Contemplating Front & Back Matter

I suppose it could be said that I’m making too much of this, considering that much of what goes in the front and back of a book is pretty well set. Some things seem traditional in position, such as half-title page, title page, copyright page, etc. Backs of books usually contain a bibliography, resource list, and index. Other things such as acknowledgements, the author’s other works, or “about the author” seem more random in placement. If I’m putting it all together myself, that means making decisions.

One goal in my book designs is that they look as professional as possible. With the rise in indie publishing some excellent books are being made available, but I’ve noticed that not all books are presented well. The content may be well-written and have something important to say, but too often these good books fall down because of design and formatting. This especially seems to be a problem for those going from print to eBook or vice versa. Maybe it’s my old art major background, but I find myself spending a lot of time trying to create an aesthetic presentation, not just good content.

There are lots of how-tos websites and articles regarding front and back matter on the internet, although not all of them seem to be complete and helpful. One thing I’ve taken to doing is to look at recently published books from established publishing houses. How do they format? Where do they put things? What’s on their copyright pages? How do they set up content? I think this has helped a lot.

Two items I’ve pondered for Critter Tales are placement of “Acknowledgements” and “About The Author”. I suppose that seems silly to worry about, but I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide. Acknowledgements are traditionally placed at the front of the book, but many newer publications place them in the back. A blurb about t author can go either on the back cover, dust jacket, or in the back of the book. If in back, where’s the best spot? Right after the conclusion? Before the index? After?

After much deliberation(!), here’s what I’ve decided.

Front Matter

  • i. half-title page
  • ii. also by
  • iii. title page
  • iv. copyright
  • v. dedication
  • vi. blank
  • vii – ix. table of contents
  • x. acknowledgements
  • 1. introduction

The lower case Roman numerals indicate front matter, i.e. everything before the actual content of the book. Page i is the right-hand page immediately after the cover. Right-hand pages are odd numbers, left-hand are even numbers. The half-title page contains simply the “short” main title. The full title page contains main title plus subtitle, also author and publisher. I like my main sections of the book (contents, chapters, etc.) to be on the right-hand page. I don’t mind the facing left-hand page being blank. I think this gives a more formal, traditional look to a book. Many books now simply put whatever’s next on the next page, left or right, with no blank pages. I suppose it does save on a sheet or two of paper.

Back Matter (sometimes called End Matter)

  • End Notes / Bibliography (not sure if I need both)
  • Resources
  • About the author
  • Index

In 5 Acres & A Dream The Book I put the “about the author” on the back cover. I have something different in mind this time, so I decided to put it right before the index. Personally, I like the index to be at the very end of the book.

I don’t know if all of this has been much ado about nothing, but I think it’s the little things that make a difference. Attention to all details (or not) contribute to a quality product (or not). Now that that’s decided, I can go on to figuring other things out.