In today's competitive publishing world—with more than 1.5 million titles currently in print in the U. S. —each new book must be carefully nurtured to be successful. One of the ways you can help your new baby grow into robust adulthood is by christening it with a Foreword.
To be effective, the Foreword should be by someone who is known to, and respected by, your potential reading audience. You want a “name" so you can use it to help promote the book. One of our clients’ books, a basketball novel titled Are You Watching, Adolph Rupp?, went into a second printing in less than two months. The Foreword by Bob Cousy was a big boost to sales.
Ideally you have developed a relationship with key individuals in your topic area. This is one reason to continually network within your industry. Attend national conventions and regional workshops where you can reach opinion molders. Follow up these meetings with personal notes and keep up a dialogue. Volunteer to serve on important committees.
But suppose you're not on a first-name basis with appropriate people? Don't fret. Get ye on the Internet or to a large library. Look under your subject in Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, Magazine Index, and any of the specialized indexes such as Business Periodicals Index, Applied Science and Technology Index or Index Medicus. Often article writers are the experts in the field. And don't overlook book authors. You can find appropriate ones in Subject Guide to Books in Print (which is usually housed in the order department rather than in the open stacks in the patron section). Type in your subject on Amazon.com and determine who has authored the popular books.
Now that you know whom you want to contact, the challenge is how to reach them. Once you've identified names of respected authorities, bury yourself in various Who's Who references or databases to get their addresses and background information. If you're working in a library, ask the reference librarian for help. While recently researching for another client who had a sports title he wanted us to promote, we discovered The Sports Address Book. It proved to be a treasure trove of information for our purposes. There are many such industry-specific resources. And today you can often go to a search engine such as Google and simply enter the person's name to do an online search for his or her website.
Now you're ready to launch your campaign. Put together a powerful one-page letter to these people telling why your book is important, different from others, and why it will be of special interest to them. Customize each letter to give it personal appeal. Invite them to read your book and give you an advance comment. You're not asking for a Foreword at this point. Ask only for their feedback. Include the table of contents, introduction, and promotional material to titillate their interest—and offer to send a copy of the book upon request. (If your book is short, include a photocopy of the entire manuscript. )
When you get a glowing response, then approach that person about writing a Foreword. This shouldn't be a saga: one to three typewritten pages is normal. People who attend our seminars ask, “Should I pay for a Foreword?" No! This is not accepted industry practice. (But you should spell the word correctly. We often see the erroneous “Forward" used. )
What sometimes happens is the expert is too busy to accommodate your request and read the book. Is all lost? Never! You might say something like, “Why don't I put together a few paragraphs for you - subject, of course, to your approval or revision?" He or she will usually quickly agree. Yes, you will write the Foreword. This gives you more control over both the content and the turnaround time.
But what happens if more than one person is willing to do a Foreword? Take a lesson from Don Dible, who wrote Up Your Own Organization. He did so well prospecting for a Foreword he ended up with three notables willing to write about his business book. Dible solved this happy dilemma by having Robert Townsend, of Avis Rent-a-Car fame, do the Introduction; William P. Lear, chairman of the board of Lear Motors Corporation, wrote the Foreword; and John L. Komives, director of the Center for Venture Management, put his name on a Preface.
Just how do you proceed once you've garnered this precious gem? Promote the heck out of it! Dible, who was unknown in business circles, splashed the names of these three notables boldly across his cover and in PR materials.
Of course, the brief advance comments (often called “blurbs" in the industry) you collect from other famous people can be put on the back cover of the book, added to the very front of the book before the title page, and interwoven in promotional materials. Third-party accolades win sales. Blurbs also lend credibility to your ads. A statement carries more clout if it comes from someone other than you.
So when you're looking for ways to help your book stand out from the crowd, don't be backward about getting a Foreword. It can give you added visibility, credibility, and profitability.
© Copyright 2005 Marilyn Ross
Marilyn and Tom Ross are the coauthors of 13 books including the best-selling Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and the award-winning Jump Start Your Book Sales. Through phone consultations and ongoing coaching/mentoring, Marilyn empowers authors and self-publishers to realize their dreams. She can be reached at 719-395-8659 or Marilyn@MarilynRoss.com.
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