Could your newest book benefit from a foreword?
You’ve seen them in other books, and you’ve thought, “How could I get someone famous to write a foreword for mine?”
Writing a foreword for a book is easy once you know what belongs in it.
And though you probably won’t be the one writing a foreword for your own book, you might one day write one for someone else’s.
It pays to think ahead.
Let’s start with what a foreword is — and what it can do for your book.
What is a Book Foreword?
The whole point of a foreword is to discuss your connection with the author and to their book. This is where you’ll tell the reader why the book is important to you and why you’re proud to have this opportunity to recommend it to them.
As you’ll see in the book foreword example further down, a foreword is a kind of letter to the reader, written (usually) by someone other than the author. Like any letter, it ends with your signature.
Your last few words should prompt the reader to keep going. And as long as a dull and overly-long preface doesn’t scare them off, they’ll likely do just that.
What Goes in a Foreword?
Every well-written foreword should give the reader a clear idea of why you’re the one writing it. It does this by answering any combination of the following questions:
- What connection do you have with the book?
- What makes you a good choice to write the book’s foreword?
- What relationship do you have with the book’s author?
- How has the author helped you or others, and how does that relate to the book?
- What circumstances or needs drove the author to write the book?
- How is the author uniquely qualified to write this book?
- How have you collaborated in the book’s creation?
Think about questions the reader might have when looking through the book’s table of contents or reading the description on the back cover. Some of those are best answered by someone other than the author.
Why Do You Need a Foreword for a Book?
Not all books need a foreword. You’ll more often see them in debut books or in updated special anniversary editions. But any book can have a foreword.
If you’re wondering whether finding a writer for your foreword is worth the trouble, see if you can answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- Could a personal endorsement from a well-known authority boost your credibility as the author and help you sell copies?
- Do you know any such person who would be willing to read your book and write a foreword for it?
How to Write a Foreword in 5 Steps
Writing a foreword is simple and straightforward for someone who knows your book and feels a real connection to it — and to you. If you’re the one writing it, a clear step-by-step process makes it even simpler.
Step 1: Write a letter to the reader.
Write a friendly letter to the book’s ideal reader. Include the following parts:
- Introduction and Relationship Connection — What makes you an ideal choice to write the foreword, who are you to the author, and how have you contributed to the book’s creation? (first few paragraphs)
- Main / Middle Section — Write about the book itself, what you love about it, and how you believe it will help its readers. Explore how the author’s background and perspective add to the book’s value.
- Conclusion and Signature — Remind your readers why you’re writing the foreword for this book and what they’re likely to gain by reading it. Sign off with your name.
Step 2: Take some time away from your foreword before revising it.
Any writer needs time away from a first draft to regain some objectivity. Take a day or two to get some distance before re-reading it and make edits to improve its flow and clarity.
If you don’t have a day or two to finish, take as much time as you can afford. Then do any of the following to help you spot weaknesses in your draft:
- Read it backward, word by word, and then sentence by sentence.
- Enable text-to-speech (Windows or Apple) and have your computer read it back to you.
- Run it through the Hemingway App to see how much it highlights for improvement.
Step 3: Read it aloud with the ideal reader in mind.
When you come back to your foreword for edits, read it aloud to help you catch errors and any sentences that don’t flow smoothly.
You’ll catch more when you read aloud than you would if you read in your mind. With the latter, your brain will interpret even misspelled words (or the wrong homonyms) according to your intentions.
You can even read it aloud to someone else or ask them to read it to you. In both cases, you’re more likely to catch mistakes and any sentences that just don’t work as they are.
Step 4: Cut any unnecessary or clunky content.
This is your chance to cut anything that would slow your reader down or make them skip ahead. Read with the mind of the ideal reader and cut anything you don’t find interesting enough to keep — and anything that sounds forced or effusive.
Clunky sentences you can’t rewrite belong on the cutting floor, too. You don’t want your reader thinking, “So, this is pretty much what I can expect for the rest of this… Pass.”
Make it as unputdownable as possible. And keep it to around 500 to 1,000 words.
Step 5: Revise and rewrite your foreword.
Once you’ve cut the clutter, it’s time to rewrite your foreword and polish it until it shines. Then read it aloud again to ensure each sentence is written with clarity, simplicity, and elegance. Your readers will thank you by not skipping ahead.
When you’ve finished, send the foreword to the author and ask them to let you know if they’d like any changes made before they add the foreword to their book.
What Is a Foreword Example?
At this point, if you want a foreword for your book, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with some good examples.
The best example of a well-written foreword is one that illustrates all the points made above — a letter written by someone (other than the author) who feels personally invested in the book’s success.
Example #1: Oprah Winfrey’s foreword for the 2009 edition of Maya Angelou’s novel, I Know Why the Caved Bird Sings:
“I was fifteen years old when I discovered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. It was a revelation. I had been a voracious reader since the third grade, yet for the first time, here was a story that finally spoke to the heart of me. I was in awe. How could this author, Maya Angelou, have the same life experiences, the same feelings, longings, perceptions, as a poor black girl from Mississippi—as me?”
Example #2: Richard Branson’s foreword for Franziska Iseli’s book, The Courage Map: 13 Principles for Living Boldly:
“I’ve always had a love for adventure, and I’ve been blessed to share many of them with my family and friends. So when Franziska told me about her motorbike journey along the Silk Road, I was intrigued.
“Every day I see people doing great things in the world. What do they have in common? The courage to go after their dreams and make a positive impact. Franziska’s book shows how that message can support you in running your life and business based on courage, love, and kindness instead of fear.”
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How Do You Get Someone to Write Your Foreword?
If you’ve decided, at this point, that you want a foreword for your book, you might still be wondering how on earth to go about getting one. To help with this, we’ve collected the following tips:
- Make a list of good candidates and narrow it down to a top 5 or 10. Prioritize those whose recommendations would add credibility and resonate with your readers.
- Categorize each as a warm or cold contact. Warm contacts are those with whom you have a personal relationship; cold contacts are strictly professional.
- Prepare a pitch. Describe your book and how writing a foreword would benefit them (promote their business, etc.). Be clear about what you need from them.
- Approach them as your authentic self. Make your intentions clear and allow them to see you as you are. The right person for the job will appreciate your honesty.
- Follow up with them to determin or confirm their interest and let them know when you need the foreword to release your book on time.
Do you need a foreword for your book?
Now you know how to write a foreword — and how to get someone else to write one for you — get started making your list of people whose names you’d love to see next to your own.
What could their presence do for your book? And how great would it be to say so-and-so wrote your book’s foreword?
You won’t know until you ask.