There are a lot of different elements that go into a book. The actual content, the title page, the table of contents, the blurb, the preface, and a lot more. But, there’s one element that seems to be forgotten more than most.
Not every kind of book needs a foreword. You’ll notice that most fiction books tend to jump right into the first chapter. This is especially true for ebooks, which are trying to hook readers into the story while they’re previewing the book in the store.
Before we jump in, there’s something important to cover.
You won’t be writing the foreword of your own book. The foreword is reserved for another author (or anyone really!) in order to establish the credibility of the book.
So, if you’re curious what goes into a foreword, or have been asked to write a foreword for a book, then this post is for you.
Below you’ll learn what a foreword actually is, how it differs from a preface, and how you can write an incredible foreword for another author’s book or the preface for your own book.
What Is a Foreword in a Book?
A foreword is typically one of the first sections in a book. Its goal is to sell the reader on the author of the book, and why you need to read this book. Usually, whoever writes the foreword will talk about their relationship to the author and this specific book.
Maybe it’s changed their life in some way? Maybe they think it’s a valuable addition to a certain narrative or kind of thinking? Or maybe they love you and want to propel your work to new heights?
The value of the foreword will depend upon who writes it. For example, if you’re an up and coming author and a best-selling author with a massive fanbase writes a foreword for your new book, this will greatly increase the perceived value. Plus, give you an awesome channel for marketing your book.
Overall, the foreword is a trust builder with the reader. If they’re on the fence about your book then it’s the job of the foreword to convince the reader that this book is a must read.
Browse through any book and you’ll be able to find examples of what a foreword is. But, one example that truly stands out is in James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. He was able to get Dick Costello the CEO of Twitter to write the foreword for his book.
Not only is it an example of a great foreword, but it also opened up additional marketing opportunities and gave the book some serious clout.
What Is a Preface?
The preface acts as a personal note from the author.
Typically, it’s used to give more context about the upcoming book and its purpose for existing. It’s not an absolutely necessary part of the book, but some authors feel that this section can help to build a deeper connection with the reader while giving them even more reasons why they should read this book.
Typically, the preface is pretty short. It should cover why the author wrote the book, why they’re suited for the job, and why the reader should read it.
You can even use this section as a way to provide a lens to view your work. For example, maybe you’re publishing a collection of short stories about your teens and early twenties. You can add additional context that although you’re writing the book at this time it doesn’t reflect your current viewpoints, but instead what the world was to you so long ago.
It’s important not to drone on and on when it comes to your preface. As interesting as the story might be, you’d hate to lose readers at the preface. Even though this section is all about you and the reasons you wrote this book, it’s still important to place the focal point on the reader.
When writing the preface ask yourself: how does this benefit the reader?
One great example is Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild.
Here he makes use of an author’s note that provides the reader with context into how the story began (as a magazine article), and later blossomed into an entire book due to the author’s intense fascination with the subject.
How to Write a Foreword for a Book
When someone agrees to write a foreword for your book, you should take this as a massive compliment. They value your work enough and trust what you’ve written enough to connect themselves to your new book.
That being said, here’s how you can write a better foreword (if you’re not writing a foreword yourself, feel free to pass this on to whoever is).
1. Introduce Yourself and Your Relationship to the Author
The first part of the foreword will talk about you and will help to establish credibility. Essentially, what makes you qualified to write the foreword, and judge the quality of this book?
Next, you’ll want to address how you’re connected to the author. Maybe you’re colleagues? Or, you’ve worked on projects together in past? If you don’t personally know the author, then make sure to speak to how valuable the message is, and why it’s important.
2. Speak to Why the Author Is Uniquely Qualified
Next, you’ll speak to why this author is uniquely qualified to write this book. You’ll essentially be bragging about the author and how their qualifications or experiences make them the one to listen to about this topic.
If you don’t know much about the author, but instead feel really drawn to the material. Then speak to this connection instead.
3. Talk About Why
After the reader knows that you’re trustworthy and the author is great, it’s time to get into the why.
The why will connect the reader to the book and get them motivated to start reading.
In this section, you’ll want to talk about why this book matters, and the benefits the reader will get from reading it.
If it’s a non-fiction book it could change their life or perspective in some way. For fiction, it could be something dealing with the author’s writing style, or what the book made you feel.
4. Mimic the Style and Tone of the Book
Hopefully, if you’re writing the foreword you’ve actually read the book 🙂
This gives you a chance to help match the style and tone of the book. For example, if the book is funny and sarcastic you wouldn’t want to have an academic-sounding foreword.
The foreword should feel like a natural part of the book, not something that was thrown in at the last second. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your own writing style or voice, but it should feel like a natural progression to the rest of the book.
5. Craft a Short, Concise, and Powerful Ending
Finally, most forewords are pretty short, and usually only 1 to 2 pages. The last thing you want is the foreword to drone on and on, so the reader won’t actually get to the book.
Keep it as short and concise as possible while addressing the points above.
Lastly, you’ll want to end with a powerful statement that encourages the reader to dive in. Think of this as a compelling call-to-action that drives the reader forward.
How to Write a Preface
Now that you know what a preface is, it’s time to dive into how to actually write one. Not every book needs a preface, but if you want to include one in your book, then this section is for you.
Consider the following questions as you write your preface:
1. Why did you write it?
People write books for a variety of reasons, that’s obvious. But, why did you decide to write this specific book? What motivated you? What do you love about this topic? For fiction writers, what inspired you to write a story like this?
2. Why should they read your book?
This isn’t completely necessary for fiction authors, but for those writing non-fiction, it’s important to attach benefits to your book. For example, what do you hope your reader will come away with after finishing your book? Are you exposing an industry myth? Will they walk away feeling incredibly educated about a specific topic?
3. Are there any compelling plot points?
If you’re writing a work of fiction you can add certain teasers about your characters, or even compelling plot points. Think of it as foreshadowing and enticing your reader to keep reading. If you’re writing non-fiction you can introduce compelling facts or anecdotes that’ll intrigue them about your book.
4. Do you need to clarify anything?
Sometimes your book might require some additional clarification before the reader jumps into your book. For example, do you need to give your reader some additional information before they jump in? Did you change your mind about something throughout the research process? Basically, anything that you think might add value to the reader’s life before the first chapter.
5. Who inspired this book?
Were you inspired by anyone in writing your book? Maybe it’s the life of a famous person? Another author? A compelling theory? This is your chance to highlight your passion for the material and convey this to the reader. Give them a glimpse into your creative process and how your mind works
Now, keep in mind that a foreword isn’t an absolutely essential part of a book. So, if you’re holding off publishing your new book, because you haven’t found the perfect person to write your foreword, then don’t worry about it. As your reputation grows, you’ll find it easier to find people who’d love to write your foreword.
For those writing a foreword for another author, or even crafting their own preface, hopefully this post has been useful.
Remember, that although the foreword and preface can be important elements of your book, they’re not as important as the actual book itself. So, focus on your story, or your narrative first, then get into the other book elements.
Have any questions about crafting a better foreword or preface? Ask away in the comments below!