If you've been selected to write a book's foreword, it's important that you know just what to do. But in the words of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, “Don't panic.” Because it's not as hard as you think.
This post is part of a series that discusses the different parts of a book and how they all help each other to create the perfect book. Check out our Master Guide.
- What exactly is a foreword
- Great ideas for writing one
- The basic parts of a foreword
- A detailed breakdown of how to write a foreword for a book
- What the major benefits are for writing a foreword
Table of contents
- What is a Foreword?
- Ideas on How to Write A Foreword for a Book
- The 4 Basic Parts to a Foreword and How to Write Them
- Benefits to the Author for Having a Foreword
- What Comes After the Foreword?
- How to Write a Foreword for a Book Summed Up
And although a foreword is one of the shortest parts of a book, that doesn't mean it's not important. Let's talk about everything you need to know on how to write a foreword for a book.
What is a Foreword?
Often misspelled as “forward”, a foreword is a personal introduction to a book written directly to the readers. Normally, a foreword is not written by the author of the story but by a third party. You'll probably want to elect a close friend or colleague to write this for you. And if you've been chosen to write a foreword for some else's book… take it as a compliment!
This is where you should discuss the book, the author, and how you're connected to it all. In short…you're getting people excited for what's coming.
Ideas on How to Write A Foreword for a Book
So what should you write about when tasked to write a foreword?
This can be a little nerve-racking for new foreword writers. Here are some excellent topic choices you can consider including when deciding what to write about.
1. Talk about your personal relationship with the author.
Share how you met the author and how you know them. This can actually be a bigger deal than you think. By doing this, you help show the author as likeable and relatable.
2. Discuss how the author has helped people like the readers (including you).
This is particularly useful if the author has helped with something that is going to be discussed in the book. These are great for self-help books or non-fiction, but can also be used for fiction. For example, if the author writes about a detective overcoming alcohol addiction through group therapy AND has been a tireless advocate for helping people overcome addiction in real life…That would be an amazing foreword.
3. Signify why the author is qualified to write this book.
If the author is writing a book on psychology (or a psychological thriller), mentioning that they are a Psych professor shows just why you want to read this book. Readers will definitely appreciate hearing that the author knows their stuff.
4. Talk about your involvement in the book.
You may actually have helped out with the book. Whether as a resource or research assistant, it would be an awesome read to get deeper insight into the author's creative process.
The 4 Basic Parts to a Foreword and How to Write Them
Forewords are generally not long-winded and heavily worded. They should fall between around 750-1200 words when complete. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't have structure. In order to write a great foreword, you need to understand the 4 pieces that make up the framework of a stellar foreword.
Starting out with a great introduction provides the base for your writing. Here you want to introduce yourself and how you know the author. Provide your credentials as well. What are you known for? There may be times where you don't personally know the author, but you're the best person for their foreword. Simply explain the importance of what the author is writing. This should only be a few sentences, and done properly that's all you'll need.
This section is the real meat of your foreword. It's where you convey your primary message, whether from one of the prompts above or otherwise.
Your conclusion should not only wrap up your personal writing, but get readers excited to start the book.
Finally, it's time to sign your name. Be sure to list any and all relevant titles you may have. When appropriate, this is also a wonderful place to give your own book a shout out (“author of…”).
Pro Tip: Before you write a book foreword, it's a good idea to read several of them. And the good news is, they're easy to find. Pull a few favorite books off your shelf, or check out the examples we have below, looking for some that are similar to the book you're writing a foreword for. See what other writers did, noticing which ones get you most excited for the book ahead.
How to Format a Foreword
A foreword is formatted much the same as a regular chapter, but there can often be a few key differences, such as:
- The foreword uses less ornamentation such as larger first letters.
- The first paragraph is usually not indented.
- The title of the foreword is usually just “Foreword”
- It has an optional subtitle, often telling you who is writing the foreword
- Since it is part of the front matter, it will often have roman numerals instead of page numbers.
If you are formatting in a program like Microsoft Word, and already have your trim size, margins, gutter margins, font licenses (be sure you have the commercial license for all fonts, as Microsoft Word only gives you the license for personal use on most fonts), then formatting the foreword should be relatively simple. Just make sure it has minimal ornamentation compared to the chapter pages, and gets the page numbers right.
Thankfully, a program like Atticus will help to do this for you.
Not only will it take care of the trim sizes, gutter margins, and page numbers all automatically, but it will also create beautifully formatted books with a consistent design. And you won't have to worry about any lawsuits from the fonts you use, which might get you into trouble if you're using your own fonts with MS Word.
Created in Atticus.io
Benefits to the Author for Having a Foreword
If you think your foreword won't have any impact on the author, you're surely mistaken. Your well-written foreword can really help boost an author. First, it helps to establish the author's brand and set credibility for the book. Nobody wants to read something from an author who has no idea what they're talking about. This leads to the next major benefit for authors.
Your foreword can be a great marketing and selling tool for the author — particularly if you are an expert in the applicable field (in fiction, this would usually just mean another author in the genre). By leveraging your reputation, the author can piggy back on your credentials and sell more books.
Examples of a Forewords
While most forewords are just text, similar to a chapter page, it's helpful to see how other people have structured their forewords and started them off.
Here are a few important forewords written for well-known books.
What Comes After the Foreword?
The page right after the foreword is the preface or introduction, if you have one.
Side note: “preface” and “introduction” are often used interchangeably. There is a distinction, but generally speaking they serve the same purpose to introduce readers to what they are about to read. They are both also, usually, written by the author.
Here's the most common formatting order for the front matter of a book:
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- Table of Contents (i.e. chapter headings)
- Dedication Page
Not every book has each of these elements. Again, it’s up to you as the author to decide which ones you want to include. However, some form of foreword, introduction, or preface is common, especially in nonfiction.
Pro Tip: If you're unsure what order to put your front matter in, Atticus has you covered. By default, the program automatically puts each part of a book in the correct order, so you don't have to worry about getting your foreword where your copyright page should be.
How to Write a Foreword for a Book Summed Up
If you've been given the privilege to write a book foreword, take it as great honor. The author obviously trusts you, your credentials, and your writing. By following these simple steps, you can put together an amazing foreword the author is sure to love.
Just remember to be honest and write as yourself. You aren't the author of the book, so keep your style unique. But don't go overboard. As long as you match the tone of writing, you should be fine. (Serious forewords for serious books, loose forewords for less stringent books)