Going Foreword…

While you’re thinking about the content of your book and its structure, scope, tone and so on, don’t forget the prelims and endmatter, and particularly the foreword (NB NOT ‘forward’, it’s the ‘word’ to the reader that goes be’fore’ the main text).  

Why bother with a foreword?

Here are just a few reasons: 

  1. Credibility. While you will write your own preface and/or introduction and/or note to reader, a foreword is traditionally written by someone else. It’s a powerful way to establish your credibility: ‘Don’t take my word for how fabulous I am and how great this book is, I would say that wouldn’t I: but here’s XXX, whom you know and like and trust and who really rates it.’
  2. Discoverability. It’s also a great secret weapon in the discoverability war: the writer of a foreword appears as a contributor in bibliographic data, so by enlisting a big name in your field you ensure your book appears in results for that person’s name – and let’s face it, if you’re a first-time author, the punters are more likely to be searching for the more established name than for yours.
  3. Network building. This is an opportunity to build a relationship with the luminaries in your field, those who’ve inspired you and shaped your ideas. Dare to dream big – who would you most love to have visibly endorsing your book? Whose name would act as guarantee and promise to potential readers that what you’re saying is worth reading?

I’m convinced. So how do I do it? And when?

How you go about securing this person to write a foreword for you will vary depending on how well you know them. If they’re a friend or close acquaintance, you can simply talk to them – tell them about the book you’re writing, tell them you’d love to have them write a foreword, and take it from there.

If it’s someone you know only slightly, or if you’ve been to their talks or read their books but they don’t know you, you’ll have to do a bit more work. The best approach is a shortly, polite email: remind them of when you met (if you did), tell them what particularly impressed you about them, then outline your book briefly and ask if they’d be willing to consider writing a foreword, or failing that an endorsement – don’t attach the whole manuscript, just a table of contents and perhaps the introduction. If they say yes, you’ll need to send them the full manuscript, so don’t make the approach until your book’s nearing completion of at least the first full draft, ideally second or third revision, but before copy-editing (otherwise you risk delaying publication while they read the book and compose their contribution). 

People can only say no, right? So be bold and brave – think of the person you’d most like to be associated with your book, who would have a really interesting and useful perspective to add, and find an intelligent way to approach and ask them. Or if you’re still at the early stages of planning or drafting your book, think of the right person and start building your relationship and connections with them, in real life, on Twitter or through mutual acquaintances, NOW.