Each section of a book has its own purpose and goals, from the front matter to the appendix. One important element that nonfiction authors may want to include is a foreword.
The foreword, which is usually written by an industry expert or influential figure for someone else’s book, can help establish the author’s credibility.
Whether you’re looking to ask someone famous to write your foreword or have been asked to write one yourself, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about this important introduction.
What Is a Foreword in a Book?
Many people mistake this word as “forward.” But the word “foreword” has the root the word “fore,” meaning “before.” The foreword is the section in a book that comes before the body of the book.
Let’s take a moment to discuss how a foreword differs from the preface. The preface is the front matter written by the author to introduce the book, usually explaining their motivation and inspiration for writing the book.
In contrast, the foreword is written by someone else and is meant to endorse the author and their work. Usually, somebody with greater known expertise or authority on the subject writes the foreword, lending credibility to a lesser-known author.
Because the foreword introduces the author to the readers, it’s usually best if the person writing it has some level of relationship with the author. That way, they can attest to the integrity of the writer, as well as share personal experiences with them.
What Is the Purpose of a Foreword?
The foreword functions as an important marketing tool. If written properly and by the person best suited for the job, a foreword can help your book can gain tremendous credibility in the eyes of readers.
Who Should Write a Foreword?
If you are looking for someone to write the foreword of your book, the following people are usually your best bets:
- Highly paid speakers
- Bestselling authors
- People regularly shown or discussed in the media
Other options, based on the your specific nonfiction category, might also be a good idea. For example:
Health and Wellness Books
- A medical practitioner
- A certified health coach or instructor
- A professional athlete or coach
Business or Leadership Books
- A successful entrepreneur
- A leadership trainer or speaker
- A school head or leader
- A media personality connected with education
- Politicians connected with educational concerns
Marriage or Parenting Books
- A psychologist
- A marriage counsellor
- A talk show host known for championing marriage or family
- A celebrity known for advocating strong families
- A known religious leader in your chosen sect or group
- A known religious leader in the overall scheme
- A history expert or historian
- A writer who can attest to your storytelling skills
- A relative or friend of the person whose biography you’re writing
Travel Guides and Travelogues
- A well-known travel blogger or YouTuber
- A celebrity known for traveling
How to Get a Famous or Influential Person to Write your Foreword
If you’re the author of a book and would like to ask someone influential write your foreword, here are some tips to help you:
1. List your potential endorsers.
Make a list of the top 5–10 people you believe could write a great foreword for you. Look for one or both of these characteristics:
- Credibility: When an influencer with credibility endorses your book, some of that credibility rubs off on you. Readers can quickly associate you with that person and their expertise, which is an important asset in the publishing world.
- Empathy: Another important trait for your foreword writer to have is the ability to win your readers’ empathy. The foreword author can also give your readers an idea what to expect when they take your advice.
2. Categorize them according to Warm or Cold Contacts.
Warm Contacts refer to those with whom you have a personal relationship. Cold Contacts are those you have never had a personal conversation with.
Obviously, those you have a good relationship with will be easier to approach, and will have a bigger chance of saying yes to you.
But if you find that the ideal person you believe should write your foreword is in your cold contacts, look at the people in your warm contacts and see if any of them can give you a referral to your target person. This way, you can make an action plan how best to approach the said person.
3. Prepare your pitch.
When you present your request to any potential endorser, include the following:
- An outline of your book: What is the book about? What will the readers get from it?
- Any benefits for them: One clear benefit of writing a foreword is getting the exposure that comes with the book. This may include a chance for the writer to promote their business. But if you’re approaching someone who already has greater exposure than you, look into what is important for them and consider offering benefits along that line.
- What you need from them: Do you have specific guidelines for the foreword you’re asking, such as how long it has to be? Do they need to complete it by a certain date? Would you need them to read the whole book, or is an introduction enough?
- Next steps: You might include an invitation to talk in more detail in person. Or, if they want to read the book first, this is where you send them the full manuscript.
4. Approach them with clear intentions.
Because it’s more difficult to approach someone you hardly know, start to build a relationship before you present your request.
When you start to approach the people you’ve listed down, make your plans as clear as possible. This means being open with them as to what you need from them: for example, do you need a two-page foreword? Specify it in your letter.
Also, give them the option of endorsing you with or without having read the whole book. Remember that influential people will likely have very busy schedules, so it’s good to give them this choice.
