What Should You Call Your Introduction?
This may sound like an odd question, or even hold an obvious answer – but to start with, things need to be broken down. Book insides are usually split into three sections: front matter, text, and then back matter. The front matter will usually include the title page, copyright and publisher information, contents, acknowledgments or dedication and perhaps a list of previous works.
Some books then also include an introductory section, which is what we’ll be looking at: a foreword, preface, introduction, or prologue. They are all there to introduce something about the book. But why do they have different names? Are there any differences between them or are they just different words for the same things? Let's take a look at each one.
The foreword is usually written by someone other than the author who is either connected to the author in some way or is an expert in the field or topic of the book's contents. A foreword can give your book credibility as it shows that it has been approved and endorsed by a professional. A foreword will precede a preface and are usually found in non-fiction works.
A preface is written by the author and usually states their intentions or aims for the book's contents, explaining its purpose and scope. It can cover the book's creation and how it was researched or developed and can also include the author's credentials or qualifications if relevant to the subject. It often includes acknowledgments to anyone who assisted the author with the book. Prefaces are also usually found only in non-fiction works.
An introduction focuses on the contents of the book, and is usually there to give the reader some information before proceeding to read the main text. It is there to introduce the text itself, perhaps supplementing it or offering up a starting position or viewpoint that the reader should be aware of. It could also instruct the reader on how to read the book - the best way to approach differing layouts or spread of information for example. Again, introductions are usually found only in non-fiction.
A prologue is part of the main body of text. It introduces the action and is a part of it too. A prologue can establish the setting and give background details or an earlier part of the story that is integral to the main text. However, it doesn't have to describe the beginning or what came before the main story; it can focus on any pivotal moment. Prologues are usually found in fiction.
Some people say that if you have a prologue, you should also look at having an epilogue, but that is, like anything, entirely your decision. Perhaps it’s just traditional.
So if you’re ever stuck thinking 'what should I call my introduction?’, maybe it wasn’t even an introduction to begin with. They are all different, and you could have a book with all four in. If you were to, the usual order would be as above: foreword, preface, introduction, and finally prologue.
Onward with Forewords – On and On
A little bit more on forewords now – as they seem to be the most interesting to discuss. Namely, what are they, why are they there, and why should you care? The foreword could be the first thing a reader encounters when they open your book. The foreword is used to introduce the reader not just to the book that they are presumably about to read, but also to you, the author of the work in question. Forewords are also a way to obtain extra attention for your published work.
As previously mentioned, the foreword is therefore written by someone other than the author; indeed these days it is common for a 'big name' author to write the foreword to a book by a lesser known writer (and to even be credited on the cover of the book). Not only does this attract fans of the ‘big name’ author, it grabs attention of the passer-by, and also shows a nod of recognition. One instance that springs readily to mind is Stephen King, whose seen gracing the forewords (and the covers) of some lesser-known horror writers to tell us all how brilliant this relative unknown is. In a way, it helps promote the genre as a whole.
It might be more difficult to get a named author to introduce our work, especially if you have selected the self-publishing route. However, you don't need to have someone famous do the forward – in fact, being a foreword writer can be quite a lucrative sideline on its own...
Making a Living Out of Being Foreword
The first thing to know of course is exactly how to write a foreword, since they do have a format and a rhythm all of their own. Forewords generally last for at least one and rarely more than two pages (it's not your book, after all) and like a story, has a beginning, middle, and end.
The opening of the foreword should include a little personal touch or two, usually indicating how the foreword writer knows the author of the book. This gives both foreword and book a feeling of legitimacy, rather than making the reader think the writer of the foreword has done so solely for the money (which may well be the case, but you don't want them to think that).
Anecdotes relating to the author and the theme of the book are advisable for inclusion in the middle section of the foreword, giving the reader a sense that the book is written by someone who knows what they're talking about. Feel free to mention some of the book's strong points too (without giving anything away). Then conclude by stating why you wanted to write the foreword (again, don't say "for the cash") and sign off with your name, credentials and location.
With any luck, that’s been a helpful introduction. For more information and tips on writing your book, check out our writing resources page.