Tag Archives: manuscript

Where do you begin? The Foreword, the Preface, and the Introduction

Where do you begin? The Foreword, the Preface, and the Introduction

Where do we start a book? To quote the King in Alice in Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

If only it were so simple.

Fiction needs to consider the prologue. Nonfiction books have introductions often, prefaces sometimes, and occasionally forewords. Do we know how to use them well? An introduction, preface, and foreword serve different purposes, although we tend to mix them up. Below are some tips to help you separate these three beginnings, and suggestions for how, or whether, you want to use them.

The Foreword

The most important distinguishing feature of the foreword is that it should be written by someone other than the author.

I’ve seen authors writing introductions or prefaces and calling them forewords. The foreword is not for you, dear author. The foreword is an opportunity for you—a marketing opportunity.

Your foreword plays in much the same space as your back cover copy: it helps you sell the book. Contributors to forewords are experts in the field your book is about, or authors of similar books. A foreword adds credibility to your book by offering a stamp of approval that other people will recognize: bookstores as well as individual consumers. You are after the name recognition and esteem of your contributor.

Because someone else writes your foreword, and they should have read your book before they do so, you need to complete your manuscript and send them an advance reader copy. This means you must be done with your book and budget extra time to incorporate a foreword.

The Preface

Think of the preface as an envelope. The preface is about the book itself—not the contents of the book.

This is your opportunity to talk about why you wrote this book. What brought you here? What are you trying to achieve? You may use this space to establish your credentials—indicate your experience in a topic or the professional expertise that makes you well-suited to talk about it. Often, authors muddle this together with the material in the introduction. They are best kept separate. Give your book a clean start and make it easy for your readers, who need to know what part of the story kicks off when.

What you include here should NOT appear in your introduction, and vice versa—avoid duplication.

The Introduction

Most familiar to us, the introduction is also for the author. If the preface is the envelope, the introduction is a cover letter to the manuscript: you get to explain how to use the contents of the book itself.

The introduction can be simple. You introduce the topic of the book, and leave it at that. You can also use the introduction to set up the themes you are planning to address, establish any definitions or methodology you use, or point out the structure of your book and any exercises or resources you include and how the reader may want to use them. What you do NOT want to do is repeat content that already appears in your preface.

Although an introduction appears at the front of the book (after the foreword and preface, if they are also included), you should write this content last, after you have completed your manuscript. You need to know what your book is about in total, and how it ends, to write a good introduction.

The Bottom Line

Your book structure should be clear, and so should the way you use your foreword, preface, and introduction (if you choose to include them). Although none of these are required components of your manuscript, each of them can add value or interest to your book. Remember to use them for their distinct purposes: they exist to guide the reader where you want them to go.

Be clear. Don’t knock your reader around with three or four beginnings to your book and ask them to sort it all out themselves.

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This post is adapted from an article published in the September 2016 CIPA Signature, the newsletter of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association.

Working with an Editor

Working with an Editor

black and white closeup of dice

Working with an editor can feel like a dangerous roll of the dice… but fear not! CC image “noir” courtesy of Steve Johnson on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A lot of my clients have questions about what this working relationship looks like. If you haven’t worked with an editor before, you might find the process mysterious and strange. We’re not mysterious and strange, really. At least, not all of us.

The main points for you to consider as you get ready to work with an editor are:

  • What you want done
  • When you want it done
  • What your prospective editor does and is good at
  • Your editor’s style

Continue reading

Copyediting: What does it actually mean?

Copyediting–Don’t Let Your Manuscript Leave Home Without It

view of open book from top spine

CC image Light Reading courtesy of Martin on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This post is the second in a series about different editorial services. Click here for Developmental/Content editing. Coming months will cover proofreading, and the manuscript critique.

In the post, “Am I ready for an editor?” I pointed out that editing is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Different types of editing have specific goals. One of the most confounding types of editing is the copyedit.

What a copyedit does

As the word “editing” in the name implies, copyediting deals with content. It is all about one major theme: CONSISTENCY. Copyediting focuses on consistent language and presentation, and therefore comes after any developmental editing or big-picture revisions to the manuscript.

The copyedit exists to ensure that the work is strong and clear from a technical point of view. English gives us many choices we often don’t think about, but copyediting does. Conventions govern the use of hyphenation, the spelling out of number words, serial commas, and more. Copyediting looks at the following:

  • Readability
  • Word choice and repetition
  • Language coherence and organization
  • Transitions
  • Acceptable character/narrative arc
  • Front and back matter
  • Spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Style and formatting
    • Chapter and section headings and breaks
    • Capitalization, hyphenation, abbreviation, use of proper names
    • Paragraph indentation, spacing, and margins
    • Font, font size
    • Captions, tables, graphics, bulleted lists
  • Citations, references, and more

There are levels of copyediting. The spectrum moves from less to greater intervention (a “light” versus a “heavy” copyedit). Copyediting begins with grammar and overall cohesion, and becomes more detailed the heavier the copyedit gets.

Style and formatting choices, although not “verbal,” play a big part in how your book conveys meaning to your audience. Page breaks and a chapter headings let your readers know they are moving to a new set of ideas, occurrences, geography, or time. Headings and subheadings let readers know how ideas are linked. Although these considerations are often overlooked when doing content review, they are a big part of the copyedit.

Are you ready for a copyedit?

When you have a manuscript that has completed at least one full draft, you are ready to consider a copyedit. If you are still playing with narrative structure, or if your manuscript is incomplete, you are not ready for this type of review. This is because a copyedit needs the whole manuscript to be able to see and impose consistency.

When you want to make sure the paragraphs, sentences, and style choices play nice together, you are ready for a copyedit. You want the manuscript to flow cohesively, and be consistent in tone, word choice, character details, and formatting. You are happy with the overall flow of the manuscript and are not planning on moving any big chunks around.

Do the manuscript format, choice of language, headers, and other visual cues guide the reader, or confuse them? And if they confuse, how can we correct this? These are the big questions of the copyedit.

What happens in a copyedit

Your editor will confirm with you which style guide they are using to review your manuscript. Typically, in non-academic book publishing, the Chicago Manual of Style will apply, unless you or your editor decide otherwise.

Your editor will review the work in total, marking up any changes so they conform to the chosen style, appropriate grammar, and spelling. Additionally, your editor may leave comments or questions on the manuscript, particularly if there are any items which are unclear (phrasing or organization). For this reason, you may go through a second round of copyediting to verify your choices.

Usually, you will have the choice to accept or reject changes. Be cautious about rejecting them. Be sure you know why. Always explain your decision to your editor.

The bottom line

Because it considers the total internal consistency of your manuscript, the copyedit must happen after any developmental or content work has taken place.

A copyedit is one of the most important things you can do for your manuscript, no matter what genre or style you are writing in. You might have made some big changes during the developmental edit or during your own revision. The copyedit reviews the entire manuscript from top to bottom to make sure it’s in good shape.

A good copyedit can make the difference between a work whose impact is “ho-hum” and a text that sizzles. When done well, the average reader may not notice it’s there, but everyone notices when it’s missing.