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A (fore)word in your ear...

What's the difference between a foreword, a preface and an introduction?

Well, I'm not sure there are legal definitions, exactly, but here's the generally understood convention: 

A foreword is written by someone other than the author, typically a luminary in the field, and talks about how important this topic is and what a fabulous job the author has done of tackling it. [Point of information: it's 'foreword', ie the WORD that goes beFORE the text, not 'forward' - I always find it astonishing how many confuse the two.]

A preface is writen by the author, and talks about the book itself - how it came about, how it was written, how to get the most out of it (although this can be yet another prelim section if it's particularly long and involved, the Note to the Reader)

An introduction is usually written by the author, but rather than introducing the book it introduces the topic: maybe it gives some backstory, the author's own or someone else's experience, or some statistics, or maybe it just sets out what the book is going to tell you and why it matters. 

Spotted the odd one out yet? 

Because it's not written by you, a foreword is a great opportunity to involve your preeminent peers, even your idols, in your book project. Dare to dream big – who would you most love to have visibly endorsing your book? Who would you most love to have listed as a contributor on Amazon alongside your name as author – because that’s what happens when someone writes a foreword for you. Whose name would act as guarantee and promise to potential readers that what you’re saying is worth reading?

How you go about securing this person to write a foreword for you will vary depending on how well you know them. If they’re a friend or close acquaintance, you can simply talk to them – tell them about the book you’re writing, tell them you’d love to have them write a foreword, and take it from there. If it’s someone you know only slightly, or if you’ve been to their talks or read their books but they don’t know you, you’ll have to do a bit more work. The best approach is a shortly, polite email: remind them of when you met, if you did, tell them what particularly impressed you about them, then outline your book briefly and ask if they’d be willing to consider writing a foreword, or failing that an endorsement – don’t attach the whole manuscript, just a table of contents and perhaps the introduction. If they say yes, you’ll need to send them the full manuscript, so don’t do this until your book’s in pretty much finished state!

Start early. Think about who you'd like to ask to write your foreword and start cultivating whatever relationship you can with that person, in real life, on Twitter or through mutual acquaintances. Writing a book is a great way to build your network, and the foreword may be one of the best opportunities you have to reach out to the top figures in your field. 

This entry was posted on 06 October 2016 at 21:45 and is filed under writing | books. You can leave a response here.

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