It’s the last page of your story in your self-published book. And yet, all is not said and done—there’s the “back matter” to consider! Is your book’s back matter doing everything it possibly can to build your fan base and sell more copies of your self-published book? Could the final pages of your book do even more to build your reputation as a writer and make you more money?
At Self-Publishing Relief, we know that if you’re not taking advantage of sales opportunities in your book’s closing pages, you are definitely missing out on big, brand-building opportunities.
What Is A Book’s Back Matter?
Back matter is what publishers call all the supporting material in a book that is placed in the pages after the story has concluded. Simply put—the stuff at the back. It’s sometimes also called end matter.
Here’s what is typically included in a book’s back matter:
- bibliography or references
- thanks and credits
Academic and prescriptive nonfiction books tend to have more back matter than novels and memoirs—which you, of course, remember from your school days, when you had that joyous moment of realizing you only had to read about three-quarters of the ginormous book in your hands because the last quarter was back matter.
But smart writers and publishers have discovered that a book’s final pages can do more than just explain or elaborate on everything that came before. Back matter is prime real estate for elements that can forge author-reader relationships and sell more books.
What Are The Best Ways To Use A Book’s Back Matter For Marketing, Bookselling, And Brand Building?
If your book’s first pages convince readers to buy your book, the final pages sell YOU. And lucky for you, your options for promotional back matter are endless!
Writers may find they’re able to maximize the back matter of their digital e-books more effectively than their print books: After all, unlike print books, most e-readers can link directly to the Internet.
Here are a few strategies for effective back matter. Tailor them to suit your book’s format and your writerly needs.
Top Eleven Ideas For Maximizing Sales Through Your Book’s Back Matter
Write a “Dear Reader” letter. On the surface, a dear reader letter is just a short, casual little note from the author. But deep down, this letter is a powerhouse of marketing subtext delivered in just a few friendly words. A dear reader letter can:
- Offer a personal glimpse of the author’s life and personality—and a writer’s personal story is a powerful marketing tool
- Give some insight into the genesis of the story
- Offer a sneak peek into forthcoming titles (to sell them)
- Promise that the writer LOVES hearing from readers and wants to connect online
- Ask the reader to take an action (leave a review, tell a friend, join a mailing list, etc.)
A dear reader letter is a warm, inviting way for writers to reach out to their readers and encourage a lasting connection. And the best part is, it doesn’t feel remotely like advertising (which, of course, it is). Here is an example of a dear reader letter from author Susan Vreeland.
Interview yourself. You can also consider taking a more formal approach. Write (and answer) your own strategic author interview questions—questions that let you talk about the same marketing opportunities as listed in the “dear reader” section above. You can also invite readers to ask their own questions (by connecting with you on social media or email). Just be sure that your author interview shows off your friendly intelligence and interesting personality!
Include a photo collage. Some writers use the final pages of their books to publish photo collages featuring images that capture their interests and spirit. Some writers post selfies or professional lifestyle portraits; others include pictures of things that they do and love. Here’s an example of one author who prioritizes photography over a written bio in his book’s back matter.
But before you swap out your written bio for a photo collage, consider your audience and your book’s appearance. Readers who have downloaded e-books to full color digital e-readers will be more likely to appreciate a photo collage than readers who are looking at black-and-white e-ink (or even—gasp—old-fashioned paper pages!).
Have a section for book clubs. Your readers might not spontaneously decide to tell all their book club buddies that your tome should take center stage at the next meeting. So why not give them a little nudge? Here are some ways to encourage one fan of your writing to campaign for your book to become a group read—and turn one book sale into many:
- Include a list of book club questions/discussion prompts.
- Promote a free call-in session to book clubs who read your book.
- Offer a free “book club kit” that includes little promotional items, etc.
Include a few teaser pages from your next book or previously published books. Some authors are known to tack on dozens of extra pages at the end of their books. You can include a sample from one book, or feature free chapters from as many as you like. Readers rarely complain about too many freebies!
You can use the first pages from your other books, or you can choose sample text that is hand-selected from subsequent chapters. Choose passages that make a big impact in as few words as possible. And at the end of each sample, be sure to include prominent links that make it easy for readers to “buy now” if possible.
Ask readers to leave reviews. Readers who are not familiar with the workings of the publishing industry may not know how important reviews are to writers like you. Let your readers know that reviews are fundamental to a book’s success. Then, use your self-published book’s back matter to include a personal request for honest reviews. Make it easy for readers to hop over to review sites by offering them links (bonus points if they are clickable). And of course, be sure to convey your gratitude for your readers’ support!
