Monday, October 24, 2005

Foreword Thinking -- An Introduction to the Introduction

Forewords are on my mind, as we are currently working on nailing down the exact verbiage of the foreword for Geoff’s book. Today – what a foreword IS.

The foreword is a strange literary beast. It introduces the larger work and / or the author – much as an emcee introduces a keynote speaker. It doesn’t contribute any additional information about the book’s subject matter, but it serves as a means of validating the book’s existence.

Often, the foreword of a book is written by someone that the general public recognizes more readily than the actual author. A foreword may be only a few paragraphs long – yet the foreword’s writer may share byline space on the cover. (“With foreword by Mr. Great Muckety Muck.”)

A foreword’s primary purpose is to boost book sales. It’s a means of introducing someone who may not be well-known via an expert in the field or a celebrity (who, by dint of being famous, is an expert on everything).

Forewords often have a personal, chatty feel to them. The foreword writer may reminisce about how he or she met the author of the main project, thus adding weight to the author’s credentials (“Oooh! He knows Mr. Great Muckety Muck! He must know what he’s writing about…”).

Forewords also tend to involve anecdotes that – ideally – have something to do with the work at hand. These generally serve as a practical or real-world example of whatever themes or ideas may be expressed later in the book itself. Again, they serve to simply reinforce that the writer knows his or her stuff.

But a foreword isn’t all about the book it introduces. If done correctly, the foreword can be as valuable a tool for the person writing it as for the author of the actual book.

To begin with, writing a foreword keeps the writer’s name in front of the public. This can be especially useful if there is significant lag time before another major project (book, album, movie…) that features the foreword’s writer is to be released. It is also a plus if the person writing the foreword is not known primarily as a writer. It can broaden the writer’s audience and, perhaps, appeal to a whole new segment of the population.

The foreword writer has the opportunity to remind people of why he or she is well-known – or at least qualified to write a foreword to a work – in the first place. A simple “author of 100 Secrets of the Super Stars” after the writer’s name at the end of the foreword serves as a frame of reference and solidifies credibility.

And that, in a nutshell, is all you ever wanted to know about a foreword. It’s a means of introducing an author and a new work to the world, while keeping the foreword writer in the public eye. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss how to write one.

Tying Up Loose Ends
Today is a "loose end" tamer.

Because of compatability issues with Maxell DVD's, the copying of "Carol of the Horse" did not go as planned on Friday. It pays to get Memorex. Or Panasonic. Now I know.

Anyway, they'll go out today, accompanied by many prayers and happy thoughts. One is going to my friend (who has a friend in acquisitions of the Perfect Publisher), in the hopes that she'll like what she sees enough to recommend a meeting. The other is going to my editor at Trafalgar Square. I know they won't publish the book -- they've already passed on the project. They don't do children's books, anyway. But I thought I'd let her see what else I've been working on, in addition to Geoff's book and the editing project for He Who Will Not Call.

I have one week left on the Great Screenwriting Challenge. My friend Paul, of course, is already finished with his Magnum Opus. Which easily leads an embittered writer to grump about people who don't have enough to do. But it's all good. I'm happy he finished. I'll just be happier when I do. Twenty five pages to go. Give or take. It's like Finals week in college. I know I'm not prepared, but by the end of the week, this will all be over -- one way or another.

I also need to work up some questions for the co-author of my next book to get working on. He's starting a two-week elk hunt next week, and I want him to have some things to think about while he's gone.

And, of course, there's the few little things left to do with Geoff's book. I need to send the word changes we've agreed on in to Trafalgar Square, wrestle with one short section that isn't easily fixed by changing a single word, and come up with ideas for improving the foreword.

But first... coffee!