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What Is a Book Foreword?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

What is a book foreword?

What is a book foreword?

Writing a Foreword?

I was honored when a friend of mine on social media invited me to write a foreword for her new book. But I declined the offer even though I want to support her work. Why would I do this?

Well, it has to do with what a book foreword is, and what it’s supposed to do. Do you know what a foreword is? Read on for all the information.

What Is a Book Foreword, and Do You Need One?

Book Foreword Defintion

A foreword is a short chapter that’s included in a book’s front matter. It provides additional information or insight about the book or the author. It is written by someone other than the author.

Is a Foreword Required for a Book?

No. A foreword is optional. The decision to include one or not would depend on whether the book requires additional perspective to understand or appreciate it. It would also depend on the availability of relevant foreword writers.

Who Writes a Foreword?

Though there have been authors who have written their own, the foreword is not written by the book’s author. The following people are commonly considered for writing it.

  • Celebrities. Authors often want a famous person to write the foreword to their books. Being able to promote an association with a celebrity is both an ego-boosting and promotional win for the author. The author can say “Foreword by [such-and-such famous person]” to link themselves to the celebrity and possibly get the celebrity’s followers to read the book. Only celebrities who are recognized and respected by the book’s potential readers should be considered.
  • Experts. Similar to celebrities, forewords written by recognized experts in the topic of the book lend credence to both the author and the book. Recruiting expert foreword writers is more common for nonfiction than fiction. If used for fiction, an expert could provide needed context for the reader. For example, for historical fiction, a foreword by a recognized expert in the period or place of the story might be a welcome addition.
  • Close Family or Friends? This is a very questionable category of potential foreword writers. Sure, you could have your mom or a best friend write the foreword. But these people are extremely biased, usually positively. Their perspective provides no critical value to the book. Exceptions might include friends or family of the author that are celebrities. People love to know more about celebrities and the people close to them.

Should You Pay to Have Someone Write a Foreword for Your Book?

Notable celebrities may ask to be paid to write a book foreword. Then you have to decide if it’s worth it. Be aware, too, that celebrities may not want to be associated with you or your book if you’re an unknown, even if you offer to pay them.

Some foreword writers may be willing to write it for free if doing so provides some public relations or relationship value to them. Just don’t presume they will do it for free. Think about how much you’re willing to offer to pay the writer if they ask for payment. And don’t get emotionally hurt if they don’t want to do it for free or pay.

How Long Should a Book Foreword Be?

A foreword is very short, sometimes only amounting to mere hundreds of words or a couple of printed pages. Remember that readers want to get to the main part of the book, instead of wading through pages and pages of front matter.

Can a Book Have Multiple Forewords?

Technically, yes, a book could have multiple forewords. But, again, you do not want to have so much front matter for your readers to wade through before getting to the main book.

Sometimes a new foreword may be written for a succeeding edition of the book. Both the original and new forewords may be included. A new foreword should only be done if it provides information and perspective that is necessary or valuable for readers of the new edition.

Is a Book Foreword the Same as a Testimonial?

If a foreword writer is willing to have his or her name associated with a book, isn’t that a testimonial for the book or the author? In a tacit way, yes. But a foreword is not technically a testimonial.

Unlike forewords, testimonials are more akin to reviews by people who have read the book, or have some relationship with the author, and are willing to share their opinion of the book and/or the author. They are usually not long, a few sentences or paragraphs at best; in contrast, forewords are a short chapter length.

While there is usually only one foreword written, authors may include multiple pre-publication reader testimonials in the book’s front matter. They are often collected in an “Advance Praise for…" or "Praise for..." chapter. Select testimonials may also be added to the book's back cover copy.

As for a foreword, authors should only solicit testimonials from people who are relevant and respected by the intended readers of the book.

So Why Did I Decline the Offer to Write My Friend’s Foreword?

I declined my friend’s invitation to write the foreword to her book because I couldn’t provide any critical value to the work. I am not an expert on this nonfiction topic. I’m also not a celebrity who would draw in a lot of readers! And though I know why she’s writing the book, I haven’t known her long enough to provide any substantial insight on her journey into this topic.

I also reminded her that as a contributing foreword writer, I would not be eligible to review the book on Amazon. Amazon reviews can be much more valuable for a new book.

Honestly, I thought the author was the best person to write the foreword—it would be an introductory chapter in this case—since this book had so much personal significance for her.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 26, 2020:

Peggy, you and me both! If it goes on too long, it's kind of like going to the movies and you have to sit through about 20-30 of previews. I wanna get to the book!

