Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Children's Books and Back Matter



Are you thinking of writing a children’s book? Or, maybe you’ve written one already.

The majority of my clients hire me for picture books, although I’m getting more and more chapter and simple middle grade clients now. As authors having a book that will be published, it’s important  to know a bit about what should go in the back of your book.

Keep in mind that this may vary, depending on the purpose of your book and the topic. And if you have a picture book, it depends whether you want any information at the back or if you’d prefer having more pages for story and illustrations.

Below are 7 pages you might consider for your book’s back matter, if space allows and the story warrants it.

1. About the Author

This is a page that most authors want in their book. It’s the page where the author can let the reader know a bit about him or her. And, it might be the page you use, if you’re a professional, to show your credentials for writing the book.

This is an important element if say you’re in the healthcare profession. You’ll want the reader to know that you are qualified to give the information in the book.

This page can be used in any children’s genre you’re writing in, including a picture book. 

2. Afterword / Author Notes

On this page, you’ll be able to explain why you wrote the book, how you came up with the idea, and/or what inspired you to write it.

If you have a picture book and have the room on the Author page, add the Afterword there. Every page counts in picture books.

This is another page that’s appropriate for any genre, if page count allows.

3. Additional Information

Depending on the topic of your book, you may want to offer additional information that is fact based.

For example, I’ve worked with a number of mental health professionals and they usually want to give the reader, parent, or other mental health professional helpful tips relating to the topic of the story.

Or, it could be you’ve written a wonderful fiction story about a dinosaur and want to give some facts about dinosaurs in the back of the book.

Another example is a three-book fiction picture book series I have, The Adventures of Planetman. The books are about protecting our environment. The back of these books each have fact-based information that shows children how they can be a super-hero for our planet. 

Whatever the reason or purpose for additional information, you need to be sure you have the room for it. Standard picture books usually don’t.

Additional information pages are an excellent idea for chapter books and middle grade books.

An example of this is my middle grade fantasy set in ancient China, Walking Through Walls. I provided the reader with information on the Ming Dynasty period and also interesting information on Chinese dragons as a dragon was mentioned in the story.

This type of information allows the reader to become more involved with the story. It also gives the parent and teacher more room for conversation with the young reader. And, if you need to add more pages to your book, it’s the perfect filler.

4. Reading Comprehension

Most standard children’s picture books don’t include a reading comprehension page(s). They just don’t have the space.

But if you’re writing a chapter or middle grade book and would like to boost its chances of being picked up for school classrooms and libraries, then definitely include this in your book’s back matter.

Reading comprehension pages help children understand what they just read. These pages ask questions that make the child think about the story and how it can relate to them.

5. Activities

To further engage the young reader and teacher, you can offer activities related to the story.

In “Walking Through Walls,” one of the activities was for the reader to draw a picture of a dragon.

Most picture books don’t include an activities page. Again, there’s not enough room.

6. Glossary

Depending on the topic of your chapter book or middle grade book, you may want to or even need to include a glossary in the back matter of your book.

The glossary lists words that the child may not be familiar with and gives the definition. 

Glossaries are most often used in nonfiction children’s books rather than fiction ones. Although I can see its purpose if you’re writing a fantasy world and created words specific to that world. A glossary would come in handy.

7. Promotional Page

This page is a must for every book, although the picture book may not have room for it. But if at all possible, include this page if you have other genre related books for sale.

You can include excerpts of forthcoming titles and/or titles already available for sale. You can also include a call-to-action (CTA) to sign up for your newsletter or to visit your website.

As an author, you also need to be a book marketer. You need to take every advantage you can to promote your books. And, what better place to sell your other books than to a person reading one of your books.

There are also pages such as an Index, an Appendix, a Resource List, and a Bibliography, but again it depends on the type of book you’re writing and the topic. These pages would not pertain to a picture book.

A Word About Picture Books

The industry standard picture book is 32 pages. There are though also 24 pages, 40 pages, and 48 pages. There are even picture books that are 64 pages. I’ve seen these in children’s fiction and nonfiction self-help books.

