How to Write a Book’s Foreword

According to Wikipedia, a foreword is a (usually short) piece of writing placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature. Typically written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book’s primary author or the story the book tells. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended (appearing before an older foreword if there was one), which might explain in what respects that edition differs from previous ones. Unlike a preface, a foreword is always signed by the person who writes it.

 

Is it compulsory to have a foreword?

Generally speaking, forewords serve a more persuasive purpose in nonfiction than fiction books. A book doesn’t have to have a foreword. However, it is a great way to tell about the circumstances surrounding the writing and publishing of the book, the author’s life, or another writer’s connection to the book. Though it is not compulsory for a book to have one, including one in your book can be a great way to add more insight into the story. A powerful book foreword also helps build your credibility and status and helps the book’s author sell more books.

Think of it as an opportunity. A well-written foreword can function as the ultimate third-party recommendation or endorsement for your book, generating interest and helping when it’s time to market your book.

That said, if you don’t have the right person to write a foreword for your book, don’t worry. A foreword is not a required element in any book.

What’s the origin of the word foreword?

The word foreword was first used around the mid-17th century, originally as a term in Philology (the study of literary texts as well as oral and written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning).

 

Is it foreword or forward?

It’s important to note the spelling: it isn’t a forward, it’s a foreword – as in “before.” This means that it is a word (from another person other than the author) that comes before the actual content of the author’s book. The writer of this section discusses the author and the book, and how they’re connected to it. Sometimes the writer is a friend of the book’s author or a mentor. The subject can vary, as well. It acts as an introduction to the book and helps market it: if an up and coming writer can land a foreword written by a credible, established writer, this can increase its value.

 

How to Write a Foreword

Though being asked to write a foreword can be intimidating, you should take it as a compliment: this means that someone trusts your writing and appreciates your input enough to put it in their book.

The author believes you are within their existing personal or professional network, and your name recognition is key to the success of their book project. It means that the author considers you a notable expert or a person of influence in the field or subject covered in the book; your experience can be related or simply complementary. Or they author believes you are a recognizable name who’s read and benefitted from their book and  they feel confident and comfortable with you providing that level of endorsement.

Tips when writing a foreword for a book:

Be honest. You were asked to write this because someone else values your opinion – so be honest.

Use your unique voice. Your writing style will be on display, so stay true to your flare and voice.

You can mimic the style of the book. If the book is serious, write a serious foreword. If it’s a fun, comedic book, don’t be afraid to be funny. Remember that this section is a part of the book, so matching the vibe is a good idea.

Be short and concise. Remember that the foreword of a book is a very important selling tool for the book. It must establish credibility for the author and the book. You can help make the reader want to read the book by making an emotional connection with the reader. Talk to the reader as if you were talking to a friend. Keep it engaging and tell an interesting story but keep it short and to the point.

Some forewords are very short – as little as 200 words. At CLC Kenya we recommend 500 – 1,000 words as an ideal length. 

You can read the whole manuscript or just the summary/synopsis. If you know the author well, you may want to start this process once they have completed their full content outline or just the first draft of the manuscript, but most authors wait until after the first round of editorial work (developmental or substantive) has been completed.

If you are very busy and stretched for time, you can ask the author to send the outline of their book together with a book summary/synopsis or the book introduction if this will help you better get down to writing the foreword for them. 

What if you are not a great writer yourself? You do not have to be a proficient writer for you to write a foreword for a book. The important point is to make sure the author has your foreword as part of the complete manuscript during the copyediting and proofreading stages. The editors will put in their expertise to make your writings shine as much as they do for the entire manuscript. This also ensures the foreword is cohesive with the rest of the content and all grammatical concerns are addressed by the author’s editors.

What are the steps to writing a powerful foreword?

Step 1: Discuss your connection to the story and author. This is the whole point! Start by introducing yourself and your connection to the book’s author. This should be done in a few short sentences and then describe the connection you have with the author and the book. But if you don’t know the author personally, explain how important the message of the book is for the reader.

This provides credibility to the author of the book. Making a foreword personal also lets the reader make an emotional connection. Remind readers who you are. Tell them what you are famous for. Tell them why you are the right person to be writing the foreword for this book.

 

Step 2: Discuss the book and why this author is the best one to write this book i.e explain the contents and benefits of the book to the reader. The reader should know why the book is relevant to him/her. Therefore, you should give the reader an intriguing reason why this particular book is unique or important. Connect the book to experiences that a reader might face in everyday life. Mention the good points about the book and what the readers will get out of reading it.

Be sure to give a very brief synopsis of the book. Try to use short anecdotes about the book and the author. This could be anything from a chance meeting with the author to a realization that the book was able to help you solve a problem. Try to include a real-world example that illustrates the theme of the book. This is a way to show the reader that the author of the book is credible on the subject matter.

 

Step 3: In the conclusion, remind the readers why you are writing the foreword, and why it matters. This is important for both the author’s career as well as your own career. For the author, it will boost the credibility of the book and help sell more copies. For you, it will remind the public of your career and improve your credibility for your next book or article.

This will keep readers motivated to continue on to the book because you, the expert, is telling them that the book is a worth reading. Bring the foreword full circle. If at all possible, you should reference something from your first paragraph in your final paragraph. This will add cohesiveness to your foreword.

 

Step 4: Sign off. Forewords are unique in that they’re almost like a letter to the reader, so there’s usually a “signature” at the end.

At CLC Kenya, we recommend you start with (i) your name, (ii) your title/position in society – If you have several titles, add the most relevant one that best compliments the author’s work and finally (iii) the institution you run or where you work.

An example would be:

Muthoni Mercy,

National Director,

CLC Kenya.

But assuming that Muthoni Mercy is also the Senior Youth Pastor for Church of Christ and you have written a book for the youth, it would benefit you as the author to get the following sign off:

Muthoni Mercy,

Senior Youth Pastor,

Church of Christ.  

What can your foreword do for an author?

Think of a foreword as a seal of approval to someone in your space. While a customer won’t buy the book solely based on the foreword, it can further inform them about the value the author delivers in their book, and educate their purchasing decision.

Your words in this foreword have great power to the life of the author’s book project! Give it your best shot!

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