How to Write a Preface for a Book

Published on: 01/14/2023
Published By: Liz Jalkiewicz
how to write a preface for a book

The preface of a book gives the author an opportunity to really draw the reader in by providing brief yet compelling insights into your book so they keep turning the pages. It’s so much more than just summarizing your book on a page. In this blog article, we’ll review what a preface is, what’s included in a preface, how to write a preface for a book, and more.

What is a Preface?

A preface is always written by the author of the book. It’s your chance to speak directly to your reader about the book’s origin & purpose, as well as why you are the perfect person qualified to write about it.

Where is the Preface Located in a Book?

As you might imagine, the preface of a book comes in the beginning and its part of the book’s front matter. It’s typically located between the foreword (if you have one) and the book’s introduction. It’s not considered part of the main body of the book.

Additionally, prefaces are commonly found in nonfiction books.

When Should I Write the Preface of a Book?

After you’ve almost finalized your manuscript, you’ll want to focus on writing the preface. Don’t attempt to write this part first just because it’s located in the front matter of your book. You’ll end up having to rework it multiple times if you go that route.

Writing it last allows you to think about what information the reader needs in order to understand the rest of the book. It prevents you from including information in the preface that you end up including in the main book. Save it until the end, once all your thoughts have been laid out in your book with the right flow and structure.

What’s the Difference Between a Preface, a Foreword, and an Introduction?

There are key differences among these three: preface, foreword, and introduction.

While the preface and foreword are part of a book’s front matter, the introduction is part of the book’s main body.

The preface gives explanatory context for the book as we discussed above.

The introduction dives directly into the story to help transition the reader smoothly into the main portion of the book.

The foreword, which is an introduction written by another person, usually comes before the preface and it helps to lend credibility for the book by a third party expert in that field or niche.

How Do I Know If I Need a Preface for a Book?

Not every book requires a preface. If you feel its essential to give your reader some important information or context about your book to help them better understand, then a preface may be beneficial or helpful.

Keep in mind that you are more likely to see a preface in a nonfiction book. It can be found in books that are more technical or academic because you may need the opportunity to explain your research methodology and how you gathered your information or findings for the book.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Use your best judgement and decide if it would be valuable to the reader to have this information up front.

How Long Should the Preface Be?

Keep it brief and concise. Ideally, you should shoot for one or two pages maximum.

Share you main points with the reader and then have them move on to the next section.

So, What Information Does a Preface for a Book Include?

As you begin writing the preface for your book, utilize the following prompts and questions to help you get started:

  • Explain why the book exists, what is the book’s origin, and how did the book come about
  • Explain the book’s purpose and give a brief description of the book without giving too much away
  • Why you are qualified to write it and justify your role and background
  • How you wrote it, your writing process, research methodology, and how you came up with your findings
  • Why should the message in this book matter to your reader, and what pain points does it address
  • Share your passion, get your reader excited about the book, and describe what you hope the reader learns by reading the book

How to Write a Preface for a Book

Decide if your book even needs a preface. If it does, then you can practice free writing the first draft. No self-editing, just get it all out on paper. Then go through the prompts and questions above to build out, structure, and reorganize your preface from there.

Starting with the background on why you wanted to write the book in the first place is always a good place to begin.

A preface is a place where you can describe the book’s theme or topic at hand. Give just enough background information that the reader will want to keep turning the pages and understand the general context of the book. It needs to be compelling enough that the reader wants to continue on.

Explain why you are qualified to write the book. This reason is especially beneficial in academic writing, when you may need to outline your credentials as a registered dietitian nutritionist, and why you chose to research your topic and write about it. You can also share why you are passionate about the topic.

One of the purposes of a preface is to get the reader to want to read the book. So, if you have a particular passion that eventually led to researching and writing your book, tell the reader about it. Passion is catching, and you may find that readers get inspired by your love for your topic. That love translates into wanting to read the book and learn more about the topic.

Editing and Proofreading the Preface

After you write it, be sure to edit and proofread your work, just like you would for the book’s main body.

If you are self-publishing, consider hiring an editor for this stage of the writing process.


If you are writing a preface for your book, keep it short, compelling, and share your passion with your readers so they enjoy reading your book as much as you enjoyed writing it!

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