As you are gathering the front and end matter for your manuscript, you may find yourself wondering what the differences are between a foreword, a preface, and an introduction. These are three separate and very important elements that appear in the front pages of books, and they each have their own specific functions. The roles of these pieces are often confused.
Are you someone with an interesting personal story to tell? Do your experiences offer others a new or unusual perspective? Have you collected anecdotes from work and life that you feel could be of particular value or provide insight to people? If so, you might have a memoir to write.
When you first decided you wanted to write a book, you probably pictured it flowing freely from you, the muse speaking through you about your particular topic of expertise. In a perfect world, this would be the case. Unfortunately, and more realistically, this “muse approach” rarely works. Writing a book is difficult—even for the most experienced of authors. A strong outline can be one of the most useful tools you can use to get you through the writing process. Unlike the muse, who can be a tad fickle, your outline will always be there.
You did it! You’re a published author. It was a long road, full of twists and turns and the unexpected, but you came out the other side and can now find your book among the other titles you’ve admired for years. There are things you probably wish you’d known at the beginning of this process that you know now. Some advice from your future, published self to your past, unpublished self might include the following:
- Your book will not be what you envisioned; it will be better.
- The publishing process will take longer than you think.
- There are more moving parts to the process than you imagine.
If you’ve found a publisher for your book (or think you may soon have one), you may be wondering what your responsibilities will look like once your manuscript is with your editor. After all, now that the book is in the hands of experts, the author's work is done, right? In truth, this is where the real fun begins.
Stephen King once wrote, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” This is advice often given to writers. It means you should get rid of your most cherished and self-indulgent passages for the good of your prose. But maybe that’s a bit extreme. Maybe you don’t have to kill your darlings; maybe they just need to be turned into responsible adults.
Once your manuscript is complete, you may find yourself reading and rereading it, constantly making tweaks or rearranging small pieces of the text or rewording your never-quite-right prose. It may seem like it will never be perfect. Guess what. It won’t. But it’ll never be done either unless you let it go.
One of the elements of a book that doesn’t get spoken of much is the index. An index is essentially a roadmap to the book, listing names, places, and things in alphabetical order and giving the page numbers associated with each topic. For nonfiction books, packed with valuable information, a well-made index can help quickly direct the reader to the information they’re trying to find.