The foreword (often misspelled ‘forward’) is one of the sections found at the very beginning of a book before the main narrative or story takes place.
It is separate from the introduction, the prologue, or the preface, but each section is found at the beginning of a particular book.
Understand that each listed section is different and serves its purpose.
In this article, we’ll offer some simple but effective tips on how to write a foreword for a book.
Writing a foreword can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Read the advice below, and consider the examples we’ve included toward the end of the article and you’ll be well on your way to writing a foreword that makes a real impact.
Before we get into the ‘how,’ let’s better understand what a foreword is and what it’s not.
What is a foreword in a book?
A foreword in a book is a message found at the beginning of a book directed at the reader. It is typically written by a third party, not the book’s author.
However, some authors choose to write their own forewords.
A foreword can help promote book sales by persuading readers of the book’s value. It further bolsters sales when a foreword has been written by a renowned author who has a connection to the book’s author or the book’s message.
What is the purpose of a book foreword?
A book’s foreword aims to introduce readers to the book and the author.
The foreword offers the reader insight into the author’s background and the inspiration behind the book’s creation. Often, a foreword explores the foreword writer’s relationship with the author in cases where the author has not written their foreword.
As mentioned above, book forewords serve a persuasive purpose.
Most forewords contain information about the foreword writer’s connection to the author, followed by insight into the book’s contents.
A good foreword will make the case that reading the book will offer value to the reader.
How to write a foreword for a book
Below, we’ll explore what to include in a foreword to maximize its impact, followed by a basic foreword structure, a recommended foreword length, and examples of forewords from popular, published books.
What to include in a foreword
If you’ve been tasked with writing a foreword for someone else’s book, you’re probably wondering what to include.
Writing a foreword may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
The tips outlined in this article will help you create a foundation on which you can write a compelling forward with ease.
While your foreword will be unique to you, your relationship to the author, and the story itself, there are some primary considerations to keep in mind that apply to most, if not all, forewords.
- What is your personal relationship with the author? Are you contemporaries, or have they been a significant influence on your own work? Do you know them personally or only through a third party?
- In what ways has this author influenced you? Consider both your personal and writing life.
- Your views on the story, characters, theme of the book
- The socio-cultural impact of the author or the story
- Reasons why the book has another edition if this is the second (third, fourth, etc.) edition
With the foreword elements outlined above, you, as a foreword writer, serve to bridge the reader into the story.
The foreword usually offers a brief insight into the author’s background. Even though the reader may not consider the foreword as they progress through the book, they’ll still have a sense of the book’s origin and the author’s sentiments when writing it, which can improve the overall reading experience.
Just like the book’s story, the foreword should have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. This structure is just what makes the foreword compelling and persuasive.
1. Foreword intro
In the introduction to the foreword, usually, foreword writers briefly introduce themselves and establish their connection to the author.
Establishing one’s connection to the author is an integral part of the introduction because it adds relevance to the reader.
Even if your connection to the author is indirect, explain the connection anyway. Perhaps it’s more connected to the book’s message than the author’s or the author’s cultural influence.
In addition to interaction and connection, let the reader know why you are the right person to write the foreword. What qualifies to share such a message?
2. Foreword middle
After the introduction, it’s time to enlighten the reader on the book’s contents and why they should read it.
Essentially, this is where you highlight the book’s relevance, selling the book to the reader. Offer a compelling and hard-to-ignore reason this book is worth reading.
Relate the book to the reader’s life and point out the benefits of reading it.
Throughout this section, try to offer a brief but clear synopsis of the book so that the reader knows to some degree what to expect.
3. Foreword conclusion
Again, like a story, a well-written foreword has an opening, has a middle, and a closing.
In your foreword conclusion, remind readers of why you are qualified to write the foreword in the first place and why the foreword for this book in particular exists.
Foreword writers who practice diligence in foreword writing establish their reputation in the industry and boost the book’s credibility. In turn, the book will likely lead to tremendous marketing success.
How long is a foreword?
Forwards are typically brief.
Considering that a book may also feature an introduction and preface, you don’t want to make the reader read so much before getting to the book’s main body.
Generally, keep a foreword’s length between 500 and 1200 words.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, foreword by Edwidge Danticat
Janie Crawford is able to retrace her steps, disembark from her own ship, come home, and remember because she has been close to death but has lived a very full life. So in spite of the judgmental voices that greet her upon her return, in spite of the “mass cruelty” invoked by her prodigal status, Janie has earned the right to be the griot of her own tale, the heroine of her own quest, the “member” of her own remembering.
Edwidge Danticat’s foreword for Cora Neal Houston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God focuses on the story itself. Danticat’s foreword was not featured in the original publication (1937) but Harper Collins, New York, 2000 edition.
This is an example of how a foreword can be added to an existing book to reiterate its importance and relevance in a different time.
The Courage Map by Franziska Iseli, foreword by Richard Branson
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.
Renowned entrepreneur and bestselling author Richard Branson’s foreword for Franziska Iseli’s book The Courage Map does exactly what a foreword should do.
It praises the author for her courage, encourages the reader to read and learn from the author’s experience, and is written by a household name which significantly boosts both the book and the author’s credibility.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, foreword by Toni Morrison
The origin of the novel lay in a conversation I had with a childhood friend. We had just started elementary school. She said she wanted blue eyes. I looked around to picture her with them and was violently repealed by what I imagined she would look like if she had her wish. The sorrow in her voice seemed to call for sympathy, and I faked it for her, but, astonished by the desecration she proposed, I “got mad” at her instead.
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is an excellent example of how an author can write their own foreword.
Typically, an author should avoid writing their own foreword and keep the message they’d like to share for the preface, but Morrison’s foreword works incredibly well.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, foreword by Oprah Winfrey
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?
Does my book need a foreword?
Generally speaking, your book probably doesn’t need a foreword, especially if it’s fiction.
Forewords are most often found in nonfiction books, but even still, many works of nonfiction don’t include forewords.
As mentioned, forewords act as a type of endorsement for your book. As such, consider if you need that extra endorsement.
A book may need a promotional boost if published as a second or third edition, where a foreword will explain why this edition has been written and its value to the reader.
It also allows the author to receive a reputation boost, whereby a third-party foreword writer can praise the book’s author in a way that the author himself cannot.
Foreword vs. introduction, preface, prologue
Many people confuse the foreword with other sections of text found at the beginning of a book. Let’s develop a basic understanding of other opening texts to establish the difference.
What is an introduction?
The introduction is a general term for the opening of a book but typically features in nonfiction books and other types of academic writing, in which an author or expert on the topic presents the main arguments later explored throughout the book.
What is a preface?
The preface covers the book; origin. It is written by the main author(s) and explains to the reader how the idea of the book was born.
What is a prologue?
If you’re an author and want to include a foreword for your own book, it’s wise to ask someone who knows you well and can persuade a reader why the book is worth reading.
Some authors hire freelance writers to write their foreword, but if you take this route, then make sure you develop a clear outline of what you expect from their work.
Ideally, your foreword writer will be someone who shares the same life experiences and who can help readers understand why your book is important.