What Authors Need to Know to Avoid Vital Front Matter Booboos

 


To WritersontheMove Blog Subscribers and Visitors:

2023 has been a celebratory year for the release of the third edition of The Frugal Editorthe winningest book in my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, and I don’t want to let the year pass without sharing part of what my publisher says is approximately 50% new material in this edition.

He also says, “We really overachieved on this book. There's nothing within a mile of it in terms of scope and depth.” One of the reasons for such praise is the inclusion of information on front matter that is as likely to assure a great first impression for a book as a great cover and one that books on editing or publishing rarely cover. So today’s blog post (see below) is what you need to know regardless of the publishing process you have chosen for your book.

The new Frugal Editor also covers the magical properties of back matter including increased readership and book sales but it’s way too long for a blog post. Find the frugal e-copy of the book at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTXQL27T/!)


An Excerpt from the Third Edition of The Frugal Editor

What Authors Need to Know to Avoid Vital Front Matter Booboos

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
 HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

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. That includes the professional reviewers both authors and publishers want to impress.

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 frontmatter fundamentals for paper books:

1.     Title Page

2.     Copyright Page (lefthand page)

3.     Dedication

4.     Contents (begins on the righthand page)

5.     List of Figures or Tables. In this book, “The Frugal Editor’s Extras” list in the front matter is a cousin to these lists in an effort to make finding information easier for readers much like table or figure lists do. Use it as an example of a way to deviate with your own idea for “extras”in your book.

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. I remember a fine publisher had included a short paragraph highlighting their use of a font style that was especially appropriate for the topic of that specific book on one of its front matter pages. 

If you are self-publishing, know what rules you are breaking. Ask yourself if doing so would be welcomed by your readers and if it might attract the ire of a publishing industry professional. 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 matter components I promised you including the use of two title pages. What, you never noticed a second title page? They can be handy for keeping a nice, open layout with all the sections that should be on the left page where they belong. They are called the title page and the half-title page. Old-timers call 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 long and complex frontmatter. The setup of a book’s frontmatter might be part of your publisher’s style guidelines and be nonnegotiable. If the frontmatter 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 frontmatter 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.

 

10.  Warning: Don’t neglect your acknowledgements page. There are ways it can be used effectively for both pre-promotion and general marketing. It is spelled Acknowledgements. With a d, please. Even very good editors can overlook a misspelling of this word, at least in part because they don’t bother to peruse front and back matter. “Foreword” is often misspelled, too. Don’t leave the out! Your spellchecker may not catch it!

MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



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. She blogs at https://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com and https://sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com.

2 comments:

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, CONGRATULATIONS on how impressive the 3rd Edition of The Frugal Editor is doing. And thanks for these tips on what should be included in the front matter of a book!

Terry Whalin said...

Carolyn,

Thank you for this article which shows us again that the details of publishing matter. If you don't get them right, it is a poor representation of your work to the readers. Each of us need to use this important information.

Terry
author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition) [Follow the Link for a FREE copy]

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