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Foreword, Preface or Introduction for Your Self-Published Book?

foreword preface introduction self-published
There are many elements that may go into any self-published book you’re working on, and one that many authors spend a lot of time thinking about is the beginning section (or sections). Which sort of introductory section should you be utilizing? There are several options out there, and a few things to consider as you choose between them. At Izzard Ink, we’re proud to offer a wide range of self-publishing services for authors, helping with many areas of self-publishing a book. We provide services ranging from manuscript assessment and editing to print broker solutions and many in between. When it comes to the beginning sections of many books, three common considerations are forewords, prefaces and introductions. What is typically meant when discussing any of these section types, and which might be ideal for your self-published book? Here’s a simple rundown.

Forewords

One of the most common and well-known of these types of sections is the foreword. Many books have them, but what exactly is a foreword? A foreword is a short introduction written by someone other than the author. This person is typically well-known or respected in some way within the book’s subject matter. The foreword writer might also have some relationship to the author, but this isn’t always the case. Oftentimes, the foreword is simply someone vouching for the quality of the book’s content. The foreword might also talk about the author’s qualifications or share some anecdotes. If you’re thinking about a foreword for your book, there are a few concepts to be considering:
  • Purpose of the foreword: As noted, the foreword is typically a way to vouch for the book’s quality or the author’s qualifications. It might also be used as a platform to praise the book’s contents. Regardless, you should have an idea of how you want the foreword to function before reaching out to anyone to write it.
  • Who will write the foreword: The foreword is typically written by someone other than the author, as noted. It might be a good idea to consider who would be best suited to write such a piece before making any decisions. Keep in mind that the person doesn’t have to be well-known, but they should at least be respected within the book’s subject matter.
  • Foreword length: Most forewords are relatively short, so you shouldn’t expect anything too lengthy. A good rule of thumb is to keep the foreword to about one page, but this isn’t set in stone.

Prefaces

A preface, on the other hand, is a small introductory section that’s written by the author of the book themselves, rather than by someone else. There can be a few specific reasons for a preface, but the most common use across various areas of literature is often to explain why the book was written, or detail parts of the creative process that the author went through. The preface might also talk about the book’s intended audience, or share some thoughts on what the reader can expect. As with a foreword, there are a few key things to think about if you’re considering a preface:
  • Purpose of the preface: A preface is typically used to set the stage for the book, or provide some context surrounding its contents. It might also be used as an opportunity to thank people who contributed to the book’s creation.
  • Preface length: Prefatory sections can vary in length, but they are typically shorter than forewords. As with a foreword, a good rule of thumb is to keep the preface to about one page.
  • Start or end for acknowledgements: As we noted above, prefaces may sometimes be used to acknowledge people who have assisted in the process of writing or publishing the book. However, some authors prefer to create a designated section for this at the end of their book (often called an acknowledgement or acknowledgements section).

Introductions

An introduction is a brief section that comes before the book’s main text. It’s typically used to introduce the reader to the book’s subject matter, and might also share some thoughts on what the reader can expect from the contents. Introductions are one form of book section that can vary widely depending on whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. For fiction books, the introduction might provide some context surrounding the story, or talk about the author’s inspiration for writing it. For nonfiction books, on the other hand, the introduction might provide a brief overview of the book’s contents — who it’s meant for, the kinds of problems it will help readers solve, and so on. As with a foreword or preface, there are a few key things to think about if you’re considering an introduction:
  • Numbering: Many introductions will be numbered in different ways than prefaces or forewords. In some cases, they might be considered their own chapter (usually Chapter 1). In others, they might be numbered as a section within Chapter 1 (e.g., “Section 1: Introduction”).
  • Length: Like prefaces and forewords, introductions can vary in length — with a wide range of possible outcomes. Some introductions will only be a page or two, while others might be much longer (several pages, or even a whole chapter).
  • Content: The content of an introduction will depend on the book itself. However, some common elements include providing context for the book’s contents, introducing the author and their qualifications, and highlighting what the reader can expect to learn.

Using Multiple Beginning Sections

To be clear, none of the options we’ve gone over so far are mutually exclusive — meaning, you can absolutely use more than one of them in your book, if you think it would be beneficial. In fact, depending on the length and complexity of your book, utilizing multiple beginning sections might be a good idea. For example, you might choose to use a brief foreword written by someone else, followed by your own introduction that provides more context for the book’s contents. Alternatively, you might use a longer foreword written by yourself, followed by a shorter preface that introduces the reader to the book’s subject matter. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what will work best for your book. If you’re not sure which route to take, we recommend trying out a few different options and seeing what feels right. There’s no wrong answer here — only what works best for you and your book. For more on the introductory options out there for your book, or to learn about any of our self-publishing services for fiction and non-fiction books alike, speak to our team at Izzard Ink today.

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