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A Good First Impression: The Difference Between a Foreword, a Preface, and an Introduction

September 8, 2011

Last year the New York Times reported that 764,448 books were self-published in 2009—a figure up 181 percent from the previous year. In that same period, 288,355 were published with a traditional house, prompting the Times to declare that “book publishing is simply becoming self-publishing.”


With the majority of authors taking the publishing process into their own hands, writers have to fill in the gaps an editor or production associate would normally be responsible for. Structuring a book appropriately and effectively is one of those essential components. A book that begins with a bang can make the difference between a reader buying the book and putting it back on the shelf. We’re here to help you figure out what, exactly, goes into those crucial beginning pages.


The Foreword

According to the esteemed Chicago Manual of Style, a foreword is “a brief essay of endorsement that is written by someone other than the book’s author.” Your foreword should be written by a professional—preferably a person who is respected and well known in a field relating to your book’s topic. Use the foreword to establish your credibility; readers may not recognize your name, but if they know the author of the foreword, they’ll likely pick up your book. Forewords should only be a few pages in length and you should mention the foreword on the title page or cover to attract readers. Check out our previous post on getting great endorsements for your book; much of the advice also applies to requesting a foreword.


The Preface and Acknowledgments

The preface is where you get personal. In this section, written by the author, you can share why you were compelled to write the book and explain any interesting methods you used to create it. You should also use the preface to further establish your credibility and expertise to readers; show them why you are the perfect person to write the book. Feel free to use the preface to acknowledge the people who helped you along the way. However, if your acknowledgments take up more than a few paragraphs, put them in an entirely separate section labeled “Acknowledgments.”


The Introduction

The BPS Books Blog describes the introduction this way: “If a preface is about the book as a book, the introduction is about the content of the book.” Sum up the book’s theme in the introduction, but be careful not to go overboard. You want to tease the reader without boring them. Note that the introduction should be placed at the beginning of the text and be paginated with Arabic numerals—not lowercase Roman numerals like the preceding front matter.  Writing coach Lisa Tener advises writers to “think like your reader” as they compose the introduction. Consider the introductions that have made an impact on you as well as the ones you bypassed. Go from there, and don’t be afraid to write the introduction after you’ve finished the rest of the manuscript.


You might also want to check out Pat McNees’ helpful blog post on the subject of front matter, in which she lists the order the separate sections should appear in. Of course, if you’re publishing a book in digital format only, there is some debate about whether front matter should be included at the beginning at all. DigitalBookWorld.com points out the benefits of moving the title pages, table of contents, and the copyright to the back of the book—namely that in digital previews, the reader will be able to start with the first chapter. Whether at the front or the back, the preface and introduction aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.


As you move forward with writing and structuring the book, don’t take the beginning lightly. In a world where people have hundreds of thousands of books at their fingertips 24/7, a well-written, intriguing introduction, foreword, or preface can have an important impact on the reader.

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Tips on Submitting to ForeWord's 2009 Book of the Year Awards

December 22, 2009

Picture 1The deadline for ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year Award is January 15, 2010! ForeWord is a trusted and widely read print magazine and online review service for readers, booksellers, and librarians; receiving a good review or award from them lends credibility to authors and enhances the marketability of the book. Whitney Hallberg, Awards Coordinator for ForeWord sent out a helpful letter yesterday with submission tips for authors and publishers. She's kindly given us permission to reprint them here. If you plan to submit, be sure to read these first!

1. If you can’t decide what category to enter your books in, look at previous years’ winners and finalists in the categories you’re considering. This will give you a good idea of what kind of books each category receives. Past winners are listed at http://www.forewordmagazine.net/botya/. Pick the category you think is best, but know that our finalist judging panel will move books to different categories if they think they’ll compete better.

2. Two copies, please! Two judges will be looking at every book that’s named a finalist, so we need two copies of every book.

3. Save postage—package entries together. If you’re entering more than one book, you can box them all together.

4. Think about the real people—my coworkers and me—who will be opening your packages, and don’t use too much tape and packaging! We don’t want your books to fall out in the mail, but in order for them to be considered for the awards, we have to be able to get them out of their envelopes.

There you have it: advice straight from the source. Be sure to follow Whitney's practical advice for the best chance at having your work recognized. Finalists will be named in March; winners will be named at BookExpo America in June

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Feel Appeal: Survival of the Sexiest

August 9, 2006

bluehand.72dpi1.jpgYou turn and look, and there she is—beautiful, mysterious, seductive in the midst of her drab sisters. Your breath catches in your throat. More than anything, you want to pick her up—caress the soft, smooth texture of the cover, trace the line of the emboss, smell that new-paper perfume. The outlines of the die-cut are a little rough to touch, teasing you with a glimpse of the case beneath her dust jacket. Before you know it, you’re lost in her flap copy, still stroking the silken front cover as you fall deeper and deeper under her spell.

It’s called Feel Appeal—the textures, colors, and effects that make you want to touch what you see. A book with strong feel appeal gets noticed, admired—and taken home, far more often than her plain siblings. A bookstore browser looks at a book’s cover for only a few seconds, but if that cover entices a reader to pick the book up, it’s far more likely to go home with him tonight. Feel Appeal is a powerful allure—if a book looks interesting to touch, it’s going to be picked up.

The Feel Appeal Index measures four categories of a book’s attractiveness and rates its overall seductive qualities—a perfect 10 on the FAI is that beauty in the first paragraph; a 1 is a piece of dirty Xerox paper on the floor. What does the FAI measure?

1. Size
The trim, the spine, the weight, the shape—an uncommon figure catches more attention in a crowd or on a shelf. Some books increase their Feel Appeal with a smaller trim size—5 x 7 is shorter, smaller, thicker than you’d expect, petite, compact, intriguing. But even 9.5 or 10 x 6 presents a significantly different silhouette than the typical 9 x 6—taller, slimmer-seeming, exotic. Even in a line spine-out on a bookshelf, an unusual trim size breaks the line of the ordinary, expected 5 x 8’s and 9 x 6’s to present something different—maybe something extraordinary.

2. Visual texture
Shiny metallics and foils gleam in the pale fluorescent light and add flash and sizzle to the shelf. Elkote and spot varnish make slick reflective surfaces to contrast with soft, sophisticated mattes. Every so often, you even see a book that’s not afraid to show off a lot of bling, like ink on foil or glitter. If it’s classy, it’s hot.

3. Tactile texture
The ultimate touch appeal is texture you can feel—rough Rainbow paper; soft ribbed cotton blends; smooth, cool linens. Little ridges of embossing, valleys of debossing. Die-cut shapes, the cut edge of the paper palpable and some small piece of the unseen case visible beneath, like peeking through a keyhole. When a book's design incorporates these elements, it’s flirting with every customer in the store.

4. Color
You can’t feel color. But a luscious, vivid red, a wicked, mischievious green, or a rich, serene blue can capture the eyes with the sort of siren beauty that lures the hands to follow. Color emphasizes the book’s other feel appeal attributes, giving foil stamping a background with contrast and allure, heightening the effect of a die cut or emboss, and making sure no one can overlook that unusual trim size.

Of course, like any measure of attraction, the Feel Appeal Index is subjective. One reader’s Venus is another’s Medusa, but in the world of books, no one beauty rules the others. Take home as many young lovelies as you want. If you face any interrogation from a suspicious spouse, just tell the truth—you were seduced.

TIP: Check out hot covers from the New York Times Book Review or take a peek at Foreword's hot-or-not book design page. Then discuss with other book-watchers.

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