The reason 32 pages is the standard is because it’s the best number for cost-effective printing. And, it creates a neatly bound book. It just works out all around to be the best fit physically.

Why I mention this is because while you think you have 32 pages, you really don’t.

The first page (Page 1) and the last page (Page 32) are used to glue the front and back book covers onto the book in many cases.

This brings you down to 30 usable pages.

Well, not quite.

Figure on a minimum of another 4 pages for front matter and back matter. This brings you to 26 pages of text and illustrations – 13 spreads.

A spread is the left page and right page when you have the book open.

If you forego the back matter, and keep all your front matter on two pages, you may have 28 pages for story and illustrations.

But, another factor to consider if you’re self-publishing is that the publishing service may have their own formatting requirements.

I’m working with a series client who was told by the publishing service that she couldn’t use Pages 1, 2, 31, or 32. That left her with only 28 pages for front matter, the body of the book (the actual pages for story and illustrations), and the back matter.

This became a big problem as I wrote the story thinking we had 26-pages for content and illustrations, along with the client's back matter. My client ended up having to go with a 40-page book for the series.

Keep in mind that if you’re a professional, such as in healthcare, and want to include additional information on the story topic, you’ll need more pages. I would strongly recommend a 40-page or 48-page picture book if this is the case. You wouldn’t want to short-change the story or illustrations for lack of space.

This article was originally published at:
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/09/23/childrens-books-and-back-matter/

You might also like last month's post about your book's front matter:
 Before the Story Begins - The Front Matter

About the Author


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out Karen's new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman.




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11 comments:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Love this. I am big on backwater for books. For one thing, it is a great way to be service-oriented regardless of genre. To connect with the reader. But it's especially important for children's literature--again, any genre! By the way, I am reading Karen's book on writing for children and am finding tidbit after tidbit that I will eventually put to good use. Promise! (-:

Terry Whalin said...

Karen,

Thank you for this cornucopia of ideas about back matter. One key message for writers is not just to think about the possibilities but to work hard at the details fo each of these important pages. I hope many will take your valuable instructions to heart and practice for their own books.

Terry

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, I'm so glad you liked the article on book's back matter. And I'm thrilled that you're finding my book helpful!

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, the back matter can add to the story and yes, it's so important to put effort into what goes on those pages. These pages can help broaden the reader's experience.

Linda Wilson said...

Karen, I loved your first Planetman book, and think it will be a fun and valuable teaching tool for parents, teachers and librarians. They can read the child the story, which is lots of fun, and then find lots to talk about because of all the interesting information you included in the back matter. I'm not sure if every publisher allows an acknowledgements page, but I think that's an important page to include if you can. It's a nice way to thank the people who have helped in the publishing of our books.

Karin Larson said...

Thank you for the great post. Very informative.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, thank you so much for your kind words. I'm pretty sure, if page count allows, the author can include an acknowledgements page. For my middle grade story I include the acknowledgement on the dedication page. So, it's usually doable.

Karen Cioffi said...

Karin, I'm so glad you found the post informative! Thanks for stopping by!

deborah lyn said...

Thank you Karen for another great, informative post!

Jemima Pett said...

That's a really good post, thank you. Choosing which additional material to go at the back of my books has been a headache. Loading paperbacks has the same impact on price as with picturebooks.
You have given me an idea of where to put some discussion on a question my beta readers raised!
The amount of backmatter even matters in ebooks, simply because unless the back matter is interesting, readers don't want the end of the story to come at 95% of the book (or less). It seems cheating in a way.
I even stopped buying one author's books, because he always put the whole of the first chapter in the next in the series at the back. They weren't big books anyway, and I really resented paying for it twice.
Good luck with your next project.
Jemima

Karen Cioffi said...

Jemima, thanks so much for stopping by. I agree, the back matter should be interesting and I don't get why some authors would include the first chapter of their next book in the back matter. I can understand a blurb to entice the reader, but not a chapter.

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