Self-publishing Front & Back matter: It’s all about the reader
Today, in this third post on formatting, I want to talk about many things which have been lost in the rush toward ebooks: self-publishing front back matter. This is an excerpt from my book:
Book Publishing With InDesign CC
Many reader services are no longer written or included. Most of this is simply because of the inexperience and lack of training by the normal self-publishing novelist and writer of devotions. You should take a look and seriously consider some of these things. It’s one of the reasons many self-published books look less than professional.
Front matter & back matter
You need to add your front and back matter as you are putting the book together. You need to be thinking about the entire package throughout the writing and production of the book.
There are several (often many) pages of materials that need to be at the front and back of your book. Many of them are optional. Several are not. Some are required for print but not used for ebooks.
For example, in print, you must have a title page and a copyright page. You almost certainly need a Table of Contents (the actual type should not be in an ebook, though the setup must be done). You may or may not need an introduction, a dedication, or any of about a dozen other possibilities. You should have an index for non-fiction (again the search functions of an ebook make this unnecessary and very difficult to implement). The following is deeply indebted to Wikipedia and the volunteer writers and editors who have spent so much time putting information like this together.
Many of these things are not necessary or even desirable for all books. You need to be careful that you don’t bore the reader into tears—to the place where they simply put the book down because it is too much trouble to get to the actual content of the book. [Which is why they bought the book in the first place, remember?]
This is especially true for ebooks. Here the rule is as little as possible up front. The minimum seems to be the cover, copyright information, and a dedication. But I’ve even had to be careful with the copyright info. Several times I moved most of it to the back of the ebook.
Front matter choices
Advertising blurbs and testimonials: This would include lists of additional books by the author and quotes from reviewers. I know they are commonplace, but they are certainly gauche.
Though this is merely my opinion, such self-aggrandizing always seems a bit desperate and is bragging at best (be it on your head).
Half Title: This page just has the title—no subtitle, author name, or anything else. It is the first page inside the cover. You normally use the title font and style from the cover, but smaller.
Frontispiece: This is an illustration on the page facing the title page. As you can see below, this can be a very stylish and elegant way to start your book. If done well, it offers comfort and tradition to your book design.
An old German title page with frontispiece from 1722 [Wikimedia Commons]
Title page: This page is commonly a reduced version of your book cover unless you use a frontispiece. Ideally, the title page shows the title of the work, the person or group responsible for its intellectual content, the place & year of publication, and the name of the publisher.
Copyright page: This is normally on the back of the title page. Some would say that it is absolutely required to be there. It contains copyright owner name and the year, the publishing staff, edition and printing information, ISBN, cataloging details for the Library Of Congress. The lawyers love this page in a big publishing house. Hopefully, we are more merciful than that.
Table of contents: This is built and updated with the Table of Contents… command at the bottom of the Layout menu. It’s powerful and I have a tendency to add too much. I am in the process of rethinking my TOC use. I’m moving smaller subhead content to the index.
List of figures: This is more needed for fine art books than anything, but this would be the place it goes, after the Table of Contents. It is also produced with the TOC commands. You’ll need special paragraph styles for your captions which can then be collected.
List of tables: If your book is data-driven, this might be a good service for your readers. This is also produced with the TOC commands. You’ll need special paragraph styles for your table headers which can then be collected.
Dedication: This where you name the people whose inspiration enabled you to write the book.
Acknowledgments: These are all the people, groups, and Websites who helped you.
Foreword: This is written by a real person, other than yourself.
Preface: This covers the story of how the book came into being, or how the idea for the book was developed. It often includes the acknowledgments.
Introduction: Here you can give the purpose, goals, and organization of your book. This is where you tell the reader the devices you use throughout the book [like little graphics for tips, how you will identify sources, and things like that].
Prologue: Written by the narrator or a character in the book, this gives the setting and background details, some earlier story that ties into this book, or other relevant details. It sets the stage for the real content.
Back matter choices
There are many options here also. These are more reader services and references to help them as they read your book. Where much of the front matter helps fiction, the back matter is almost entirely for non-fiction. Of course, Tolkien loved to add back matter about Middle Earth—which further developed the reality of his fictional world.
It’s all up to you. However, if you ignore all of these things, the reader might well feel the book is not complete.
Epilogue: This is a great service to the reader in fiction. For me and my wife anyway, we often talk about books that just dump you off with many of the issues unresolved. We want completion, a sense that we know what happened and that it’s all OK.
To quote from Wikipedia:
“An epilogue is a final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up all the loose ends. They can occur at a significant period of time after the main plot has ended. In some cases, the epilogue has been used to allow the main character a chance to ‘speak freely’. An epilogue can continue in the same narrative style and perspective as the preceding story, although the form of an epilogue can occasionally be drastically different from the overall story.”
Afterword: “When the author steps in and speaks directly to the reader, that is more properly considered an afterword.”
Conclusion: This is also called a summary or a synopsis.
Appendix/Addendum: This contains additional materials to flesh out a particular portion of the book.
You might consider yet another option as a reader service. As Appendices, they can work really well. But, they can also be released as separate booklets for readers of earlier editions and for more advanced readers who might otherwise skip your book.
Glossary: Relevant word definitions
Bibliography: Books used and additional readings
Index: Word and phrase references by page
Errata: No longer needed for on-demand publishing. We simply upload a revised version.
Colophon: “With the development of the private press movement from around 1890, colophons became conventional in private press books, and often included a good deal of additional information on the book, including statements of limitation, data on paper, ink, type and binding, and other technical details. Some such books include a separate ‘Note about the type’, which will identify the names of the primary typefaces used, provide a brief description of the type’s history and a brief statement about its most identifiable physical characteristics.” [Wikipedia]
This is just a fun addition, especially for a book like my new one about book production.
Hopefully, you’ve been thinking about these things
The appropriate time to add front matter and back matter is while you are writing the book. A passage may suggest an appendix. For example, as I was editing yesterday, I noticed that it was really confusing to refer the reader to my Website to get the instructions to add the basic paragraph styles with which to start your use of them. It seemed good to add the step-by-step for a basic set of styles to this book.
Concern for reader confusion may lead to a prologue to ease them into the main story or content. Mainly you need to be aware that all of these other things exist. Then you will develop them in the process while you are writing. It’s not good to start dealing with them after everything is written. Often you’ve forgotten the incidents that will trigger good reader service content like this.