few interesting questions all packed into the first page. 

Elements of a good fiction book introduction 

Let’s discuss what these fiction introductions have in common. 

Introduce the main character(s)

A compelling introduction starts with characters, and ideally, it starts with our main characters. You've already used a character template to sketch it out. Now, introduce the reader to the main character as quickly as possible. Do it in a way to hook the reader and get them invested in the character’s exploits. 

Introduce the central conflict 

Similarly, a good introduction introduces conflict as early as possible. Ideally, this is connected to the book’s main plot or conflict. Show, don't tell.

Establish themes and tone 

The introduction should introduce the themes the book intends to explore, as well as establish the book’s tone. Is this moody and dark, or lighthearted and funny? 

Hook the reader 

The goal, ultimately, is to hook the reader. The reader should come away from the first paragraph with lots and lots of questions that all really boil down to one question: what’s going to happen next? 

If the reader cares about what’s going to happen next, they’re almost guaranteed to keep reading. 

Elements of a good nonfiction book introduction 

The goals in a nonfiction book can be different from the goals in fiction, so let’s take a look at the elements of a good nonfiction book introduction.

Introduce the subject 

In the same way that a fiction novel introduces its character and themes, a nonfiction book should open with its subject. What is this book about, and what is the author trying to teach the reader? 

Introduce the method 

The introduction should also explain the method by which the author will discuss their topics. For Carnegie, this is the outline example for the reader, detailing how to use the book for maximum success. For Green, this is using the introductory paragraphs as a microcosm of the book as a whole. Both authors are showing you what you’ll be getting throughout the rest of the book. 

Establish credibility and relatability 

Why should the reader care about the thing you have to teach them, and who are you to teach them, anyway? 

Carnegie does this by making his promise that this book will change the reader’s life. Green does it by talking about his previous experience publishing. We want to hear Green’s thoughts on writing and publishing fiction because we know he’s a fiction author, and in case we didn’t know, he reminds us in the introduction. 

Hook the reader 

Just like in a fiction book, nonfiction introductions should aim to hook the reader. The aim should be to draw the reader in and make them ask the same sorts of questions we covered earlier: what does this author have to teach me? 

The reader should come away from the introduction eager to learn about the book because they feel connected to its purpose. (Here's another in-depth resource for nonfiction book introductions.)

Next Step

Download this free resource to help you get started on your book introduction.

Have you read any particularly powerful book introductions? Tell us about them in the comments! 

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