May 13, 2019

A Guide to Front and Back Matter

I’ve become quite proficient at putting together a book, and I’m not just talking about writing and editing a manuscript. There are actually a lot of elements which are included between the covers which authors and publishers need to think about. For indie authors, it’s up to us to create all of these elements, even if we have no clue how to go about doing that.

I thought I’d demystify all of that front and back matter you typically see in a fiction work or might want to add to your own book. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but rather a reference for someone new to self-publishing that hopefully isn’t too overwhelming. I’ll go in the order these sections generally appear, but there are always exceptions.

Title Page


This is the page you find at the beginning with the title of the work, the author’s name (or editor in the case of an anthology), and the publishing imprint. Some books have a half-title page which shows just the title. Since the title page is right after the cover, it seems a little silly to immediately remind the reader, “Hey, this is the book you’re reading!” However, this is the official title and contributor for the work for purposes of cataloging, and any subtitles or extra text that may be on the cover should be stripped away.

Copyright


The copyright page declares the copyright owner of the text and imparts legal information and publisher info. I find it ironic that a lot of the text on this page is straight up copied from book to book. I’ve even seen self-published, print-on-demand books with disclaimers about copies with the cover ripped off not being for sale—a practice common among mass market paperbacks which doesn’t apply to indie books.

For the copyright page, be choosy about which disclosures you include. More text on this page doesn’t make the book look more professional or provide extra legal protection.

And of course, don’t forget information for the publisher. For a self-published book, this is the author’s info. Include a mailing address if you have one and your website.

For a print book, the copyright notice appears on the back of the title page, but for ebooks, it’s common to put this information at the end. Other text which would traditionally be front matter gets kicked to the back of ebooks in order to preview more of the content of the book in Amazon’s look inside feature.

Dedication


I love looking at the variety of dedications authors include in their work. There are silly and funny ones, heartfelt mentions of important people in the author’s life, or the honest but slightly generic, “To my wonderful readers.”

Although the dedication usually appears in the front, I helped a fellow author format his book and he wanted the dedication at the end. Since the book is a memoir, it made for a heartwarming conclusion to the story.

Table of Contents


This is another piece that gets moved to the end on ebooks. A table of contents is required for Kindle books yet isn’t immensely helpful for novels. So, to the back it goes.

Acknowledgments


Most references I have checked claim that the acknowledgments belong in the front, but that isn’t always the case in practice. Many books have this part at the end, after the text. When an author only takes a page or two to thank just a few people, this section can be placed in the front. Otherwise, put it in the back. For example, some authors have tons and tons of people (like, how can a person even know that many people) they want to thank, making the acknowledgments section really long.

Book


And we finally get to the actual content. Some references list the prologue as part of the front matter, but I’m a firm believer that the prologue is a part of the work. Likewise, I would not break the epilogue away from the rest of the manuscript either.

About the Author


A section about the author is commonplace in modern books. For hardcover books, the author bio will appear on the dust cover flap at the back of the book and for some print books, the author bio sits on the back cover. I always advise authors to include a bio. Readers like learning about the person behind the story, and if someone connects with your bio, they’re more likely to seek out your other books.



These other potential sections are optional, but do give some thought as to whether or not they may be useful in your book.

Other works - A list of other published works by the author. This doesn’t have to be limited to just novels, but it may be worthwhile to list only works within the same genre.

Praise for this or another book by the same author - Another item which can go on the cover or the very front before the title page. These rave reviews from professional reviewers, other authors, and even fans not only help sell the book but also get your readers excited about reading your highly praised work.

References including maps, family trees, glossaries, etc. - For stories with an epic scope or special terms, consider adding relevant references. Yes, the lay of the land and family ties can be explained clearly within the text, but not every reader has a super great memory for these details, so having them clearly laid out in the front or back really helps.

Teaser for next book - Specifically for series, a teaser is a great way to get people excited for the next installment. This especially helps if the next book is already available for purchase or preorder. I’ve seen teasers as short as, “Characters’ story continues in book two!” and as long as a few chapters from the beginning of the next book.

Ads - I’ve seen ads mostly in mass market paperbacks, but still wanted to include them. This can be a teaser for other books by the same author or the same publisher. Sometimes printers will offer a discount for including their ad in your print copies. If ads will help you sell other books and services or mitigate the cost of publishing, consider including them.

A Note from the Author - This is the author’s chance to directly address the reader. They might want to say something about the crafting of the book, issues and topics they researched, and other books they suggest for further reading. I’d recommend adding some sort of note to ask people to sign up for your newsletter and leave a review for your book.



I have formatted and put together all of the additional front and back matter for several books now including all of my own and a number for other authors as well. Since this is something that I really enjoy—and have acquired quite a bit of knowledge on—I’ve decided to offer formatting services. If you have a book which you’d like to publish soon and need assistance putting together a print-ready paperback and/or ebook ready to upload to online retailers, consider hiring me to take care of all of that. If you’d like to learn more, check out the link below.

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