Building Your Book’s Front Matter

I’ve always loved long introductions in the front matter of the books of my favourite authors. Not sure if it’s just me, but finding out more about them, their lives and thoughts has inspired me since I first started reading. What I don’t love so much these days is those same long introductions in the front matter of eBooks. I still want to read them, but I also want to be able to see the first ten percent of a book I might want to buy with a bit of the beginning of the actual story in it. It’s fine in a print book, but best in the back of an eBook with a hyperlink to it from the table of contents. Pages and pages of excerpts and reviews in the front of digital books equally get up the nostrils of potential readers “looking inside”.

The wonder of self-publishing means that we can put anything we like in our books, digital or otherwise. Indies who are going it alone look to advice from already published peers, or from examining the books of traditionally published bestselling authors. They’re not all the same, but mostly follow similar formats. So what can you put in the front of your eBook, and how should you lay it out?

Title Page
This is the first page in your eBook, and will contain the book title and sub-title if there is one, and your author name. In some illustrated books, the illustrator’s name will also go here, but not always. Contributors generally go on the copyright page. You can add a publishing imprint or logo, or even an illustration or photo. Nothing at all wrong with prettying up your eBooks. All should be centred on the page.

Copyright Page
Again, all centred, and generally in a smaller font. Here it’s important to have your copyright notice, such as – Copyright © 2016 Your Name. Also the All Rights Reserved notice of your choice. You can add your ISBN if you have your own, as well as information such as First or Second Edition with publication dates if relevant. This is usually where contributors such as illustrators, cover designers and anyone else who took part in the creation of your book would go. Many authors don’t add this information, and in the case of where you’ve purchased a cover design, not required. You can also have published by information here if you have an address for your imprint.

Dedications and endorsements can go next, but I suggest adding them to the back of the book if they’re very long with hyperlinks to the table of contents.

Table of Contents
Here you would list the book’s chapters, and noteable or important diagrams, images or tables. If you have loads of chapters you can condense the contents in the front matter by listing only sections of the book, but then link to the full unshortened table of contents at the back of the book. This is still debatable though, ever since Amazon started clamping down on those dodgy eBook marketers that put a lot of freebie links in the backs of nonsense books to get pages read for Kindle Unlimited earnings.

Forward and introduction or preface can go next if you’re having them, but again, you can place them in the back of the book with hyperlinks to the table of contents. The introduction or preface is something written by the author about the book and its creation. Those lovely long rambles by Stephen King, signed and dated in Maine. A forward is often a recommendation by someone other than the author. Often in non-fiction books by someone knowledgeable in some particular field, and in fiction, often a fan, friend, or follower of the author.

Prologue
If you’re having a prologue it obviously has to go in the front of the book, as prologues are there to get you up to speed in some way before starting the meat of the book.

Books By
If you don’t have a lot of front matter, and your booklist isn’t hugely long, then have this in the front, otherwise zoom it over to the back with a hyperlink to table of contents.

About the Author
I’ve seen this in the front of lots of books, and that’s fine. I prefer mine in the back.

About this Book
Personal choice once again, but vital for any eBook in my opinion. If it’s a long one, to the back it can go.

Disclaimer
Best in the front of a book if important.

Acknowledgements and Thanks
If only a couple of lines, then nice in the front matter.

Excerpts
I don’t think that excerpts should ever go in the front matter of any eBook. Rather have them at the end, when readers have discovered that they like the way you write and want to read more.

Whether or not to use a page break between each front matter item is also personal choice. I like the look with the breaks, but have seen many books without them that look perfectly good too. Without making it too overcrowded, do try and make the front matter of your books attractive and appealing as well as functional.

Book

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19 thoughts on “Building Your Book’s Front Matter”

  1. I appreciate your consideration of the differences between traditional books and ebooks. With the latter, I’ve come to a recognition that much that would have gone at the front now works better at the back — as a kind of dessert, once the reader’s finished with the main parts. Maybe we can learn something from online movies, with their options of Play, Outtakes, Trailers, and the like.

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  2. As someone who writes books with a lot of short chapters, I wondered what you’d say about that dreaded contents page. I think your idea of listing sections at the front with a full toc at the back could work. I’m going to give that a try. 😊

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