Often an overlooked element, the introductory pages to a book tell the reader everything. You find out what the book is about, why the author is writing it and who it is for. You meet the author and get a feel for the book. Introductions set the tone and flavor of the book and can make the difference in whether someone keeps reading it or leaves it on the shelf.

What makes a great book introduction also applies to a cookbook introduction. It's what makes a cookbook special, beyond being just a collection of recipes.

From a writer's perspective, how do you write a great cookbook introduction? The primary concept or theme of the cookbook is essential, but write it in a way that engages readers.

Tell stories to capture their imagination, entertain them or make them feel like they are a part of a different time or place. Describe the smell of cookies baking in the oven and how it reminds you of mom baking when you were growing up. If you are writing a cookbook about summer entertaining, expound on the joys of long summer days and detail how your recipes are cooling and refreshing.

Add personal touches, such as humor. Cooking is an intimate and personal experience; your readers will engage with your book if you are relaxed and confident. Sprinkle in jokes or anecdotes when appropriate.

Tell the reader about yourself and your background. This may be where you add your reason for writing the cookbook. Someone offering gluten-free dishes, for example, could relay his or her story about being diagnosed with celiac disease and having to give up delicious brownies. Are you of Hispanic heritage? Do you crave certain spices and dishes? Are you a former Air Force officer? Did you live off of months of ready-to-eat meals (MREs) and figured out brilliant dishes?

Build rapport with readers. Encourage them if they want to add more herbs or experiment with the ingredients. Promise them that you've done the hard part for them. You write a cookbook to share your recipes, so you ultimately want someone to cook from them.

[A version of this story ran on page 10 on 4/9/2015]