Indie Corner Effective Ebook Front and Back Matter


Vision 71


Indie Corner

Effective Ebook Front and Back Matter


J. A. Marlow


Copyright © 2013, J. A. Marlow, All Rights Reserved




This article is not about the story itself. It will assume you have finished the work and you are now making the hard decisions that come with publishing. One of the most time-consuming is putting together the front matter and the back matter of an ebook for the first time.


Yes, we can use the print books we have around us as a guideline, but those are print books. Ebooks are completely different animal when it comes to the format, presentation, and mode of selling. Items which may seem like a no-brainer need to be rethought.


Many ebook buyers have learned to download samples from their favorite retailer to be sure they like it enough to buy it. This is the equivalent to readers browsing through the pages of a print book in a bookstore, flipping to the start of the book, then maybe to the middle.


Only, an ebook sample is not the entire book. A reader cannot flip to various areas to see if it suits them. A typical ebook sample is the first 10-30%, depending on the retailer, before the reader needs to buy the work to read anymore. Because of this, be careful of what you put at the front of an ebook. This is valuable space, as many retailers have pre-defined sample percentages which the author or publisher cannot alter.


Make the most of this space.


To help you along, below are a few guidelines of items which one might see in the front matter or back matter of an ebook:


Title Page


Is a title page still needed in the ebook world? Doesn't it just repeat the title and author name? Well, it does those two things, but it can also do much more. Many times it will include a curtailed copyright notice (more on this later), but there is also something else an author/publisher should consider, and that is "sample conversion." Turning the sample into a sale.


This is one area where ebooks really excel. Many readers are downloading samples to their ereaders or ebook programs, and then going through them at their leisure. This is great for the readers, but it presents a problem. Readers are sampling so much now that they are losing track of all of them. They cannot remember what the story was about or what attracted them to a specific work by only the title or cover. How can the sampling converted into a sale?


My Advice: Place a very short description of the story on the title page. By short, I mean very short. Two paragraphs maximum, and if you can manage it, one paragraph or even one sentence. The shorter the better, otherwise you threaten to take up valuable sample space.




In print books this is usually in the front matter of the ebook. It’s a way to thank special people or for the author to make a specific declaration.


My Advice: As the sample becomes so important, it may be time to push this off into the ebook back matter. Or, if this is short, another option may be to combine it with the title page.


Character Lists


Some books are so long and complicated they need a 'cheat-sheet' listing the various characters. Often, this will include where they are living or where they are from, or other information to help a reader remember them.


My Advice: List the characters in its own section on the Table of Contents and put it in the back matter. A reader shouldn't need it to get started. Again, this is to save sample space.




Have a map you want to include in the ebook? As a reader, I find these fun sometimes, and they give me a visual cue of where characters are moving or where events occurred. Mysteries are one genre where maps are particularly popular.


My Advice: List it on the Table of Contents, and then put in the back matter of the novel. If the reader wants to see it, they can navigate to it using the (usually automatically generated) internal TOC linking.


If the map or image is vitally important and even the first part of the book that comprises the sample will need it to make sense, then yes, include it in the front matter.


Other Books Available


If a writer has produced more than one book, the front matter of a print book will often list several more. I love these as a reader, as I will hunt down all the other books written by a writer I like. For promotion and marketing, this can be the best way to drive backlist sales.


It is even more important with series, as it allows you to list the order that the books should be read.


My Advice: Keep this, but reconsider where it is located. As I mentioned before, the sample is valuable. Place it in the back matter immediately after the finish of the story.


The only exception would be for a series. I've personally found that it works well to list other books of the series, in order, on the title page right under the title and author name. This way, if the reader samples the story and when going to read it sees that it's in the middle of a series, they can then hunt down the first book.


About the Author


I love these as a reader, as well. We get to learn a little bit about the author, what their interests are, and hopefully ways to follow more of their work.


My Advice: As a reader of print books, I see the "About the Author" sections most often on the back jacket of a hardback or in the back matter of a paperback. This is a good place for it. For marketing and promotion reasons, also include your webpage address and other ways readers can connect. This is also a good way to drive traffic to a newsletter.


This section can be combined with the "Other Books Available" section to make them more compact and to use space more wisely.




In print books the copyright statement usually goes in the front of the book. It's usually written in small letters, and almost everyone skips them.


My Advice: For ebooks, rethink the placement. Again, the front of an ebook is valuable for selling the ebook to sampling readers. If you feel uncomfortable leaving everything out, then craft a small one-paragraph copyright and place it on the title page (you can use a modified version of Smashwords' copyright declaration) and then place the larger and expanded version in the back of the ebook. This will save front sample space as well as keep intact the full copyright page with all the information you may wish to include.


Samples of Other Work


This is something that is showing up more and more often even in print books. They usually take the form of the first three to five pages of another work to be available by the same author or the imprint in the near future. It's been used with great success, and so ebook publishers and authors have copied the technique.


My Advice: This is a good practice with a proven track record, but there are a few things to be mindful of when it comes to ebooks.


1. Keep it short. Do not allow all the back matter to go over 15% of the total ebook. This can result in reader complaints who upon reaching 80% thought the book would go on for a while more and suddenly find the story to an end.


2. With ebooks the reader has become addicted to and expects instant gratification. If they want a book they can buy it, download it, and be reading in minutes. For this reason, think long and hard before sampling a work that is not yet available for sale. The reader might move on to a book by a different author and completely forget about yours by the time it is released.


3. Related to above, consider including a link with the sample to the full story so they can buy it immediately. The downside of this is that you would have to make an Amazon-specific, Barnes & Noble-specific, Kobo-specific (and so on) ebook.


4. For an effective sample, choose something with a similar theme or sub-genre. It will increase the chances the reader of the current work will be interested in and purchase the sampled work.


Last advice


Once you have made the decisions of what format you want for your front matter and back matter, consider creating templates. This will make any future ebook publishing faster, less stressful, and more accurate. Why make this harder on the future-you?


Front matter and back matter of a novel (or short story) may seem like a simple thing, but as demonstrated above, the decisions you make will affect the selling and effectiveness of your ebook. Use them wisely and you will create a better reader experience, as well as convert reader samplers into sales and generate interest in backlist.


These are important considerations for anyone in the business for the long-haul. A little time and effort now can pay off big in the long run.