Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to write a Preface for a book

Introduction: In English there’s a clich├ęd saying, “The first impression is the last impression” and this rings true when we talk about writing a Preface for a book. As the name itself suggests, Pre-face (First look or impression) is a vital thing that one cannot ignore because it goes on to tell the readers whether the book is a worthy read or not. An analogy that I can think of is of the bait that you throw for the fish. If the bait (Preface) is attractive, the reader is hooked on to the book and goes ahead and buys it (Good readers do read the preface before buying). The other readers who have bought the book taking in consideration other factors also feel whetted in their appetite to go ahead and read the book (According to a survey less than 20% people continue reading after the initial two chapters). So, what are some of the elements that would fulfill these requirements of making your Preface work for you and the book? While writing a Preface a writer should address the following questions:

How was the concept of the book born? Address this issue in the beginning, how did you think of writing the book. Let the readers know your inner passion and inspiration in writing the book. This part could be bit of autobiographical. You could tell the background or the context and circumstances in which you thought of writing this book. Here your aim is to make the readers empathize with you and identify your genuineness in writing the book. The bottom line is, ‘Why did you write this book?’ tell this frankly to your readers, let it be a heart to hear talk but don’t forget the word limit (the preface should not become a chapter of the book).

For whom is the book written? Who are the readers you are addressing? Are you addressing a specific type of readers (business people, engineering students, political class, intellectuals etc.) or are you addressing the general readers. Let the reader know that whether it is book written for them? Different sectors have different needs and issues to be addressed. Many people read a book as an answer to some issues they are encountering in their lives. So in reading the Preface it should be crystal clear to them and reinforce their belief that the reading of the book will address their specific issues.

What are the benefits of reading the book? In Literature there is a famous debate whether Art is for Art’s sake or Art is for Life’s sake. I am one of the readers who would like to bridge the gap and say that Art for Art’s sake and Art for Life’s sake are the two sides of the same coin. A good book should fulfill both the functions; there should be no dualism about it. Some books of course are written completely for entertainment purpose and some only for the utilitarian. So mention your purpose too in the Preface. Is the book beneficial for the readers? How is it beneficial? Will it just entertain them so that they can relax and enjoy their leisure time or is it addressing some serious issue about life?

Conclusion: Let’s conclude by saying a good Preface should impress and express and while expressing impress the readers to know that book in their hands in worth their time and money. Sohan.