What Is a Book Preface and How to Write an Amazing Preface

book preface

No one just wakes up in the morning and goes on to write a book. Every author writes each book for a particular reason and the average reader will better appreciate a book if they have an idea of why it was written.

Although it might seem impossible to let your readers know the exact reason you wrote a book, there is always a way to make this happen. With a book preface, you can directly tell everyone that picks up your book your reason for writing it.
In addition to simply letting every reader know why you wrote a book, you can also give them some background details about the book and what they should look out for as they go on reading the book.
There is a lot a book preface can do for a book. However, to benefit from it, you must know exactly what it is.

What is a Book Preface?

The preface can be found in fiction, as well as non-fiction books. However, they are more commonly associated with non-fiction books.
A preface is simply a section of a book. It is written by the book author and talks about the general existence of the book. It sheds light on the aim of the book, as well as its subject matter.
Since book prefaces play an introductory role in books, a great number of readers confuse them for actual introductions.
In as much as they go a long way in introducing the entire content of the book to readers, they are different from actual introductions.

Read also How to Write a Book Epilogue in 7 Intriguing Steps

Unlike an introduction which is a part of a story, a book preface is generally not a part of the story.

What purpose does a Preface Serve?

There is a lot an author can achieve with a book preface. Although preface is not a part of the story, it is an element that should not be swept under the carpet if you must get the best from the time spent in writing a book.


Some of the things a preface is meant to do are;

  • Give out details about important events that took place after an older edition of the book was released.
  • A book preface serves as an introduction to a fresh edition of a book and talks about the changes that have occurred.
  • It talks about the process you went through while writing the book. This should include the time it took you to write the book as well as the challenges you faced.
  • It talks about what inspired you to write the book.
    It gives an author the opportunity to sell the book.

How Long Should a Preface be?

The aim of a preface is not to keep your readers away from the main book. This means it has to be concise.

To get the best of a book preface, it should not be more than two pages. Not every reader is comfortable going through detailed explanations about what inspired in a book.
So, to ensure that your readers do not get overwhelmed before they start reading the actual story, give them just key points.

Read also, How to Write an Intriguing Book Prologue in 5 Simple Steps

These points should make your readers know they have a lot to gain when they go through your book.
Furthermore, it is okay to make your acknowledgment a part of your preface or let it stand alone.


Steps in Writing a Book Preface

Let’s dive into the various steps in writing a preface.

Step 1

If you want to write a preface for your book, you will need to have the right mindset. Doing this will help you with the right approach.
You must look at a book preface as your opportunity to give readers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of your book. You should also go on to write about what your muse is and the entire process of writing the book.
Your approach towards your preface will affect your readers.

What you think of it will play a strong role in affecting readers’ perception.

Step 2

After dealing with the issue of approach, you will need to go on to reveal your humanity. In as much as readers are interested in reading well-written stories, they also want to find out a thing or two about the author of the book.
In this step, spend quality time letting readers in on your humanity and the effect it has on the final output of the book.
This step is quite critical towards the success of a book preface.

However, if your book is a technical manual, giving readers glimpses of your humanity might not be necessary.
Revealing your humanity involves letting the readers know that your book is more than just an attempt to show how intellectual you are or a plan to make some money.
No one is perfect, so, let your readers have a feel of your imperfections.

Step 3

This is the point where you have to give insight concerning the steps you had to take while writing your book. When in this phase, allow the writing to flow. Letting the writing flow means you should avoid editing while writing. If you edit while writing, you just might end up killing the flow.
While writing your preface, you will need to provide answers to quite a number of questions.

Read also, How to Write a Book Foreword for a Book In 5 Easy Steps

Some of these questions are;

  • your reason for writing the book
  • why the book is important to you
  • why readers should pay a great deal of attention to the book
  • why readers have to give a lot of attention to your viewpoint, and the time you put into getting the book ready.

If you are able to get interesting answers to the questions above, then, you should include these answers in your book preface.

On the other hand, if the answers you get are not as catchy as you would expect, you must leave them out of the preface.

Step 4

After creating a rough sketch of your preface, you will need to take a break before going back to edit it. With a break of the right length, when you check the rough sketch again, it will be easy to see it from the point of view of a reader and not just the writer.
When authors write, they sometimes consider every sentence and paragraph to be clever.

Nonetheless, after a break, paragraphs that you considered clever might not be as clever as you thought they were. With this, it will be easy to make vital changes that the preface will need to be effective.

Step 5

After taking your preface through its first edit, the next thing you need to do is pay more attention to parts of the preface you think will attract more attention.
Once you spot any point that you think readers will be attracted to, clarify it or expand it. Once this is done, readers will pick up such a point very easily.
Even though a preface is not meant to be very long, but it must contain very compelling content. In the absence of compelling content, you can expect readers to skip it without hesitation.

Step 6

In this step, take out time to search for parts of the preface that you think readers might not pay attention to. Once you are certain that some points in your preface will be irrelevant, take them out. This is because all it may do will be to slow down the readers.

Read also, Writer’s Life: 15 Writer’s Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Finding out the things that readers will find boring might be a little difficult. This means you need to take a break from the preface for a couple of days.

Step 7

This is the final step in writing a book preface and one of the most important. After taking off the unwanted parts of the book preface, take out time to revise the entire preface.
This is a step you cannot afford to leave out of the entire process if your readers must get the best preface.

Must a Preface be written in Every Book?

The answer to this question is no. You do not need to have a preface in every book. It is really up to you to make a preface a part of your book.
Although not all books need to have a preface, however, if you are writing a non-fiction book, you might benefit more than when writing fiction.
Generally, you might not need a preface when writing a fresh novel. However, if for any reason, the novel is getting released again, making a preface a part of the new edition will be great.
Why is this so?
When a book is getting re-released, people are already aware of its existence and now might have the patience to read a preface.

The Takeaway

At this point, I am certain that you know the many important parts of a book preface. To get started, you simply need to strictly adhere to the steps already stated. If you do this, you are on your way to putting up a top-notch book preface.

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