What is a Foreword in a Book?

forewordThere are so many different components that make up a book – the story itself, and all that comes before it, like the introduction, the dedication page, the preface, and the foreword – that sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight. In this blog, we’ll be discussing what a book foreword is and how to write one for your book, whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, or poetry. 

Note the spelling: it isn’t a forward, it’s a foreword – as in “before.” It’s a section in a book that is reserved for – usually – a different writer than the author of the book. The writer of the this section discusses the author and the book, and how they’re connected to it. Sometimes the writer is a friend of the book’s author or a mentor. The subject can vary, as well. It acts as an introduction to the book and helps market it: if an up and coming writer can land a foreword written by a credible, established writer, this can increase it’s value.

How to Write a Foreword

If you’re the author of the book, you don’t have to worry about this step. However, if you’re asked by a colleague or a friend to write one for their book, you’ll need to know how to write a good foreword. It can be intimidating to write one, but you should also take it as a compliment: this means that someone trusts your writing and appreciates your input enough to put it in their book.

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing a foreword for a book:

  • Be honest. You were asked to write this because someone else values your opinion – so be honest.
  • Use your unique voice. Your writing style will be on display, so stay true to your flare and voice.
  • Discuss your connection to the story and author. This is the whole point!
  • Mimic the style of the book. If the book is serious, write a serious foreword. If it’s a silly, comedic book, don’t be afraid to be funny. Remember that this section is a part of the book, so matching the vibe is a good idea.
  • Sign off. Forewords are unique in that they’re almost like a letter to the reader, so there’s usually a “signature” at the end.

Examples of a Foreword

Here are some book foreword examples:

  • The foreword in The Best American Short Stories of 2016, edited by Junot Diaz, is written by the series editor Heidi Pitlor. Since Pitlor is an expert on the anthology, it’s fitting she would write the foreword. In the foreword, she discusses editing this edition with Diaz, the state of the world when they edited it, what inspired them, etc.
  • In the 1996 version of The Bell Jar, it’s written by Frances McCullough, the editor at Harper who published it after Sylvia Plath’s death. In it, McCullough describes how the book came to be published, and the foreword celebrates the 25th anniversary of its publication.
  • In Four Complete Novels: Great Expectations / Hard Times / A Christmas Carol / A Tale of Two Cities, a Charles Dickens collection by Gramercy Books, Danielle Dubas writes it. In this case, it acts as a miniature biography of Dickens’s life and his works.

A book doesn’t have to have a foreword. Most of the time forewords are found in debut books or special anniversary editions. They’re a great way to tell about the circumstances surrounding the writing and publishing of the book, the author’s life, or another writer’s connection to the book. Including one in your book can be a great way to add more insight into the story.