The other day I shared one of those screenshot memes on my social media. The ones that come from Tumblr or someplace like that, where people are discussing something. Not all of them are obnoxious, some are fun, and this one was very illuminating to see the responses.
I wound up getting a lot of conversation, not only from the readers on my feed, but other authors as well. It sparked a great conversation and I wanted to bring that, here, for a more permanent basis. I lose things over there. It’s an ephemeral conversation and sometimes you want to keep things where you can find them. Instead of rifling through infinite desk drawers muttering ‘I know I had it. I saw it last week. Or was that a month ago? It has to be here!’
To quote from some of the responses:
Emma P. said:
-Chapter titles are cool but unnecessary, and I am fine either way
-As long as the synopsis is actually accurate, jeeeeez
-Maps, glossaries, indexes, and the like are awesome if the worldbuilding supports it
-A table of contents is good if there are the aforementioned chapter titles, glossaries, indexes, etc.
-I do really like the idea for quick timelines or summaries of the previous material
-Resounding yes to printing the series numbers somewhere
Nelson B. said:
I hate coming up with chapter titles. If you can easily come up with titles for all of your chapters, go for it. But I don’t think they’re that important, and if trying to come up with a name for one chapter is slowing you down, just throw them out.
Since when have they stopped putting synopsis’ on the backs (or in the dust jacket for hardcover) books? But yes, please keep doing that.
Yes please for numbers on the spine.
Peter G. suggested:
A wiki? Probably not done by the author but fans could be encouraged to create and run one. With link in the books.
Andy W. said:
I think you can’t have too many hand rails for readers, especially if you want a series to age well.
Ruth K. said:
Chapter titles are cool and can help me find where I was when I lose my spot, but I can live without them
Actual synopsis instead of reviews on the back: YES PLEASE! As long as its accurate anyway.
Maps, cool, but I can live without them
Indexes of characters/places with pronunciations: if I need this to read the book I’ve probably stopped reading it halfway through because I wasn’t able to keep track of who was who in my head. So while cool, definitely not required for me.
series numbers on the spine: YES PLEASE
TOC: see chapter titles
Glossaries: this falls close the indexes issue, if I can tell whats what from the story then its fine, I’ll read the actual definition later, but if I have to reference the damn glossary every time I word is used then you lost me before I got halfway through the book
Timeline: cool, but I can live without
Chrissy A. put in the library perspective:
As a humble librarian who fields many questions about books she doesn’t have a clue about, the numbers on the spine would be a GODSEND. Not just that, but actually indicating somewhere that a book is part of a series at all. You’d be surprised how many still don’t do that.
Kathleen S. suggests:
Here’s another, very basic thing: Some indication when the point of view character changes! More than just a new paragraph! It gets confusing….
Tom Rogneby commented:
I’m not creative enough to have chapter titles that are both spoiler free and interesting. You’ll get Roman numerals and like it.
Maps make sense if the characters are traveling.
If you’re using a fantasy language enough that it can’t be figured out in context, then a glossary makes sense.
The general consensus was:
Chapter Titles are optional
Synopsis on the back of the book is vital, but DO NOT include spoilers
Maps are fun but totally optional (and may not be possible in ebook)
Indexes of characters and places are meh, and for some readers an indication that the book is more complex than they want.
Pronunciation guides are nice
Numbering books in series, and especially on the spine, is VITAL.
Tables of contents are a yes, please (These in an ebook come at the end of the book, but Amazon (don’t know about other ereaders) put it at the drop-down menu if it is inserted correctly. Very useful)
Glossaries are ok, but see Ruth K.’s comment on them above.
Timelines are ok, but not if they take up much time and space in the new book when they come at the beginning
Richard C. had an excellent question:
Ok somebody has to be the East German judge. First, I love all the suggestions. That said, how do we make it work for ebooks and avoid cutting into the sample chapters that you want to hook the reader into buying or KUing the book?
My answer to him, and reprinted here for clarity:
By putting most of this at the end of the book. If you insert the ToC properly (and again, at the end) into the ebook, Amazon (at least, not familiar with the other ebook retailers) will pick it up and put it into the dropdown menu you can access while reading. You can then navigate easily to, say, the glossary at the back.
All together, they are great suggestions. Some won’t apply to your book. None of them are things you should dwell on while you are writing the book. But when you are in the editing and formatting phase? Heck, yeah, you should do some (probably not all!) of these. I know the number on the spine for series is something I hadn’t done, but I will now.
What’s your pet peeve as a reader for books these days?