There has never been much call for forewords and introductions in fiction. Which is a shame, because I love the things. They give me glimpses of the author’s “true” voice and, if written by another, insight into the author’s character. For most works of fiction, publishers and readers treat them as so much filler. The exception being the short story anthology where an introduction by the editor is practically de rigueur. (As a reader, I always feel a tad ripped off if an anthology doesn’t contain something from the editor. Just sayin’.)
This type of front matter is usually reserved for non-fiction. The writer might use the foreword to make his case about the value of the information contained therein, be it social, economic, cultural or political. An expert in the work’s subject might write the introduction to lend weight and authenticity to the writer’s research or theories or conclusions.
With self-publishing giving so many long-term novelists an opportunity to revive and reissue their back lists, I could argue that forewords and introductions might be valuable sell tools. A writer could explain in his own words why a particular work is important enough to bring back to life. If the writer can express enough passion for the work, it might be enough to turn a browser into a buyer.
Introductions are opportunities for cross-promotion. Writer A is releasing a thriller. Writer B, also a thriller writer, writes an introduction. Fans of Writer B’s thrillers take the introduction as a stamp of approval. When they finish reading Writer A’s novel, and want something else, there is Writer B with his novel just a click away.
I say, if a writer thinks the foreword or introduction will add value to the work as a whole, go for it. At least give it some thought.
If you do decide to use a foreword or introduction, or both, a few tips:
- Keep it brief–especially in fiction. You don’t want to eat up your entire sample. Or worse, have readers think you’re a blowhard.
- Stay on point. Talk about the work, not yourself.
- Be personable, but not too personal. The point of a author’s foreword is to build interest about the work and to give some insight as to why it exists, not to rant about publishing or politics or to chit-chat about pets or one’s health.
As far as formatting, the only real question is: Block or indent style? There’s semi-wisdom floating around that fiction is indented and non-fiction is block-style. I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter much and it’s purely about taste. I prefer indented paragraphs myself, plus, I’d worry about readers who are looking at samples being turned off in thinking the entire book will be in block style.