I get a lot of questions about what front and back matter should be included in an ebook. Should is the keyword here. Technically and legally, there are no requirements for anything other than the body of the text–with one exception: Smashwords distribution requires a specifically worded title page that includes copyright information.
Producing an ebook with no front or back matter is, in my rarely humble opinion, a mistake. As a reader, I’m not browsing Amazon in search of raw manuscripts. I want my ebooks to look and feel complete–real books. Well crafted front and back matter tells me care and thought went into producing the ebook and that ups my opinion of the story before I even start reading. I think the writer should include at the barest minimum–
- A title page with an assertion of rights
- A Table of Contents
- An author bio
As an ebook producer, my philosophy is: Put it there for those who want/need it, and those who neither want nor need it can ignore it.
Sky’s the limit as far as front and back matter are concerned.
- Table of Contents
- Title Page
- Copyright Page
- Cast of Characters
- Pronunciation Guide
- About the Author/bio
- Invitations (newsletter sign up, contests)
- Bonus Short Stories
It’s up to the writer’s creativity and their own preferences as to what front and back matter should be included. BUT, there are two very important issues writers/publishers need to take into consideration.
- Sampling. Many online retailers have a “look inside” feature that allows browsers to get a glimpse of your work in real-time and also to download a sample of the work onto their ereaders.
- Readers still haven’t figured out ebook sizes.
Number 1 can present problems with the front matter. If potential buyers click on the “Look Inside” feature at Amazon, for instance, and they have to scroll through pages of front matter to reach the text, they could be turned off and click on thru to something else. Unless, your work is non-fiction. Then a complete table of contents is essential. Quite possibly an introduction or summary, too. Readers often use the front matter to decide whether a non-fiction work contains the information they are looking for.
The Number 2 concern is because there are no visual clues for readers to judge the size of a work. File size is meaningless to all but the most technical, and even placing a “page count” or actual word count is iffy. I see many complaints from readers, especially with short fiction, about how they reach THE END and they are only 50% through the book. The rest is back matter. If the reader is grouchy, then the back matter can look like advertising or a trick that’s been pulled on them. That can lead to poor reviews. There isn’t much you can do about individual perceptions, but it is something to keep in mind. Come up with your own rule of thumb regarding the ratio of back matter to story.
So when you’re designing your ebook, keep in mind:
- READER PERCEPTIONS