Then, give them an outline of what they can write about. This is especially important if the person you’re approaching has never written a foreword before. Otherwise, you can skip the outline.
5. Follow up.
Only one person writes a foreword in a book, in contrast with testimonials where you can have several. Therefore, it’s important to start approaching people, one at a time, well in advance of your publishing date.
This way, you can follow up on the first person you reached out to with ample time to find someone else in case it doesn’t work out.
Be brief and professional when you follow up. If the person agrees to write you a foreword but does not get back to you by the agreed deadline, send an email reminding them of the deadline and asking if they need more time.
If you are still flexible, you can give a new date. If not, let them know that they only have X amount of time left to be included in your book.
Examples of a Foreword
Here are some excerpts of forewords written by influential people for lesser-known authors:
Example #1. Bridal Intercession by Gary Wiens, Foreword by Mike Bickle
This Christian nonficiton book on prayer has a foreword written by Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer-Kansas City, a very appropriate person to comment on the subject. An excerpt is shown below to show you how Mike describes his relationship with Gary:
It has been my pleasure to know Gary Wiens since 1985 in a friendship that has gone from mere acquaintance to partnership in ministry. Since he and Mary came with their family to Kansas City in 1996, I have watched him grow in his relationship with the Man Christ Jesus to the place where his heart burns with the desire to go deeper and deeper in the knowledge of the beauty of the Lord. I have watched his children become established as godly young people, and have appreciated deeply the contributions this family has brought to this city, first to Metro Christian Fellowship, and now to the House of Prayer.
Example #2. The Courage Map by Franziska Iseli
Richard Branson wrote the foreword for this new book on self-improvement and learning to live boldly:
I’ve always had a love for adventure, and I’ve been blessed to share many of them with my family and friends. So when Franziska told me about her motorbike journey along the Silk Road, I was intrigued.
Every day I see people doing great things in the world. What do they have in common? The courage to go after their dreams and make a positive impact. Franziska’s book shows how that message can support you in running your life and business based on courage, love, and kindness instead of fear.
How to Write a Foreword
If you are invited to write a foreword for a friend or colleague’s book, consider it an honor! Here are some tips to help you write an effective foreword:
- Stay honest. Flattery has no room in the foreword. Instead, be honest about the strengths that you see in the author.
- Write in a style similar to that of the book. If the book is a funny, comedic piece, inject humor into your foreword too. But if it’s serious and contemplative, try to maintain a similar vibe.
- Keep it short and sweet. A good estimate is about one to two pages, or about 750 to 1,500 words.
What Is Included in a Foreword?
These are the key elements that you need to include in the foreword if you’ve been asked to write one:
1. Introduction (1-2 paragraphs)
This is where you introduce yourself and your relationship with the author. Remember that the foreword is addressed to the reader.
Although most people asked to write a foreword already have a strong platform, assume that not every reader will know who you are. Share your credentials, establishing why you have the authority to comment on the subject. Most of the time, you will not have to go into too much detail.
2. Relationship Connection (2-3 paragraphs)
After you introduce yourself, share how you got to know the author. Some writers describe their first meeting, or their first impression of the author. Others share an anecdote, which may help endear the readers to the author.
3. Main Body: Introduction to the book (1-3 paragraphs)
After establishing your relationship with the author, you can start talking about the book. Some writers like to offer a brief summary, while others prefer to highlight their favorite parts of the book.
4. Main Body: A personal endorsement (1-2 paragraphs)
One of the purposes of the foreword is to build the author up for the readers. Some writers do this first before describing the book. Others give a brief overview of the book first.
In any case, describe the book and why the author is the best person to write this book. You can do that by sharing examples of:
- how they demonstrate expertise in the subject
- how they have already helped other people with their knowledge
- their motivation for going deep into this subject
5. Conclusion (1 paragraph)
As you close, remind your readers why you are writing the foreword for the author. This is also where you can remind your readers what they can get out of the book.
6. Sign your name as though it were a letter.
Sign your name at the end—because the foreword of a book is essentially a letter of endorsement written to the reader!
Writing a Foreword
As you can see, writing a foreword or getting someone important to write a foreword for your book can really help your platform or that of another author.
Now that you understand how it works best, you can move forward to the next phase of your book writing: preparing the front matter and moving closer to publishing!
If you were to write a book, who would you ask to write the foreword? Share your thoughts in the comments below!