Congratulations! You’ve finished writing your manuscript, and now you’re eager to start the production process for your self-published book. But before you start formatting your book, you still have some important decisions to make. Will you dedicate your book to someone? Compile a list of acknowledgments? Should you include a bio, a list of previously published works, or a copyright page? And where, exactly, should these elements appear in the final formatted manuscript—at the beginning in the front matter or at the end in the back matter? If you’re not sure, the experts at Self-Publishing Relief can help you determine front matter vs. back matter and what goes where in your book.
Front Matter Vs. Back Matter: What Goes Where
Front Matter: Elements And Best Practices
In any traditionally published book, the front matter usually includes a title page, a copyright notice, a list of the author’s books, a foreword or preface, and perhaps several pages of blurbs from professional reviewers, along with lists of awards and bestseller status.
Self-publishing, however, has upended the traditional way of arranging front matter. The change is due to online vendors’ “Look Inside” feature. Readers love a glimpse of the opening pages to help them decide whether to buy a book. Clogging those pages with front matter squeezes the amount of sample chapter a reader sees. Without a sufficient sample, readers may be less likely to hit the buy button.
This is why self-published authors pare down to the essentials what they include in front matter, such as:
- Book Blurb Summary. Including an enticing one- or two-paragraph blurb in the front matter encourages readers to buy. A blurb also reminds those who’ve already bought the book (but allowed it to languish on their e-reader) why they were excited about it in the first place. If the book title is included as a bold header, this feature can serve as a title page as well.
- Social Proof. Quotes from professional review journals or well-known authors offer social proof of the value of the work, and can be included right beneath the blurb.
- Dedication. Dedications are personal and special and deserve to be put up front.
- Some authors include thematic quotes that belong nowhere else but at the front of a novel.
Unfortunately, some authors may not be able to avoid including a preface or a foreword. Also, there are nonfiction authors who prefer having a table of contents up front. For authors facing this dilemma, note that some e-book vendors, either on your dashboard or by email request, allow you to increase (or decrease) the percentage of the book you share through the “Look Inside” feature.
Back Matter: Elements And Best Practices
Back matter is vitally important, especially the real estate that follows the words “The End.” Readers who arrive here have just dedicated hours to your writing and are most receptive to what you may say.
First, sincerely thank them for reading your self-published book. Then make a request based on your goal:
- If you would like the reader to buy your next book: Include a buy link to make the process easy. You could also tempt them by including the first chapter of the next book (especially if it’s in a series) on the page that follows.
- If you want the reader to leave a review for the book they just read: Include a hyperlink that directs your reader to the review page.
- If you want the reader to subscribe to your blog or newsletter: Offer a hyperlink that directs your reader to the sign-up page of your newsletter.
Best practices suggest authors should choose only one option for the page right after “The End.” Since you can include as much back matter as you want in your e-book, you can always put additional requests in the pages that follow, along with any of the following:
- A teaser chapter of another book, ending in a buy link
- A list of previously published books, with buy links
- A personal letter to readers
- A book club discussion guide
- A bio, including social media links
- An appendix, endnotes, glossary, bibliography, index, list of illustrations, list of tables, etc.
- A copyright page
- A table of contents
Note that these best practices are recommendations, not hard-and-fast rules. Some authors prefer to put the copyright page in the front matter, or the dedication in the back. The advantage of being a self-published author is the freedom to write what you want and arrange elements however you see fit.
Question: How do you arrange your front matter and back matter, and why?