Writing a book can seem like an endless process and, indeed, my first book took me 13 years to complete. While most of my clients have devoted considerably less time than that to writing their books, it is still a major project for everybody I meet. And, even when we are mostly through the editing process, we still have to consider those important ancillary issues that come in the form of a Dedication Page, an Acknowledgements Page, a Foreword, a Preface, and an Introduction.
Part One of this series looked at the Dedication Page and the Acknowledgements Page and today we’re going to examine your Foreword, your Preface, and your Introduction.
A foreword introduces the reader to the author and the book, and it’s usually written by someone who is neither the author nor an editor of the book. Many books don’t have a foreword, but it’s a useful way to create what amounts to an endorsement for the book. A lot of people will ask an authority in their field to write an endorsement for their book and this involves some strong coordination skills. It’s best to ask someone who already knows you and your work but if this is not possible, tread lightly and respectfully when you make your request.
Very notable people are typically very busy people and asking them to read your book and comment on it is a big ask. That’s a time-consuming project and they are doing you a huge favour by acquiescing. Some high-profile people will ask for a fee for doing this, so if you are hit with that request, know that it is standard practice where the individual is especially notable.
A foreword is not a requirement, and they are much less typical in a work of fiction than a non-fiction book. If you do write your own foreword, you might want to explain how the book came to be, or the connection between you and your topic. The foreword goes at the very front of the book, and it’s usually just a couple of pages long.
A preface is an introductory passage written about a book by its author and while your Foreword might explain how the book came to be, a preface is usually focused on why the book exists, why you are uniquely qualified to write about it (and/or why the topic intrigues you), and what you hope your reader will get out of reading it. A preface is typically written by the author and it is separate from the body of the book. There is usually no page number on your dedication, but there are generally Roman numerals on the pages devoted to your preface and your foreword.
A preface is an opportunity to introduce yourself, the book, and any experiences that might have informed it. Prefaces represent your chance to tell the book’s story of how it went from an idea to a reality. Ideally you want your preface to be one or two pages at most.
An introduction is part of the main body of the book and gives information your readers might need in order to understand your content. An introduction typically ranges from about three to seven pages long, although I’ve seen very credible introductions go on for much longer than that. Your introduction is considered part of the main body of your book, and this is usually denoted with Arabic numbers, rather than the Roman numerals that are found on the preceding pages.
You will want to include in your introduction:
- A description of what information your book covers
- What you are going to be saying about your content
- Definitions of any special terms you’re using in the book
- A description of how the book is laid out
- What your main sources of information were
- Anything else you feel your readers might need in order to derive maximum benefit from your book
There is so much to keep in mind when you’re writing a book that it can be tough to think ahead to the day when the editing is almost finished, and you need to put the last pieces in place prior to publication. I always advise people to complete their Dedication, Acknowledgements, Foreword, Preface, and Introduction after they’ve finished writing the book, however, because a lot can change during the editing process. You want to make sure these pieces of content are relevant to the material you’ve actually written.