First impressions matter. We take this into account when we show up 15 minutes early for a job interview or dress up extra nice for a first date. In fact, you only get one opportunity to make a great first impression.
This is as true for books as it is for people. Of course, the main message in the body of the book is what you really care about, and what you want people to read. However, the “front matter” of your book is an author’s tool to direct people towards the meat of the book.
Like any first impression, you want to make it a good one. Whether people read this section or flip through it to get to Chapter One, this is your opportunity to set the tone, depth, and personality of your book. Don’t shrug it off.
What Is Front Matter and What Does It Include?
Front matter is everything that comes before Chapter One. Usually the page numbering is done in Roman numerals or some other system that differs from the body pagination. It includes:
Endorsements, which are a significant part of the marketing process. Whom you get to endorse your work can dramatically change the sales and relevancy of your book. You want “critical praise from people who have credibility with your audience” (http://publishingacademy.com/). When potential readers see the name of someone they admire and respect, they know the meat of your book will be worth reading.
Next come the Title Page, Other Books by the Author (Optional), Expanded Title Page (book title, name(s) of the author(s), and the publisher), and Copyright Page (copyright notice, ISBN—the International Standard Book Number—printing numbers, publisher’s address, year the book was published, and Library of Congress Catalogue information, if applicable). The copyright page may also include where to order more books, the author’s website, and, if a Bible version is used, which one and the proper citation from the publisher’s website.)
In the Dedication, you get can dedicate the book to someone or something. If there isn’t anyone you are dying to dedicate the book to, you can skip this. However, this can be a meaningful place to pay tribute to a loved one (e.g., your family or a mentor) or a group of people (e.g., survivors of WWI). Whomever or whatever you dedicate this book to, the tone of the dedications should match the tone of the book. If it is a serious book, then this should be serious; if it is a comedy, then go ahead dedicate it to “anyone who has ever gotten their finger stuck in a park bench” or some other off the wall tribute.
On the Acknowledgments Page, the author thanks people who have been helpful in some way relative to the book: perhaps a writing instructor, the editor at the publishing house, the author’s agent, a supportive spouse, etc.
In the Table of Contents, you can choose how you want to represent the titles of your chapters. If you are writing a “How-To” book, you will probably want to include the names of the chapters so a reader can glance through and find the one he or she wants. If it is a novel, you may want to write “Chapter Nine” instead of “The Chapter Where Jimmy Dies” (chapter titles in novels can be spoilers!).
A Foreword (optional) is an introduction written by someone other than the book’s author. Use the same rule of thumb as endorsements: find someone who is credible and well-known to your audience. This can be a huge draw and marketing tool.
A Prologue (optional) is only used in fiction, and provides extra information for your readers. This could be setting the scene or important background information for your readers.
Finally, a Preface (optional) introduces you to the reader (as opposed to an Introduction, which introduces the topic. A best practice is to save writing the introduction until the very end. (You never know how your topic will change as it gets written or what could happen during your adventure of writing that you might want to write about the introduction.)
Working on the front matter is a great option for when you need a break from writing your book. For the days you can’t get into the writing flow, work on your copyright page or make your endorsement “Wish List.” Just don’t put it off until the end. Remember, front matter matters!
This post by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor
Do you have a manuscript you want to publish? Consider joining us for our one-day workshop, “Preparing Your Manuscript for Publication,” on September 24th, 2016, 9 – 3 pm at the beautiful Gig Harbor Marina!