Forewords, prefaces and introductions

Before your actual book begins – particularly if writing nonfiction – you may want to include material that that introduces readers to it. The idea of these introductions is in large part to establish why readers actually should read the book.

There are three general types of introductions that you might include in your book:
• Foreword – This is an essay about the book written by someone other than the book’s author. Ideally, a recognizable name in the book’s genre or subject matter writes the foreword. As the author, you might consider seeking out well-known names to write the foreword. It is always signed, meaning the essay’s author gives his name and usually the date and place of writing.
• Preface – This is written by the book’s author. Typically, it tells how the author came up with the idea for the book, explains the importance of the subject matter (or the book’s approach to it), and may include a list of thanks and acknowledgements at its end. It’s usually signed with the date and place of writing given. The preface always comes after the foreword.
• Classic introduction – Traditionally, an introduction gives information that the reader ought to know to better understand the book, such as how it’s organized, how it’s laid out, special features, and so on. In that sense, it’s a like set of explanatory notes.

Some authors combine the preface and introduction into one and label it as an introduction. I did that in my book “Hikes with Tykes” because explaining how the book came to be was essential to understanding how the volume was organized. Some authors also opt for an acknowledgements page rather than listing the names at the end of a preface or an introduction; other authors use both methods in the same book, saving the acknowledgements page for the most special contributions.

Page numbers for the foreword and preface typically are done in Roman numerals (i, ii, iii) while the introduction is in Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3).

Authors also should know that very few readers actually will sift through any of this introductory material. After all, most readers don’t need to be convinced to read the book as anyone considering such a purchase probably will rely on the back cover blurb, reviews by other readers, or maybe a quick paging through to see what the various chapters cover. Still, indulge that small fraction of readers who do look at forewords, prefaces and introductions, as they will appreciate gaining insights into your book from this material.