Book Intros

No one reads them, right? Book introductions are the part most often skipped. Can’t speak for everyone, but I read them. First. Before I read the rest of the book. The introduction, particularly in a how-to book, is the foundation of the book that follows. I learn about the author, the intention, the organization, the background, the thinking that went into the book. It’s a lot more interesting (and telling) than the author’s bio. It helps the book make sense.

When I read the reviews of my book on Amazon.com, I am always mildly surprised when the reviewer says, “she must have meant this book to be for beginners,” or “I was surprised to see she includes a lot of information about writing in your journal.” Yes, I do. I wrote Raw Art Journaling primarily for those who want to keep an art journal but don’t know how to draw. Because journaling is also about writing, I included exercises about writing. I explained it all in the introduction. When people say “this isn’t for fine artists,” I wonder how they reached that conclusion. Because fine artists already know how to draw? Nope, book isn’t about drawing or not drawing, it’s about making meaning with your creativity.

Just because I read introductions, and read them first, doesn’t mean anyone else does. I’ve watched how people read the how-to art books. They pick them up, and flip through them, often back to front, and find a project they think may be interesting and read it.

Do you read introductions? If you do, tell us what you find interesting. If not, what makes you skip them?

Quinn McDonald said this in the introduction to her book: “One of the great joys of accepting your imperfection is that it frees you to create imperfectly.” She still means it.

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21 thoughts on “Book Intros

  1. I usually read everything in books, from the preface to the introduction to the bibliography to the acknowledgements (not usually the index, though). The introduction is especially important to me, since it lets me know what the book is going to be about and introduces me to the author’s style of writing. Just as in the above comment, I often skip introductions in novels, but I always read them in non-fiction books. Whenever I pick up a new book, no matter what it is about, I always read it straight through first before jumping just to the projects or parts that interest me.

  2. I always read them. I am a context kind of gal. I like to know the authors intentions and purpose of the book. Why they wrote it as they did, how they intended it to be read or used, even if I end up reading it differently, it provides a lens of understanding if something doesn’t make sense.

    It also gives me a deeper understanding of the author, over what they have done and their experience, it lets you glimpse their writing style and gives you a better understanding of them. Or maybe I read too much in between the lines! đŸ™‚

  3. Pick up book, read back cover, read introduction and author’s credentials, check whether I like the format, decide to buy or not. If I’m looking at the book online I check out any preview that might be online. Easy!
    If there is no preview and it’s an older publication I borrow the book from the library first. If it’s a new pubication I read reviews, check out the author’s website or blog.
    I haven’t regretted a purchase yet.
    Is there perhaps some correlation between complaining and laziness?

    • I think there is a correlation between expectation and complaining. And I knew that would happen. There is also (I think) a certain challenge in writing a how-to art book. Some people want inspiration, some want projects. Some want projects they haven’t done yet. So I knew from the outset I wasn’t going to keep everyone happy. Which as OK with me.

  4. This is interesting — I guess people read introductions to feel like they have more of a relationship, in a sense, with the author. This has never occurred to me; I don’t think much about the author at all. This might have something to do with the kinds of books I mostly read — dry, technical, and I’m reading for specific information. I don’t like novels very much; other than a very few authors I don’t find the things other people dream up very compelling.

    It might also have something to do with this: I read a lot but it’s primarily “work” — keeping my knowlege and skills current. It’s not a very personal thing, although at this point (read: “aging nerd”!) it’s not unusual that I know the writer whose work I’m reading.

    Anyway, interesting.

    • I’m thinking the first reason–you are reading for specific material and updates. The people I’m talking to (in my introduction) is the people who are going to read the book. I’d want to know what my teacher had in mind before I “join” the class–the how-to book.

  5. I don’t typically read introductions to books. If the book stands on its own, I don’t see a reason for an introduction, preface, forward, copyright notice, note from the author, or other rhetorical accessories. If it doesn’t stand on its own in that it makes sense without the introduction I’m not sure I’d continue — although frankly I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a book where I needed the front matter.

  6. I always read them . . . and find it very annoying that Kindle editions of books default to the ‘first page’ — making me backtrack to see the cover, read the dedication and the introduction . . . and with a book like yours, ever so important to set the stage and give us context!

  7. I read them, especially the previews on Amazon, for exactly the reasons for which you see the complaints. How else are you going to know the intention of the writer? In the case of fiction and nonfiction, I like to get an idea of what was in the author’s head while s/he was writing it.

  8. I usually read them too. Definitely with any how-to or art related book. Sometimes with novels I don’t, because the intros can be pages and pages long and I get anxious to start reading the story part. LOL But I do like getting to know what was going on and why the book was written, and what the inspiration for it was, etc.

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