Establishing Rapport and Credibility in Nonfiction

I often find myself telling authors that they must establish rapport and credibility with their readers before anyone begins reading their book. This is vital for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that as an author, you want potential, on-the-fence readers to keep reading. You want them to recommend your book to others. You want your words to be out there for everyone to read. And you want readers to finish your book feeling satisfied.

So, you’re probably thinking, how this is done? Well, when we take away the actual content of the book and we focus solely on what is in the beginning of the book—before it even starts—there are two opportunities for you as the author to establish your credibility and build rapport with your readers.

How to get started:

First, you have a chance to show your credibility in your introduction. This is your chance to do just that—introduce yourself to your readers. This doesn’t need to be a resume, showcasing your work experience, talents, and education; however, it should be a place where you tell readers your background on the subject at hand. If you’re writing a book about anxiety, readers are going to want to read a book by a psychologist, psychiatrist, medical doctor, or counselor. If you’re writing a book on how to renovate a home, readers are going to want to see the author is a contractor, builder, or even specialized construction worker.

Tell us your experience in the subject, but don’t overdo it or brag too much about your accomplishments. This could make you come off as arrogant and that could turn away many potential readers. Keep it short but informative. And remember to answer the question many readers will have: “Why should I read what this person has to say?”

See it through:

The second place to establish your credibility with readers is through the foreword. The foreword is a place where someone other than the author can essentially “vouch” for the author’s expertise, knowledge, and validity of the book because they’ve read it and want to recommend it. Again, remember: authors do not write their own foreword. Someone who is respected in the community, for instance, is a great person to ask to read your book and write your foreword. Someone such as a pastor, professor, or another expert in the subject at hand should speak on behalf of your book and give it praise. If there’s one thing that will cause readers to think you and your book are awesome, it’s having someone else who’s highly respected vouch for it by putting their name on it.

Remember: readers will want to know two things: "Why should I read what this person has to say?" and, "What makes this person qualified to write a book about this particular topic?" The introduction is your chance to shine before the book begins. The foreword is a place for someone else to show readers how great you are.

The bottom line: make sure your book contains either an introduction or a foreword, or both, but please establish your credibility, especially you nonfiction writers.

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