Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Introductions, Forewords (not forwards!), and Prefaces
By Michael Heath / selfpublishingUS.com
Nonfiction books have introductions and often include a preface, foreword or both. Some authors may not break out the literary device of an Introduction and instead set the book up in Chapter 1 or another early chapter. Forewords (not forwards!) and prefaces are optional. Much confusion reigns as to which does what, so let’s see if some distinctions can be clarified.
The Introduction introduces the subject matter to the reader. It may even explain some concepts and terms that are used in the book. This area is where the argument is presented and describes the problem that will be solved. The Foreword is written by someone other than the author and gives validity to the work. It is often penned by someone with name recognition or by an expert in the book’s subject. Here, the writer describes his or her relationship with the author, lending credibility to the work while explaining why someone should read the book. The Preface is written by the author for the purpose of introducing him or herself to the audience. The author uses this vehicle to explain the qualifications for writing such a book and may even describe inspiration’s origins. The Foreword and Preface are more author-focused, while the Introduction shines the light on the content.
You can see how a celebrity or respected professional writing the Foreword can go a long way in marketing the book, so landing the right person can be helpful. Do yourself a favor: put your ego away. It is unlikely that the person you ask to write the foreword will read your manuscript. Maybe he will skim through it. Chances are he will not even do that. Successful people are busy. The only reason they might agree to associate themselves with your work is that they trust your knowledge and ability to present it correctly. That is good enough. In fact, it would not hurt to write the foreword yourself so they can revise it, making it their own. They are doing you a favor. The more completed on your end, the sooner you can move on to the next step of the publishing process.