The Foreword, Preface and Introduction

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There are many components that go into the making of a book, apart from the main storyline. The main body of the book is usually preceded by a few introductory sections, which introduce the subject of the book and set the tone for further reading. Most authors also like to end the story with a concluding chapter or an epilogue. In addition, the author may wish to include an Acknowledgements section, a Dedication, an Epigraph, a postscript and so on.

While the latter may be seen more as superfluous trimmings, especially with non-fiction books, and not particularly crucial to the book’s core, the introductory sections, usually including the Foreword, the Preface and the Introduction, are seen as an integral part of the book and a well written and complete manuscript is one that has all these elements in place. Each of these sections play a vital role in the critical and financial success of the book. Without them, the book is incomplete, and not giving the readers their money’s worth.

However, establishing a clear, comfortable entry into the book, whether done at the beginning of the project or at the end, is a challenge to most authors and they have found that they often need to take several runs at figuring out how they want to introduce their books. This is partly the result of some confusion over what goes into the Foreword, Preface, and Introduction. Here are some definitions and descriptions – supported by most editors and publishers, which will help you introduce your book to your readers better and also establish your credibility as an author.

The Foreword – Why The Reader Should Read The Book
The Foreword is most often written by someone other than the author: an expert in the field or a writer of a similar genre. It shows the reader why he should read the book. It introduces the reader to the author, as well as the book itself, and attempts to establish credibility for both.
A foreword does not generally provide the reader any extra specific information about the book’s subject. This can be done by the author of the book in the preface and the introduction.
The foreword of a book is a major selling tool for the book. If written properly, and by the appropriate person for the job, the book and the author will gain a lot of credibility in the reader’s eyes. Also, an opening statement by an eminent and well-published author helps in pitching the book to book stores. In other words, they put a stamp of approval on the author’s work.

The Preface – How The Book Came About
The preface is a place for the book’s author to tell the reader how this book came into being, and why. It should be used to build credibility for the author, indicating their experience in the topic or their professional suitability to address such a topic. The preface is very similar to the foreword, except that the preface is written by the book’s author. The preface is also an important selling tool for the book. The author should use it to show the reader that the book is worth reading. Some authors may also acknowledge those who inspired them or helped them (though these are often put into a separate Acknowledgements section).

The Introduction – The Content Of The Book
The introduction introduces the material that is covered in the book. Here the author can set the stage for the reader, and prepare them for what can be expected from reading the book. It introduces what is covered in the book. Other times it familiarises the reader with the overall theme of the book, or establishes a base for definitions and methodology that will be used throughout the book. The introduction is a way for the author to grab the reader’s attention, and intensify his desire to find out more. Scholarly writers sometimes use the introduction to tell their readers how the book should be viewed academically.

Some authors choose to have a prologue instead of an introduction. A prologue is an act, scene, event, or development that precedes the main action of the book. Alternately it could be a pivotal moment within the action. A prologue must be complemented with an epilogue, which occurs at the end of the book, and usually provides a glance into the future lives of the protagonists. Prologues and epilogues are to be used only for works of fiction.

Each of these sections is clearly different, and performs a specific function in the book. It is hence imperative to understand the basic differences between the three, before you attempt to write them down. A well written Foreword, Preface and Introduction should be able to interest the public in buying and reading the rest of your book, explain to your readers why you wrote this book, how it is to be viewed and the details of what it covers.

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