Front Matter in Ebooks 3: Forewords and Introductions

forewordThere 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.



11 thoughts on “Front Matter in Ebooks 3: Forewords and Introductions

  1. Yeah, no block style. Indented paragraphs are good. I do like some front matter, but I also like an author to keep it brief. Nonfiction is a little different, but even then if the front matter is pages and pages just turn it into Chapter One.

    • All about balance, right? What I like best about ebooks is that page counts and printing costs aren’t a concern. Plus, if something isn’t working, it can be changed. That’s the best part of all. 😀

  2. On the Kindle app (for iPhone), when you start reading a book, it automatically starts at Chapter 1, bypassing all the front matter. I can’t stand that! I’ve looked and looked for a setting to change that and finally gave up. It is one reason why I bought a Nook and not a Kindle. Regardless, the point I want to make is that I like going through all the front matter (except for huge character lists – those can go). As you said, it gives the reader a bit of a taste for what is to come. I think the Map of Time ebook did an excellent job of that (and it looked gorgeous).

    • That “Chapter 1” begin is totally settable by the person formatting the ebook. I make mine start on the “About this book” inner blurb, to remind people who bought my book what it’s about, when they look at it 6 months later with an eye to finally reading it.

      • What Karen said. If left up to the conversion program to set the start point, the default is Chapter 1. Formatters who build their own navigation guides can set up the ebooks to open where they want it to.

        That’s a nice touch, Karen. I need to steal that. 😀

      • Really? Oh, bummer. Well, on my Nook, I guess it must bypass that setting because they all start at the cover – which I really like. (shrugs)

  3. Interesting, Jaye. I had a beloved Foreword to the cat novel I’m hoping to put out in November, but then a How to book scared me into leaving it out of both the planned print and e versions – number of pages/clicks, etc., less ‘real’ book to try in the e version, etc.

    • I’m of the opinion, Danielle, that every book (ebook or print) is a unique project. When it comes to style and design, just about everything is a suggestion only.

    • I use a loose rule of three, Paul. In back matter, if it’s three or fewer paragraphs, I go block. Longer than that, indent. I’ve noticed, in general, that longer acknowledgments tend to be in a chattier tone, and lend themselves to the conversational look of indented paragraphs. That’s just a preference of mine and, of course, depends upon whatever the owner of the work wants.

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