What’s the matter with front matter?
Between your carefully considered cover and the very first word of your story, there should be some stuff. What is that stuff? Why does it matter? What really needs to be there?
That stuff, collectively called “front matter”, includes all the information related to the book that isn’t the story. Traditionally, in print books, all of the following could be heaped up at the front, because it was easy for readers to flip past if they wished and get on with the story.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters
Then there’s “back matter”, which usually goes in the back of a printed book.
About the Author/bio
Invitations (newsletter sign up, contests)
Bonus Short Stories
However, this is far from ideal in the world of ebooks. Why? Well, a sample is 10% of your entire file, not 10 percent of your story. When you get a reader interested enough that they downloaded a sample, or are clicking “look inside” on a web page, you really don’t want them to scroll past all of that stuff only to find three paragraphs of story! You want a couple pages to hook them in, draw them deep, and make them immediately click “buy the book” so they can keep reading.
Some very savvy authors actually set up the amount of front matter and their story so the 10% cutoff falls directly after a cliffhanger. This is sneaky and wonderful, because you can immediately deliver the payoff with the rest of the book.
So, what actually needs to go up front?
Title Page – as silly as it seems to have a title page (the name is on the file, after all, and the cover can’t get lost, unlike a hardcover’s dust jacket), I recommend having one. It looks professional, and looking like you’re going to give the reader a quality product is vital to keep their expectation and attention high, so they make it to your awesome story.
Blurb – Here, too, some indies have started sticking the blurb again. The reasoning, which is sound, is that readers tend to grab book samples by the handfuls, but sometimes don’t get back to ’em for weeks or months. By that time, they don’t remember what the story is about.
I’m of two minds about it, myself. I tend to find them annoying to flip past when I’ve just bought a sample… but if I’m going through my to-be-read pile, I find them incredibly helpful. What do you think?
Table of Contents? I’d like your feedback on whether you, as a reader, like this at the front. I’ve seen some ebooks sticking them at the back, but reader habit to look in the front is rather entrenched.
Copyright Page – Yes, this needs to be in the front. Indies usually stick the name of the cover artist, cover designer, and editor here. It’s good advertising for those folks, so if other authors like what they see, they’ll help keep your favorite freelancers in business!
Dedication & Acknowledgements – yeah, if you have one, this goes in the front.
All the rest, with the exception of the map (If you have one), I strongly suggest you skip, or stick in the back. Honestly, until your reader cares about the characters, they don’t care how they’re related or their names are pronounced. And to make them care, you have to give them the story. So get to it as fast as you can, and start making them care.
What do you put in, leave out, or move to the back?