Forewords: How Do You Nab Them? (Plus Prompt)

They can be the icing on the literary cake (or, if done poorly, a sandwich tie in your hamburger). So how do you actually get a hold of a foreword for your book?  

I’m working on a piece for the March/April issue of WD magazine about Daryl Pinksen, the winner of the WD International Self-Published Book Awards. (His book, Marlowe’s Ghost, is a fascinating nonfiction study constructing an argument that Shakespeare’s works were actually penned by Christopher Marlowe.) The book features a solid foreword by Michael Rubbo, a filmmaker who also created a documentary on the subject.

In my interview with Pinksen, I asked him about the key to roping a foreword. As part of a new recurring feature, WD Mag Wednesday—a closer look at a bit from an upcoming or current issue of the magazine—here’s what he had to say.

“Contact them. Celebrities will be hard to reach, but not impossible. Authors and academics, however, are usually easy to contact, and they will almost certainly respond to a well-crafted letter, so go ahead and approach them. The worst that can happen is that they’ll be flattered and decline the invitation, but they will get to know your name and the name of your book.

“Take your time when writing e-mails. Be self-confident, but always maintain courtesy and a professional manner. Give them your best pitch, but keep it short. Busy people appreciate brevity, and they will be impressed if you can make an impact in a short space. If they’re interested, maybe they’ll agree to read your manuscript. If they aren’t, maybe you’ll get some feedback or advice. If you do get a response, always thank them for taking the time to respond to you personally.”

When I was a reporter, getting in touch with the right people was daunting and seemingly impossible at first—but always easy with a little research and a carefully worded e-mail.

Having trouble tracking down a celeb for your foreword? Google the name plus “agent.” Then, call the agency or go straight to the agent. Can’t find his or her e-mail address? Never underestimate the power of a Google search with the agent’s name and an “@” symbol. Lost all hope, desperate and willing to flail in the dark? Find the e-mail address format of someone at the agency (e.g.,, plug your agent subject into the equation, and send your carefully worded e-mail, pardoning the intrusion, and explaining just why David Bowie would be a good fit for the foreword of some Labyrinth fiction.

Update: And don’t forget to ask for a “foreword,” and not “forward.” Doh.

WRITING PROMPT: Strangers on a Train
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings.

You’re on a train and for some reason have missed your stop—which, as you soon discover with the stranger sitting next to you, is a blessing in disguise.

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7 thoughts on “Forewords: How Do You Nab Them? (Plus Prompt)

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  2. Mark James

    To err is human, to comment is divine. (Did I say that in my out loud voice?)
    Martha: Cut me a break. Pluto’s a long way out . . .

    For Inter-World Transport, my car was comfortable. They kept the temperature just below freezing.

    Taking a train between worlds isn’t as bad as hard time mining ice on Pluto, but it’s not as good as sunning in the Arctic.

    “You Train much?”

    I didn’t open my eyes. The guy next to me was a weather professor. “Only after a fresh kill.”

    “A hunter. How marvelously dangerous. You were vacationing?”

    What did it take to shut him up? “I was in Blue Ice.”

    Suddenly quiet, the professor turned over, floated on his back. Ice cubes slid down from the service chute, spreading out in the water. “Such good service on this run. Don’t you think?”

    “Thank you for visiting Earth,” the walls said. “Next stop, Jupiter low orbit. Ice cabin passengers please submerge at this time.”

    I jumped halfway out of the water. “Hey, you idiot nano mech. We didn’t stop on Earth.”

    “It might have been somewhat inconvenient,” the professor said.

    I didn’t glare at him. We had to share the pool for at least three more cycles. “Why’s that? Too much ice in the Arctic?”

    He kicked, avoided my eyes, floated to his own side. “You haven’t heard?”

    “Little hard getting news in the ice caves.”

    “Yes, I’m sure.” He was so nervous, the ice around him was melting. “Well, it seems we have quite the way to go. I’ll be diving now.”

    I was under him before he got two feet down, pushed him back up to the surface. “Something you’re not telling me, professor?”

    He tried to go around me. “I’m sure when you dive, you’ll be able to jack in and get all the news you need.”