I agree, though, that they do have more value for nonfiction than fiction.

Thanks for chiming in and have a lovely weekend!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 25, 2020:

Sometimes forewards can be of interest to read, but if they are long, I sometimes skip reading them like you admitted that you do. I think that they are more important in non-fiction books compared to ones of fiction.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 28, 2020:

You're welcome, Rajan! It's one of those things that a lot of people, both readers and writers, don't think about much. Thanks for reading. Hope you're staying safe and well!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 27, 2020:

A lot of information, hitherto unknown to me, has increased my knowledge about a book foreword. For this, I thank you very much, Heidi.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 19, 2020:

Doris, I'm with you. While I was honored and flattered to be asked to write one, it did put in the in unenviable position of having to decline. I felt so bad! But I thought it was in the best interest of the author.

Thanks for chiming in! Have a beautiful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 19, 2020:

Linda, honestly, I read the forewords, but, like you, I never much considered their significance.

I have to embarrassingly confess, too, that often I skip through things like forewords and acknowledgments. I want to get to the main book! I don't think I'm alone. That's why I tell authors to limit the front matter to only what is necessary to prep the reader for what comes next.

Thanks for chiming in, as always! Have a terrific day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 19, 2020:

Rodric, I hope it doesn't hurt your chances either! Because I haven't read your work, I don't know if the first chapter would be better as a foreword or as a regular chapter. But if your friend is familiar with your genre, it might be good advice. Worth noting no matter what.

Also, while publishers and agents are looking at the book, they might be more interested in the author platform--your fan base. The technical things like minor edits can be handled. But without an audience for your work, it could be challenging.

Thanks for sharing the update on your book. Good luck with that manuscript!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 19, 2020:

Chitrangada, I couldn't agree more! Thanks for sharing that perspective. Have a terrific week!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 19, 2020:

Very good article, Heidi. I've never been asked, and I hope never to be. That's really putting a friend or fellow author on the spot because it is such a responsibility. Thanks for your viewpoint.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 18, 2020:

You've shared some useful information, Heidi. I've read forewords but haven't really considered their significance before. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on May 18, 2020:

I just submitted my manuscript to two publishers. I wrote the foreword and it's long!. I hope that dosen't hurt them from accepting it.

It did not have a foreword until an associate of mine reviewed it and suggest the first chapter as a foreword instead. I also spelled foreword incorrectly!.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 18, 2020:

An insightful and informative article about the book ‘forewords.’

I believe, it’s important to know the author, especially his/ her work, before writing a foreword, of the book. Whether it helps the book or the author, is another matter. If the content is good, the book will impress. That’s what I feel.

Excellent article and to the point. Thank you for sharing.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 18, 2020:

Flourish, oh my! That's one of those "ugh" family moments. First, that you were asked to attach your expertise and reputation to it. Second, that it was a rush job, likely for no pay. And he did it twice? Wow. Glad you were able to sidestep the duty. I couldn't have done it either.

Thanks for sharing that story with us! Made me smile, too. Have a beautiful week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 18, 2020:

Liz, it's one of those things that can quickly get overlooked. I think readers are anxious to get to the meat of the book, and usually just skim over them. I think the reason authors want celebs to write forewords is so that they can attach a celeb's name to the book... not necessarily add anything of value to it.

Thanks for reading, as always! Stay safe and well!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 18, 2020:

No worries, Bill. Lots of people don't get foreword right because, well, it's too close to forward. And I would tell my authors to call it something else, meaning they should choose a title that grabs the reader, not even calling it "foreword."

Thanks for reading and you have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 18, 2020:

Doug, I haven't had a foreword in any of my books either. Introductions, yes. Glad I could be of help. Thanks for reading and commenting. Stay safe and well!

Doug West from Missouri on May 18, 2020:

Good article. I have never written a forward and all of my books don't have one. One day if I need a book forward, I know where to look for guidance.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2020:

I've never done a forward, and never been asked. Did I misspell that? Is it foreward or forward? Sigh! One of those things I knew at one time and now, forgetaboutit!

Anyway, good info. Have a brilliant Monday, my friend.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 18, 2020:

I have learnt a lot from this interesting article. I shall be taking more notice of forewords in future and assessing their role and significance.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 17, 2020:

I chuckled when I saw this and again while reading because my mentally ill uncle (now deceased) asked me to write the foreword of his first book, of course at the very last minute. He wrote two autobiographies full of tales about how he was the personal counsel of Ronald Reagan, met Pearl S. Buck, was the Watergate informant Deep Throat, and so many other adventures. I just couldn’t do it.