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

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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., LastNameFirstInitial@agency.com), 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.

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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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