What is a Foreword and How to Write One?

People tend to write something when they are inspired to do so. It is not only the inspiration of one’s ideas but also the desire to share these ideas with the world, be it fiction or non-fiction. Hardly anyone writes a book with the desire for only a few people to read it.

For the average reader to uphold a writer’s ideas with a sense of trust and credibility (even before reading the work), common sense would dictate that the following needs be established:

  1. A genuinely good idea that has been sufficiently thought through,
  2. The manner in which the author presents their ideas.
  3. The rapport of the author; which is built either through a history of solid writing or by some kind of endorsement.

In this article, we are going to focus on the third point, namely the endorsement aspect. That is when a foreword comes into play.

What is a Foreword?

Foreword (not to be confused with forward) is composed of two words: fore and word. The word fore when added to any word implies something taking place in advance (example: foreshadow, forebear, forecast). So, etymologically, a foreword is the text before the actual content of a book.

It is a short introduction to a book. Unlike any general introduction, it is usually, more often than not, written by another author to promote the writer’s book. It is written to endorse not only the writer but also the content of the book. To put it in informal terms, a foreword is a mini sales pitch for a book given by another author (preferably someone of credible repute) in order to build a rapport for the writer. It gives the reader a sense of “security” that the book has been given the green light by a credible source.

Reasons for a Foreword

A book does not necessarily need a foreword. So why do many authors opt for having one in their book? Doesn’t it seem like a waste, something that the reader will skip over?

There are many reasons why a writer would opt for a foreword (Henceforward “writer” will refer to the one writing the foreword, and “author” to the person requesting the foreword). We shall look at a few of them:

Appeal to the Inquisitive Audience

Keep in mind that any serious reader would not only want to understand the author’s ideas per se, but their relation to the greater context of the book. Such things are provided by the preface and introduction. However, a foreword, being written by another author, offers a fresh new perspective (other than the reader’s), which in turn provides the reader more clarity as to why they should continue reading.

Build Rapport for the Author

If a writer has been requested to write a foreword for an author, it usually means they have built a name for themselves. By writing the foreword, they are stating that the author is credible. Additionally, the writer, having built a name for themselves, acts as an authority figure by giving endorsement to the author. This builds the author’s rapport and makes their work more appealing to the reader.

Establish Value for the Book

In addition to establishing the author’s credibility, the foreword also establishes the ideas contained within the work itself. An author can be credible, but can still potentially produce subpar work. So the content itself must be vouched for so that readers can have some sense of guarantee that they are not going to waste their time on nonsense (to put it very bluntly).

What Should the Foreword Contain?

Moving onto the structure of the foreword, there is no such thing as a set method on how to write a foreword. Let’s pretend you are a famous author, and a fellow author wants you to write the foreword for their book. Common practice dictates that it should contain the following items:

Your Personal Connection with the Author

Starting out with a note on a personal connection with the author lightens the reader’s mood. It provides a casual start wherein the reader feels that you are a real person who genuinely knows the author.

Writer’s Credentials Based on the Subject at Hand

After establishing a personal connection with the author, it’s time to establish their credibility. As the person writing the foreword, your job is to pave the way for the reader to trust the author, which can be done by providing examples of your interactions with the author and referring to their prior work. This will set the tone for the current work.

Why the Author’s Current Work is Important?

The reader, hopefully, having placed their trust in the author, needs to be convinced that the current work is quite important. The writer can give their testimony as to why they believe that the current work is worth reading. This part can include their own personal opinion on the subject and how it relates to that of the author.

Some Tidbits on What the Book Contains (A Sneak Preview)

A good teaser gets readers excited about a book. Of course, you cannot give away too much of the book, else people will simply read the foreword and not even make the purchase. Do not take away from the author their due. Carefully select portions of the book you think will get the readers wanting more.

Behind the Foreword

Three main qualities are important when writing a foreword for a fellow writer:

Genuineness

Be honest about the book. The foreword is your opinion of the book. Remember, if the writer thought you would not like their ideas, they probably would not have asked you to write a foreword for them in the first place. But do not sacrifice honesty to promote something you do not believe in.

Empathy

Empathize with the author’s ideas, style of writing, and perspective. This will provide the readers with a smooth transition into the main content of the book. Read the book carefully, understand its major points, and be aware of the target audience.

Uniqueness

Find the perfect balance between mimicking, but holding onto your own style of writing. You don’t want the smarter readers to think that the author wrote the foreword themselves.

Conclusion

There are several ways to write a foreword, so don’t fret if the ideas mentioned in this article do not resonate with you. Sometimes, the best way to write a foreword is just to take advice from your editor.

About the Author: Staff