Writing Front Matter - Intros and Prologues
by Bruce L.Cook, Ph.D.
Writing Front Matter - Intros and Prologues
Writing Front Matter for a Nonfiction Book
In nonfiction publishing, “Front Matter” is short for Intro and Prologue.
Writing an intro is easy if you follow this simple, sadly mechanical, shortcut. Simply copy the topic sentence under each major subheading and paste these consecutively into a paragraph. When done, go back and revise them so they fit together as a written document. This sounds shallow, but there is a benefit. This procedure gives an accurate designation of the contents, and it avoids “Type 2 Error” – where you fail to feature each section equally. What is “Type 1 Error?” It’s where the Intro fails to accurately describe the contents. This often happens when the author writes the intro before writing the text and fails to edit it afterwards. Fact is – when we start writing nonfiction our original goals tend to shrink as the writing goes on!
Writing a prologue is more challenging. Some general rules follow: As with a promo or blurb, you need to keep the prologue short and grab attention right away. Naturally, it’s important to urge readers to read beyond the prologue! One idea, for authors with many publications, is to offer a glowing description of the works they have published works. Another idea - describe the book’s contents and then show how they have great importance in today’s world. (And don’t forget to personally sign it at the end and give a date and your location.)
As an example, I was recently privileged to write a prologue for a book entitled “The Arts of Eastern Philosophy.” This was a challenge, especially because I am not a scholar of philosophy. So, as an editor, I reviewed the book carefully and reacted to its contents.
To summarize the contents, I found a summary comparing differences between Eastern and Western philosophies. Then, after pasting that into my prologue philosophies (using the author’s wording, to be accurate , and giving credit of course), I wrote my own section, which (as with any prologue), explained how the book meets real needs in today’s world. Here’s my post-summary conclusion.
Happily, this work by Bishnu Pathak and Susmita Bastola describes these philosophies in detail, along with inscrutable reference to source documents. Further, the authors take a brave stand on the meaning and life application of these ideas.
No longer can these views be dismissed as mere reflections of history. Instead, especially in this decade, they are emerging as primal warnings about the future.
For an example, consider the USA as a microcosm of tension between Eastern and Western philosophies. Not long ago there was a healthy tension between two political parties having roughly similar goals. Since that time, an alarming shift has occurred, where one political party is actively repudiating long-held philosophical principles. This split is reaching a resounding crescendo. In time, though, this represents a short-term political skirmish which is likely to die down within a few years.
In the bigger picture, this difference suggests a blurry image of far more dangerous, contemporary dangers in world affairs. And this comes down to the startling difference that exists between Eastern and Western philosophies.
World governments are facing an undeniable shift in allegiance to these philosophical differences. When world peace exists (if ever it truly does), the world is abiding by Eastern philosophies. However, just as soon as one or more nation or leader wants more power or territory, for any spurious reason, competitive western philosophy moves in, Sadly, as seen in today’s world, this can produce grotesque human horror under the false idea that any end can justify any means to that end.
In this epoch, each of us would be well advised to consider the impact of philosophical differences outlined in this book. No matter which system one feels most comfortable with, it has become essential for everyone (especially national leaders) to embrace justice, harmony, and peace. Current trends in world affairs strongly suggest that this needs to happen soon.
Bruce L. Cook, Ph.D. – Elgin, IL USA – April 24, 2023
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--Bruce Cook, Publisher
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April, 2023 (vol. 24, no. 4)
Dr. Bruce L. Cook
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