One of the most frequent questions I get from first-time and would-be authors concerns forewords. Are they necessary or even beneficial?
It’s an interesting question and there’s no on right answer. Before answering it, though, permit me a tennis analogy as it’s instructive.
No reputable tennis instructor can answer in a vacuum the question, “Was that the right shot to hit?” It all depends on the player, the type of opponent, the type and length of the rally, court position, the scores of the game and the match, and other factors. Put differently, all shots in tennis are contextual. It always depends.
The same holds true with forewords. For my part, I was pleased to secure high-profile forewords from some fairly prominent folks for my first four books. Since I was starting out as a writer, the names of those thought leaders ostensibly added credibility to my own texts and, by extension, to me. (Books five, six, and seven are foreword-free.)
Do forewords help?
They usually don’t hurt. There’s clearly some benefit to adding another person’s moniker to the cover of your text, particularly if that person:
- Brings a strong reputation to the table
- Has done work or published a reputable book in a similar field
- Hasn’t written forewords for too many other books—aka, the dilution effect
Few if any people buy a book because of its foreword.
Note this holds true even for established authors. When people search Amazon for the books of Author X, your book will appear in the results as well—even if Author X penned the foreword. Don’t underestimate that fact, especially if you’re just getting started. Remember, writing is easy; marketing is hard.
At the same time, though, I don’t know anyone who has ever purchased a book because Mrs. or Mrs. So-and-So penned 600 words and slapped his or her name on the cover. In fact, some authors eschew forewords and even book endorsements altogether. (See Do Book Endorsements Matter?)
Book forewords are neither necessary nor sufficient for success. The presence of one guarantees nothing; the lack of one will hardly prevent you from selling boatloads of copies.
What say you?