What Is a Book Foreword?
I was so 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?
Well, it has to do with what a book foreword is, and what it’s supposed to do.
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 the book requires additional perspective to understand or appreciate it. It would also depend on the availability of relevant foreword writers.
Who Writes a Book 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 in 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 introduction 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