Anthony Hayes has a lot of interesting thoughts and advice to offer on the world of publishing and books more generally but in particular this post in a series on book proposals is especially fine. Thanks Anthony.
Today I was asked, “how and when does one approach a senior scholar to write a foreword or afterword for a book? My book is a highly focused edited volume, if that makes a difference in your answer.”
That is an interesting (and very relevant) question.
The first issue is what and when.
A foreword and afterword are different beasts. In reality, the first is an extended endorsement of the work; it should be solicited after acceptance (following a successful peer review). In contrast, an afterword is a contribution – of a similar vein to a concluding chapter – normally needing to be peer reviewed, hence solicited beforehand.
Then there is how to approach.
Knowing the person is always easier but otherwise it might help if you can quote someone who does (“I am writing at the suggestion of …”). Then again, I’d probably be more impressed by someone writing to me saying that THEY had thought of me because of my expertise in that area. If you can be even more specific (showing you know their stuff), all the better.
I guess the only sensible thing I have to say is don’t scare the horses.
- An email rather than a phone call.
- A subject line that is intriguing enough for the person to read the mail (we all kill a lot of mails we receive without reading them).
- No suggestion you want a whole lot of work done (even if a decent foreword will take a day or two, an afterword maybe even longer).
- In this age of viral epidemics and ransomware, no attachments (you are a stranger – so just list the contents along with a short but compelling description).
In short, think of this as sending out another book proposal but this time to a potential reader/reviewer rather than to a publisher.
And if they haven’t the time to do this, out of guilt they might be prepared to write a short endorsement to go on the back cover. Always useful.