Granted, you’ve likely seen this type of post before. But, I can’t help myself. I see it come up at least monthly. A client wants an introduction when they really mean a foreword. Or, they want a prologue, which really means they want an introduction.
The thing is, that all of this really does matter. As a writer, you need to know the difference. Because believe me, I have even run into editors who use the terms synonymously, which is a bit scary. As a ghostwriter, this is an opportunity for you to show off your skills. Especially when it comes to how a book is put together.
Let’s talk front matter
The front matter of a book is everything that comes before the primary text. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I hope you know what a table of contents is. There is also a copyright page, and possibly some credit, blah, blah… Well, what I would like to talk about are the various forms of introduction that lead to the primary book text. I’ll save the back matter for another article.
I’ll make this as quick and painless as possible. Bookmark this blog, if you think you’ll forget. Aaaaand here goes…
Before we get into the three components were going to talk about it’s important to understand what an introduction is. Everyone calls everything an introduction. And why not, the word describes exactly what the introduction does. It is a concise review of what is coming, and what the reader can expect. But, from fiction to non-fiction the introduction is further broken down into the prologue, preface, and foreword depending on the need.
You know that part of the novel you skip? It’s the one that has critical insight into characters. Perhaps it talks about a kid who’s parents mysteriously disappear down a well. This single event transforms the kid the rest of his life, and more importantly throughout the book. Well, if you skip it, then you have no idea what I’m talking about because the story usually starts twenty oo thirty years later.
The prologue is used only in fiction and is a way for the author of a novel to explain the backstory to the reader, or introduce needed characters without having to use too much flashback. I love flashbacks. Many, many writers love flashbacks. But, in a book they can be confusing. So, you may want to learn how to write awesome prologues. It’ll make your book better…even if no one reads your prologue.
The best example I can think of a foreword is in the Best Short Stories of the Year series. Typically a celebrity judge will write a foreword talking about the stories in the book and why these stories were chosen for the book.
Keep in mind two very important things. The word is spelled “foreword” not “forward,” and, the author of the book does not write it. This is what you would consider a guest celebrity or author providing praise as to why you, as the reader, should read the book.
So, now that you know what a foreword is. I’ll tell you what it’s not.
A foreword is not a preface.
I see foreword and preface interchanged more than any other front matter. This mix-up is probably because they both introduce the book. However, a preface is written by the author and usually tells how the book came about. Perhaps the author lost a child from a rare blood condition, which inspired writing about vampires. *Hint, hint* Anne Rice.
This is an opportunity for a writer to engage with the reader on a personal note and encourage the reader to read on because now that you’ve brought them into your life the reader is interested in learning more about their new friend.
So, the next time you are trying to figure out what book you want to read next, take a look at the front matter. It will show you more than any other part of the book. Including the last page where you get to see who lived and who died.
If you’re a freelance writer I can’t stress the importance of understanding the components of a book. Not only will it impress, but it will add legitimacy to your experience and profession.