Getting Up-To-Date On What Front and Back Matter Can Do for You

Getting Up-To-Date On What Front and Back Matter Can Do for You 1024 576 Reader Views

A Sneak-Peek at the 3rd Edition of The Frugal Editor

Getting Up-To-Date On What Front and Back Matter Can Do for YouAn Excerpt from the soon-to-be-released 3rd Edition of The Frugal Editor by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Because I am a book marketer and an English Lit major, I love front matter where I often find unexpected information, but when I am reading for entertainment, I hardly notice it. Readers tend to pay little attention to front matter unless we have a reason to do so but industry gatekeepers are pickier.

Front matter mistakes or intentional deviation from the norm are not as readily forgiven as those in back matter. The easy way to make sure yours is in the realm of industry standards is to request Gorham Printing’s beautifully organized, free Guidebook: Adventures in Publishing, Explore Book Printing. Though I include a long list of both front- and back matter elements later in this chapter, Gorham gives you a basic (safe!) order for front matter fundamentals for paper books:

1.     Title Page

2.     Copyright Page

3.     Dedication

4.     Contents

5.     List of Figures or Tables. In this book, “The Frugal Editor’s Extras” list is a cousin to these lists in an effort to make finding information easier for readers much like these lists do.

6.     Foreword

7.     Preface

8.     Acknow­ledgements

9.     Introduction

Note: Gorham’s list doesn’t mention a prologue. I like them when they come just before the first chapter in books of fiction, meaning nothing—absolutely nothing but a chapter title—should intervene!

Gorham’s book is a great tutorial that includes their printing costs for books from hardcover to spiral books (often used for the likes of cookbooks). You’ll find a couple more front matter considerations below.

No matter how you plan to publish, you may think of a good reason to deviate from what appears to be acceptable among publishers. If your research inspires an idea for front or back matter that might benefit readers or help to sell more books, you might negotiate with a traditional publisher to accommodate your idea rather than stick to their company-wide style guidelines.

If you are self-publishing, know what rules you are breaking and ask yourself if doing so would be welcomed by your readers and if doing it might attract the ire of a publishing industry professional or reviewers. Ask yourself if the pluses outweigh the negatives or if you would feel comfortable saving your creative idea for a time when you are so experienced and established that your idea is likely to be accepted and emulated regardless of how brazen it is.

Of course, you can always choose a few books from your library or browse newly released books from publishers you admire at your favorite bookstore, too. Be sure to look at some of the best known books in the same genre as yours. This little exercise might convince you that your title can accommodate a little daring-do!

Here are some other less frequently used front and back matter components I promised you including the use of two title pages. What, you never noticed a second title page? I didn’t either! They are called the title page and the half-title page. Old-timers call the title pages other than the first bastard title pages. In those pre politically-correct days, they were abbreviated versions of the title page that could be torn out before the book was bound. One defense for the keeping the practice is that authors can sign and personalize one page and the book still has one left untouched. Another is that an additional title page can separate the book’s text from the long and complex front matter. The setup of a book’s front matter might be part of your publisher’s style guidelines and be nonnegotiable. If the front matter is quite long, there may even be a third title page just before the body of the book begins.

Note: An excellent example of a book that departs from front matter standards in ways that benefit both book and reader is Behind the Bears Ears: Exploring the Cultural and Natural Histories of a Sacred Landscape by R. E. Burillo (Torrey House Press, 2020). It includes a map of Bears Ears National Monument (US), an anthropologic Timeline, and probably breaks some norms for the length of its introduction. This 407-page book also uses back matter effectively.

There is much more frontmatter information you need as part of your final edits: Aren’t you eager to see what you can do for your book with the even more marketing friendly  back matter, especially if your book is part of a series, if  you want your book to be stocked in libraries or used by academics like English Literature instructors, or if you have an error in an earlier edition to correct? Watch for the release on Amazon or sign up for my newsletter by sending me an e-mail at HoJoNews  at  AOL  dot  com  with SHARING WITH WRITERS NEWSLETTER in the subject line.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson started what she considers her “real writing” career when most are thinking of retiring. She brings her experience as publicist, journalist, marketer, editor, retailer, and the author of those books published almost every way possible including traditionally, to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program.

“Careers that are not fed die as readily as any living organism given no sustenance.”


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1 comment
  • Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    Thank you so much for inviting me to share with your visitors and subscribers, ReaderViews editors. It’s very nearly as exciting as having the first edition of my The Frugal Editor win your award years ago. A long, very special relationship!!

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