    The cabin was getting warmer. Had to be up to almost forty degrees. Mining on Pluto, I was used to the heat. “You know how I got through those long nights down in the caves? Thinking about Earth. Snow bath in the Arctic, climbing the glaciers. You weather heads been up to something down there?”

    Droplets of blue sweat on his face made his half smile look like he was gritting his teeth. “We really should dive. They have to raise the temperature for orbital de-entry.”

    I didn’t move.

    “It’s why they tell us to submerge,” he said.

    “What’s wrong on Earth?”

    He wiped blue sweat from his forehead. “It’s nothing. A miscalculation. A small error.”

    The heat was making my skin tight. “How small?”

    “We seem to have miscalculated the Re-Making, and it’s resulted in a new climate.”

    “What kind of climate?”

    He licked his dry lips. “Tropical.”

    It took me a second to place the word. “How hot?”

    “They call it Global Warming.”

    Warm. That couldn’t be too bad. “So where’s the cold parts?”

    “I’ve heard the North Pole sometimes gets down to the high forties.”

    I shook him hard enough to send ice cubes flying. “You messed up the whole planet?”

    “The flooding is quite temporary. We expect the waters to recede in just under two centuries.”

    I let him go and dived before we both baked.

    Curled up on the bottom on my ice bed, I thought about the professor. I couldn’t toss him on the tile floor, and watch him cook. Not here on the train.

    But it was a long way to Jupiter. I had lots of time to think about what I’d do when I got there.

  3. Martha W

    Zac: Hhm… make more mistakes, you get more commenters that way.

    Mark: Thought for sure I’d be last tonight.


    Nellie felt like she’d been riding that stupid train forever. Somewhere around Green River, the picturesque scenery lulled her into a much needed sleep. The last three weeks were a living hell. Ever since her brother called to say the last surgery was a bust.

    The train shook as it rounded a bend, kind of like those old school buses when kids took field trips. Jolted out of her sleep, her arm flailed out, making contact with… someone.

    "If you wanted more room, you just needed to ask." A deep, warm voice came from her right.

    She sat up carfully. "Sorry. I must have nodded off." She turned to look into the bluest eyes east of the Mississippi. "Wow. I mean- uh, Sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you."

    The man next to her rubbed the darkening mark on his cheek and chuckled. "It’s okay. The guys will never believe this one."

    Nellie tilted her head slightly, taking in the easy-going passenger. He had dark brown hair, high cheek bones and sculpted lips. Great body if his arms and chest were any indication. If she were on a different kind of trip, she’d think about changing her itinerary.

    She shook her head, clearing the errant thoughts. "How long until we hit Salt Lake?"

    "Well…" He lifted an eyebrow. "That’s where I got on."

    Her breath stopped in her throat. "What?" How had she missed her stop?

    The man clasped her fingers in his. "Hey, it’s okay. The next stop is just a few minutes away. You can change trains there."

    "I don’t have the money." Her voice tinted with a wild panic. "How am I going to get there?" Tears rose up in her eyes, threatening to spill over.

    "I’ll loan it to you."

    She shook her head furiously. "No. I don’t know you, I can’t repay you. No."

    "My name is Allen." He turned his grip to shake her hand. "I live in Sacramento. There. Now you know me."

    Nellie gave a short laugh. "I appreciate it but-"

    "No buts. If it was my sister or mom or… whatever, I’d want someone to help them."

    She stared at this generous stranger and wondered at his presence here at such a time. She nodded, "Okay."

    He grinned and settled back in his seat, never letting go of her hand.


    "Morgan!" Nellie rushed to hug her brother. He looked frail, but then kidney failure would do that to a person. Her brother, Morgan, was shaking. "What is it? What’s wrong?"

    "They’ve found a donor."

    "That’s great! How soon?"

    "Very. They flew in here taking my stats and zipped back out again. They’re taking me now. Something about the guy having heart failure."

    The doctor walked in, hearing the tailend of Morgan’s explanation. "It was the weirdest thing. He lived long enough to sign forms specific to your brother. Like he knew you guys."

    Nellie stared at the doctor for a moment. "What was his name?"

    "Allen Jameson. From Sacramento."