As the author of more than twenty books, I know the importance of a good foreword. The book’s foreword offers introductory remarks about the book’s subject and/or scope of a book, something about the author, and why the foreword’s contributor thinks the book is important or useful. The foreword preceds the body of the text and the introduction, and should rarely exceed two full pages. Afterall, the reader wants to read the book, not the thoughts of someone they may think was paid for their praise (as is the case in some instances). Typically written by someone other than the author of the work, the foreword reveals something about the relationship between the writer of the foreword and the author. When appropriate, the foreword may reveal some inside information about the author, his or her life, accomplishments, or some other appropriate insight. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended (appearing before an older foreword if there was one), which might explain how the new edition differs from previous one(s).
When written by the author, the foreword may cover the story of how the book came into being or how the idea for the book was developed, and may include a thank you and an acknowledgment to those who were helpful to the author during his/her writing. Unlike a preface, a foreword always identifies who wrote it and the date of its writing beneath the name of the person who wrote the foreword. Being asked to write the foreword is considered a privilege, and depending on the reputation of the book’s author, it might even rate as an honor.
If asked to write a forward, consider these basic guidelines:
- Share how you met the author or how you know them. This establishes the connection between you and the author and helps establish the author’s credibility;
- If appropriate, offer a sense how the book helps to solve a problem. As such, it is perfectly acceptable to use statistics and research to support the assertion or employ personal experience and anecdotes if applicable;
- Note some specific credentials of the author, his or her important contribution to the field or topic of which the book is about;
- Share how the author has helped others achieve success or recognition;
- Give examples of what readers might find in the book and how it might transform their lives or professional path; and
- Conclude with a pleasant thank you to the author.
Want add a little flare, try one of these ideas:
- Offer a brief story about the author which provides a titillating hook;
- Establish your own credibility around that of the book by including any leadership roles you have played or something about a book you have written;
- Reveal something interesting that few people know about the author; and
- Make it fun. Tastefully, tell a funny story about yourself, your relationship with the author, or the book’s topic.
The pages containing the foreword and preface (and other front matter) are typically not numbered as part of the main work, which usually uses Arabic numerals. If the front matter is paginated, it uses lowercase Roman numerals. If there is both a foreword and a preface, the foreword appears first and both appear before the introduction, which may be paginated either with the front matter or the main text. And most importantly, remember a book’s forward is correctly spelled, foreword!