Feature big SHARE buttons. To share thoughts about a book on Facebook, a reader has to hop on the Internet, find an appropriate photo and/or an appropriate link, then write up a few sentences for friends to read. But you can reduce “friction” by simplifying the process for your readers. Just include big “share” buttons when possible so that readers can spread the word about your book with one simple click.
Include a social media-friendly image of the book. Make it easy for your readers to post visuals related to your book by including images in your back matter (along with “Share” buttons if possible). When you make an easy-to-share image available, fans might be more inclined to post with one click.
HINT: Your shareable image doesn’t have to be your book’s cover art (though that isn’t a bad choice). Also include review snippets, 4/5-star reviews, or other accolades. You may want to connect with a graphic designer to help you maximize your impact in a small visual space.
Make it easy for readers to connect with you. Don’t wait around for readers to look you up on social media and follow you. Instead, nudge book readers to connect with you right now—while the memory of reading your book is still fresh in their minds. Your links could say things like:
- Find me on Facebook
- Follow me on Instagram
- Connect with me on Twitter
- Join my mailing list
Dangle a carrot. Asking for readers to friend or follow you is good: Bribing them is even better. Offer your readers one of these amazing cheap digital freebies as your way of saying “thanks for signing up for my mailing list”:
- Keep reading for free
- Score a free e-book
- Download a free novella
- (Editor’s note: We don’t really mean you should write “etc.” in your back matter…but you get the idea)
Keep in mind: If you’re going to give away the goods for free, make sure you’re getting something in return. In other words, be sure to ask fans to do something that’s truly valuable to you in order to get their reward.
Provide an information page for booksellers or other publishing professionals. If you regularly give seminars, talks, readings, or participate in book signings, include a page of information about how publishing professionals can get in touch with you. Show off a list of your author seminars to hint at what a great time your audiences have.
Which Is Better: Asking Readers To Sign Up For Email Or To Connect On Social Media?
To focus your marketing energies effectively in your back matter, you need to decide where to best direct your readers’ next action.
Do you want them to reach out to you on Facebook?
Or would you prefer to connect by asking readers to join your private author email list?
The experts over at Web Design Relief (our sister company that designs websites specifically for writers) point out that there are pros and cons to each method.
First, let’s look at social media.
Pros: If you direct your fans to connect with you on social media, sharing is easy. Which means your fans can make new fans, who can make new fans, who can make new fans…infinity!
Cons: Social media platforms do sometimes shut down. (Remember Friendster? MySpace? No?) If the platform at the center of your fan-building efforts goes belly up, your fandom might vanish as well.
Plus, social media sites might (and often do) charge you money in the form of advertising dollars just so you can actually reach the fan base you have worked so hard to gather in one place.
Now let’s consider your author email list.
Pros: Your email list will always be yours. As far as we know, email doesn’t seem like it’s going the way of the dodo any time soon. And while you might have to pay an email list manager to handle your mass emails, you’ll know your missives are headed straight to the inboxes of your eagerly waiting followers.
Cons: Many people do ignore emails, especially those automatically labeled “promotional” in their inbox. And sometimes, a well-meaning email could be marked as spam.
You may have to experiment to discover which is more effective for you: focusing on building your email list or focusing on building your social media numbers.
How Long Can A Book’s Back Matter Be?
How much is too much back matter for your self-published book? Is there a downside to stuffing the last pages with every possible book-selling, brand-building strategy?
Your budget may play a role in the size of your back matter. If you’re self-published, you’re footing the bill for copyediting, proofreading, and possibly printing every page of your book.
Since there aren’t any printing costs for the e-book version, some writers will choose to attach dozens of pages of back matter. In fact, we’ve sometimes seen back matter make up 20 percent of an e-book’s total volume!
But for your print version, you may need to be stingier with your back matter choices in order to keep costs down. The good news is: Even a little bit of back matter can go a long way!
Back Matter Mistakes That Self-Published Authors Make
Lax proofreading. Your back matter should be as thoroughly proofread as the rest of your book.
A change in formatting. For consistency, keep your formatting (font choices, spacing, etc.) similar to the formatting in the rest of your self-published book.
Not having any back matter at all. You might be shocked at how many writers overlook this powerful marketing tool!
Not keeping info updated. With on-demand publishing, it’s not that complicated to update and change your book. Make sure that your back matter is as current as possible.
Writer, Can You Help? How else would you use back matter as marketing material to sell copies of self-published books?