Does Front and Back Matter Matter?


Front & Back Matter

Here are some points to consider when preparing the front and back matter for your self-published book:

  • Back matter can get in the way of an important page in your e-book. The very end encourages the customer to review the book.
  • Include your blog and social media url’s on your author page (with hyperlinks for your Kindle e-book). Add a note that gives readers a reason to visit your sites (e.g. free interactive map).
  • Series authors can include a short sample of the next volume at the end of each book.
  • A reader might close the Look Inside, bored with a prologue, never reaching Chapter 1, which might grab attention better. Ask yourself if you really need that prologue.
  • Use the table of contents wisely. Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. is a wasted opportunity. Create short names that catch interest for fiction or that reveal content for nonfiction.
  • The more front matter you add, the longer it takes to reach Chapter 1. Ask yourself which sections you really need.
  • Short e-books might have very little writing sample to offer if there is much front matter.
  • If there is virtually no front matter, that might seem odd to the customer. Didn’t the author use other books as models?
  • Front matter must look professional to make a good impression. Nobody studies a copyright page, but when they pass by, if it doesn’t look right, it leaves an impression.
  • Publishers lead off with all kinds of too-good-to-be-true quotes. This might have merit from a well-known source, not necessarily otherwise (though they could—it really pays to know your target audience well).
  • Arguably, the most important part of the book is in Chapter 1. Come out punching with your best stuff. Unfortunately, a slow build can cost new readers. Make it easy to reach the first chapter.
  • You don’t have to have the exact same front and back matter in both your print book and e-book. An index, for example, isn’t necessary in an e-book, which doesn’t have page numbers for one, and where customers can simply search for keywords for another.
  • At CreateSpace, page number is a consideration. It can affect whether or not you can use spine text (minimum 102 pages, 130 recommended), the minimum inside margin, or how much the book costs to produce. Every page you add costs you money (unless you have fewer than 24 pages for color or 102 pages for black and white). So think about what front and back matter you really need. But if you’re between 100 and 130 pages, extra pages help you with better spine text potential. If you may be selling copies in person or to bookstores, you want front matter that looks professional and helps sell the book; and you don’t want to be missing sections that they expect to see.
  • Something cool in the front matter can attract attention, if done right. It could be a nontrivial effect with formatting or professional design marks, for example, but it has to look like it belongs there. For an e-book, add a short GIF image (important with text, since the background may not be white) with a publisher logo beside a few lines of text. You ordinarily see images below and above text, not wrapped beside it, so it could be that professional touch that makes the difference. See my example below (the logo was designed by Melissa Stevens).

Math Fluency

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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