Before finalizing a book manuscript, an author must decide if they will include a foreword. A foreword is a brief message inserted as part of the front matter of a book. It provides information about the author or subject matter. A foreword is usually written by a friend or colleague—someone who is familiar with the author or is considered a subject matter expert.
Some publishers require authors to include a foreword in their titles. If your publisher has such a requirement, you have little choice but to solicit one from a friend or acquaintance. A foreword is a tool for marketing. The same is true of endorsements (which may also be required by a publisher). An endorsement or a foreword is a positive comment made by another person about a book. As such, their sole purpose is to promote book sales. That makes them marketing tools.
If you self-publish, a foreword is not required, but you may want to include one. Whether you choose to include one should be determined by your view of marketing and promotion.
To date, I’ve published 16 books. Only one (my first title) includes a foreword. I had learned from other authors that a foreword was expected if you hoped to sell your books. I was undecided at first but caved to peer pressure and got a friend to write a forward for my first book. Not long afterward, God challenged me to rethink the matter.
My reason for soliciting a foreword was insecurity. I didn’t know if anyone would take me seriously as an author, so I recruited someone respected in my community to write a good word for me. God suggested that I should lean on Him rather than depend on the reputation of other men and women. Since then, I’ve adopted a personal policy of not including forwards in my books. Moreover, I do not write forewords for friends. When I’m asked, I encourage other authors to trust that God will get their books into the hands of readers.
As a matter of principle, there isn’t anything wrong with including a foreword in your book. Doing so may help you reach a wider audience, and God may instruct you to seek an endorsement or foreword from a specific person. When my friend Rob Coscia published his book 40 Doors, God asked me to make an exception to my policy and write the foreword for that book.
I would encourage you to be open-minded about the issue. Don’t feel obligated to include a forward just because someone tells you it’s an industry standard. Bear in mind that it’s a marketing tool, just like appearing on a podcast, writing a social media post, publishing an article or excerpt, buying an ad, or doing a book signing engagement.