What is the Preface of a Book?
Once you are done with your manuscript, you would want to write a page for your readers – a preface. Not every book has a preface page, but it is good to have for your book. If you are writing a nonfiction book, you should plan to write a preface. For fiction, it depends on what kind of book you have written.
Let us start by understanding what a preface is and how to write a perfect preface for your book.
What is a Preface?
A preface is a given at the start of a book and comes before the main text. It is an essential part of the book. A preface is written to draw the readers’ attention and try to make a connection with readers. It offers information about the author’s experience of writing the book. It talks about his inspiration for coming up with this story or idea. The author can also share his writing process, historical context for the material, and the story’s purpose in the preface.
An author can sell their book to readers through the preface. Instead of simply exaggerating or self-mythologizing an already clear message, it should be written with the intent to draw readers in. A preface should aim to pique readers’ interests instead of boosting the author’s ego or serving up their message.
What is Written in the Preface of a Book?
The text of the preface does not have to be related to your book. It gives you a chance to form a connection with your reader, and hence you can include below in the preface:
- Share your experience of writing the book – Talk about your writing process- was it easy for you, how much you enjoyed the process, etc.
- Tell them about your inspiration for writing the book – readers love to know what made you write it – was it some real-life incident or something else.
- You can also share the challenges you faced and briefly explain how you overcame those challenges.
- Suppose you researched before starting the book. If they are nonfiction books or academic writing, talk about the research process or the research methods and how they helped you present a better version of the book.
- You can share some information that you think will help readers connect with the book better.
There is no hard and fast rule that you can share only the above points in the preface. You understood the purpose of an author’s preface, and you can add the text accordingly.
What is the Difference between a Preface & an Introduction in a Book?
As already mentioned, a book’s preface is a text the author writes to explain his point of view of writing the book to its readers. It is not mandatory to have one.
On the other hand, the introduction is the beginning of your book’s main text. The brief introduction is the crucial part the author writes to set the context of the story. You don’t need to summarize your book in the introduction. The purpose is to engage the reader, make an emotional connection with them and sell them on reading the complete book.
What is the Difference between a Preface, Prologue & Foreward?
Before we talk about the differences – let us talk about the similarities among them. All these three are part of the book and come in the introductory section of the book. They form an integral part of the front matter of any book. They are numbered in Roman numerals instead of regular numbers. They may look the same based on the above points, but they are different as they serve other purposes.
We have already talked about the purpose of a good preface, so moving on to the prologue. You will find the prologue mainly in the fiction book and written from a character’s point of view. The character, in most cases, is the main character or a character who brings in a different perspective to the story.
The prologue gives readers some additional information through which they can better understand the story. Prologue tries to share the background information of main or some characters, information that sets up the story or talks about the event before the story began in brief.
The foreword is entirely different in the sense that the author does not write it. It has to be written by someone other than the author. Mostly the person who writes it is a prominent figure, an expert on the subject matter, some other author, or a book critic.
The purpose of the foreword is to lend credibility to the book and praise the work and the author. Authors have this section in the book as a marketing tool to increase the book profile and attract more readers.
How to Write a Great Preface?
A preface is a significant part of your manuscript, even though not all readers read the preface. It is not mandatory either.
However, if you choose to write a preface, ensure you give more than 100% to write it. Below are some tips for writing a perfect preface that can draw readers’ attention:
- Brevity is essential – You need to keep your preface brief. Share everything you want to but keep everything to the point. You don’t need to explain anything or justify anything in the preface. The ideal length of a preface is one page or two pages, or four paragraphs.
- Make it enjoyable – The start of the preface has to be interesting. If you sound even a bit boring, the readers won’t hesitate to skip it. If you are writing a nonfiction book, give some interesting pieces of information to readers about how you came up with the idea.
- Present it like ‘making of’ – These days, the team shares behind-the-scenes videos for most web series or movies. A preface is similar to that. You share with your audience how you came with the book, what went into your book’s creation, and your writing journey.
- Keep yourself in the primary setting – Talk about yourself or things from your point to set your authority. You can let them know about your past work, your awards in literature, and some other similar content.
When to have a Preface and When Not to have it?
There is no defined rule that stops or mandates you from writing a preface. However, if you are writing for an academic or technical audience, it is always better to have a preface. If you are writing nonfiction, especially self-help, you need not have a preface. Self-help books mostly come with an introduction.
Suppose you are writing a self-help book or an academic book. In that case, it’s better to title your preliminary message an Introduction (rather than a Preface) to the reader. It is because many readers skip Prefaces and start reading Chapter One.
Many people prefer to read Introductions compared to Prefaces because “Preface” might sound stuffy for some. So if you want your opening message to come across as a strong one, call it an Introduction.
Examples of Good Prefaces both in Fiction & Non-fiction
As mentioned above, the purpose of the preface is to get the reader interested and make the connection.
A perfect example in the nonfiction category is in the book –Freakonomics. In the preface, readers get to know the authors’ background and the kind of relationship they hold. The preface talks about a meeting between an economist fascinated by the riddles of everyday life and the journalist relieved to meet an academic with a talent for speaking in plain English. The preface perfectly sets the readers’ expectation – they get to have academic insight into economics but written in simple language and with passion.
A preface in the fiction category is sometimes tough to write. However, if you can come with something like ‘Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow’, it will surely benefit your work. In the preface, the author talks about the challenges faced while investigating powerful media predators. There were new developments even as the book was going to press. In the preface, Farrow discussed the development in the story after the book was submitted to editors. Such content prompts readers to jump on to the story.
The first thing you should decide is whether you want to have a preface or not. If you choose to write it, consider it as important as your main content. Many people will end up reading your book based on the connection you set up with them through your preface.