acknowledging the greats that came before

Publishing: Preface, Foreword, Introduction, and Prologue

need-your-venom asked:

Sorry if this has been answered before; I couldn’t find in the masterlist. What’s the difference between a preface, prologue, and a foreword?

Great question!


Written by the author to the reader, usually to give some back story about how the book came about. It can be sort of a, “here’s why I wrote this,” sort of thing, and often it ends with acknowledgements of anyone who helped, resources that were used, etc.

Here is the preface for Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte under her pen name, Currer Bell.


Written by someone other than the author, like someone famous who knew the author, a popular author in the same genre, or an expert in something related to the book. It often serves as a way to entice the reader, sort of like, “here’s what’s great about this book and why you should read it.”

Here is the foreword to Anya Seton’s novel Katherine, written by historical fiction author Phillipa Gregory.


Written by the author (or sometimes a guest) to the reader, it is sometimes a preface in disguise, but it usually also includes information about the contents of the book. It is a way to intrigue the reader by giving them a taste of what they can expect.

Here is the introduction to a collection of Jane Austen’s early writings under the title of Love and Friendship and Other Early Works. The introduction was written by Jane Austen scholar Sarah S.G. Frantz.


Unlike the previous three examples, a prologue is actually part of the narrative, even in nonfiction. Prologues are used to convey information that is relevant to the story but doesn’t fit into the main narrative. This can be a scene that happens out-of-sequence with the rest of the story’s timeline, or it can be something that happened long before or long after the story. It can even foreshadow the story’s climax or something that happens at the end. Prologues should not be used as a dumping ground for information about setting, characters, or back story. Those details can always be woven into the narrative in other ways.

Here is the prologue to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.