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Writing: How To Find Guest Authors For Non-Fiction Book Forewords

Writing: How to Find Guest Authors for Non-Fiction Book Forewords

Headshot of Debbie YoungA foreword by a well-known author will add credibility and value to any self-published non-fiction book. Obtaining one may not be as difficult or as costly as you might think. Here to inspire your search are some case studies from ALLi authors who have found the practice worthwhile. Find out how to recruit the right person for your foreword and why you'll be glad you did.

Cover of Back to the BlackMichael MacMahonIn January, when I was about to publish a new edition of my book Back to the Black … how to become debt-free and stay that way, I was sure that its reach would be helped greatly by a foreword from someone with credibility in the area of personal finance, particularly a high-profile journalist. My first choice was Simon Read, Personal Finance Editor of The Independent newspaper, because I’ve always liked his values and style. I have therefore quoted his articles often in my blog,  but I had no idea how to approach him. Luckily, through the kind offices of two friends – one of his, one of mine, who happen to know each other well – an invitation was sent to Simon. And he answered yes, within half an hour! I already knew how busy this man is, because I see his output: in the paper, on Twitter, and his video pieces. So I was amazed that when he sent the foreword for my book, he prefaced it by saying: “I’ve made a stab at it. Is this OK, or would you like it in another form?” It was better than a stab; it was better than OK. If people think my book is half as good, I’ll be happy.

Cover of An Actor's PlacePelham McMahon: When I wrote An Actors Place in the late 90s, I was fortunate to get a foreword from Richard Briers. He did not charge me anything, he simply asked for the galleys to check out my book.He was delighted and accepted a signed copy as his payment. Luckily for me, the book sold well and is still frequently on Amazon and eBay. I did not personally make a lot of money from that book, but I had a great deal of kudos, and it has always helped me to continue with my career as a writer.

Cover of Paul Murphy's first bookPaul Murphy: Before I even started to write my book, As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee, I touched base with Valerie Grove, Lee's official biographer,  as I knew she would be updating her own biography of Lee for his centenary year, and I wanted to make her aware of my own book and its very different style and approach. She was helpful from the start, gave me an introduction to Laurie Lee's family, eased the way for me to get copyright release from Lee's estate to use Lee quotes and most importantly, by supplying this quote: “Paul Murphy's  book is a wonderfully readable narrative and a highly original approach to the ‘footsteps' genre.   It works beautifully…”  This gave me a credibility as a first-time writer and biographer that I could not have got from any other source.

Cover of Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes by Debbie YoungDebbie Young: For the foreword of my fundraising memoir for JDRF, the Type 1 diabetes research charity, I sought someone in the public eye whose family, like mine, has been affected by the disease. The well-known and highly-regarded BBC radio news journalist, Justin Webb, had written in the national press and spoken movingly on the radio about his young son's recent diagnosis. Having no prior connection with Justin, and assuming it might be hard to get past BBC staff, I took to Twitter, where I'd discovered he had a personal account. Almost immediately after receiving my carefully composed 140-character request for his support, he responded positively, giving me his private email address so I could send him my manuscript. He promptly wrote a succinct and moving foreword, and his generous comments about my book gave me more confidence to promote it when it was published.

As these examples show, even well-known, busy household names can be very generous and supportive to the lesser-known indie author, so don't hesitate to approach them in a considered and courteous way, making it clear how the book is relevant to their work. As we were, you may be pleasantly surprised and gratified by the result.


Please feel free to share your own case studies via the comments box.

#Authors: how to get a great foreword author for your #nonfiction book by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet



This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. I’m a Twitter novice, but I’d hoped to try a similar approach using Facebook. The problem is the number of ‘bogus’ celebrity accounts (e.g. ex-cricketer Adam Gilchrist nominally has several FB accounts and I seriously doubt he is connected to any of them!).

    I gather the Twitterverse has a similar issue – has anyone discovered an effective way to tell the ‘real’ from the fake?


  2. Lovely to read of these experiences and to hear that established authors and celebrities were so gracious. Certainly gives me food for thought, not necessarily for this self published book but certainly for the next one. Thank you.

  3. Good information here: have we one for blurbs/info for fiction? I’d love someone to write a few well-chosen words to intro my novels, which are hard to ‘shelve’ and therefore probably miss the right readers, the ones who’d enjoy them most.

  4. I have always tried to network with well known people at conferences. Usually it comes in the form of a question that is related to something they have written. I also tweet their stuff and share their blogs. When it came time to write my latest business book, I reached out to Jason Falls who had become a friend when we sat on a panel together at a conference. He was gracious enough to write the foreword for my book Practice Safe Social and I know that helped the credibility of the book. In addition, I asked other friends in the industry to read the book and provide snippets on the book rather than a full-blown review.

    1. Great point, Chris – conferences are a brilliant way to chat up useful people like that, and well done for nabbing Jason Falls. I think successful authors really enjoy being asked to help in this way, so we should never be shy of asking – worst that can happen is that they decline!

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