Formatting Back Matter : hints for Independent Publishers

fanfare of trumpetsBack matter is where the independent publisher can blow their own trumpet. It’s a great PR opportunity for an author to get readers involved and, crucially, buying more of the author’s books. So it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can.

Back matter is probably the second-last thing an author needs to do before uploading her ebook. (The last thing is to update the Table of Contents.) Before doing back matter, you should have done all in the following list (click to see my previous blogs on how to do them):

What should be in back matter?

Back matter is very much at the discretion of the author but the following are often included:

  1. a page about connecting with the author
  2. a short author biography
  3. a clickable list of the author’s books
  4. a promo for the author’s next book
  5. an extract from the author’s next book (optional)

I recommend you include 1-4. Item 5 is optional, but it’s good to include it, if you can. Note that, if you are planning to self-publish in print, including a book extract will add a number of pages to your book and increase the printing cost. You may decide to include extracts only in ebooks. Your choice. But do remember that there’s nothing like a hooky opening chapter to get a reader to press the BUY button for your next book.

1  Connecting with the author : content

This first section of the back matter should appear immediately after the end of your book. I recommend that you start it by asking your reader to leave a review because we all know how much reviews matter.

Example of Kindle rating page for a book by John Julius Norwich

Example of a Kindle rating page

Think of what you see at the end of a Kindle ebook. You immediately get a page asking you to leave a star rating. You are offered a button to follow the author. And further down that single page, there is often a list of other books by the same author. Amazon is striking while the iron is hot, so to speak. You can do the same.

But you can make it more chatty and less in-your-face. Give your reader a warm feeling so they actually want to connect with you. Explain why you want a review from them and thank them in advance. Your reader may not leave a written review but it’s definitely worth asking. I know of at least one author who asks readers to email her when they’ve left a review. She puts all those emails into a digital hat and, once a month, one lucky winner gets a free book.

This is also the section where you provide readers with a link to sign up to your newsletter—you do have one, don’t you?—plus links to your website and your social media. Make sure all the links are clickable and, crucially, that they all work. (After you’ve uploaded your ebook file, you should look at the processed file using Kindle Previewer and check that Every Single Link works. You don’t want to annoy your reader with broken links.)

1a  Not essential, but nice-to-have content

In my own Connect page, I also include a link for readers to let me know if they find typos in my books. No matter how hard authors and proof readers try to ensure the book is perfect, there are almost always typos. If a reader spots one and emails me via the link in the back matter, I always make the correction asap and re-upload the book. Then I tell the reader and thank them. It makes the reader feel really involved, I think. And it improves the book, too.
Win-win, I’d say, wouldn’t you?  😉

2  Short author bio : content

woman peeks through gloved fingers

This is a separate section within your back matter.

Many readers like to know what the author is like. It’s up to you, the author, to decide how much of your private life you’re prepared to share.

It’s normal practice for an author bio to be written in the third person rather than first. My advice would be not to make the bio too long.

It’s probably a good idea to include a link to your website in the author bio, even if you’ve already included it in your Connect with the Author page. The more chances a reader has to click on your links, the more likely it is that they will.

3  Author’s book list : content

This is where I get on my hobby horse about back matter. How often have you been reading book x in a series and wondered what the next book in the series is? How often have you looked at the book list (which may be in the front matter or in the back matter) and found that the book you’re currently reading is not there? That’s because the publisher has produced the book list as “Also by the same author”. Please don’t do that. It can be SO frustrating (but many commercial publishers continue to do it).

Your book list, in my opinion, should include ALL your available books. If you have written series books, list each series separately and include all the books in it. ALWAYS include the book in which the book list appears. Please!

It is good practice to make each book title a clickable link. (And, again, the links MUST work.) A site like Booklinker will produce a universal link which will take the reader to their local Amazon or Apple Books store. Much better than you trying to produce individual links for each of your books for, say, the UK, the US and Australia. (Obviously, if you have produced zillions of books, you may decide to include only the more recent ones on your book list. Your choice. But if you do that, you should have a complete list of all your books on your website.)

The image here shows my booklist from The Mystery Mistletoe Bride. All the underlined titles in blue are clickable, with Booklinker universal links. The titles marked with the dagger were at the end of their publishing life with Mills & Boon when this book was published and I saw no need to include links for them. Note that The Mystery Mistletoe Bride is included in my list, even though it’s not part of a series. (Not yet but watch this space, as they say!)

3a  Updating the book list

man gasping in surprise at smartphoneYour book list should be up-to-date (including the links) in every one of your ebooks. That means—and I admit this is a chore—that every time you produce a new book, you should update your standard book list and you should then update every one of your published ebooks to include that latest book list. (I don’t suggest you do it for print books since revising them can be expensive.)

Why bother? Because you never know which one of your older books a reader may buy. And you want your readers to be able to buy all your other books, including the latest, don’t you?

4  Next book promo : content

Back matter is the ideal place to include a promo for your next book. It should be a separate section and, ideally, consist of a single page in your Word doc. The image here shows one of mine, for Lady in Lace.

promo page example, Lady in Lace

The promo page should include:

  • the book title (which should be a clickable buy link)
  • the cover (centred)
  • the short blurb
  • the longer blurb
  • an invitation to read an extract (if you are including one)

In the example, you can see the title at the top. The short blurb is three centred lines, in bold. The long blurb (also centred) is in normal text.

My usual practice is to include a greyscale cover rather than a cover in colour. That’s because old Kindles work in black and white and many people (like me) still use old Kindles. But you could include a cover in colour if you prefer.

4a Inserting the cover image

oops! on key on keyboardIt is essential to insert the cover image in the right way. Do NOT use copy and paste. If you do, it is possible that your image will not appear properly. It may wander across the page. It may not even appear at all. You should insert the cover image by using Insert/Photo/Picture from file and then selecting the file copy of your cover image (either greyscale or colour).

Remember that some readers may be viewing your promo page on a mobile phone. So you don’t want the cover image to be too large. (In ebooks, the text reflows to fit the page and the font size chosen by the reader. The image doesn’t resize.) Ideally the image should be the width of the phone screen. Better too narrow than too wide. In the example above, you can see that the cover is about one-third of the width of the text in my Word document.

5  Next book extract : content

A book extract is an optional extra in your back matter. If you decide to include it, you should go for the opening of your book and include as much as you think necessary to interest your reader and encourage them to buy the new book. It is a good idea to end the extract on a cliffhanger, if you can.

The image here shows the first page of the extract from Lady in Lace. The full extract is 6 single-spaced pages long, which is the complete first chapter.

End the extract with a clear BUY button using a universal link. If your book is also available in print, include the ISBN too.

That’s the content. What about the formatting?

How to format the back matter

Format the back matter in separate sections, using the same styles that you used to format the text of the ebook. (See the separate blog on formatting text if you have forgotten how.)

Decide whether you want each individual section of your back matter to be included in the Table of Contents. If you do, you must format the title of each individual section using a heading style that will be picked up when you update the TOC. (How-to instructions on my TOC blog.)

In the image shown here, you will see that I chose to include four section titles in the TOC—Dear Reader from Joanna Maitland (= Connect with the Author); About the Author (= Author Bio); Lady In Lace Chapter One (= book extract); Joanna Maitland Titles (= book list). I did not include the Lady In Lace one-page promo because it seemed enough to have a link to the extract. That one-page promo is in the book text, though, just not in the TOC. Note also that I chose to include the book list at the very end.

The order you use is up to you. My only strong recommendation is that you put the Connect with the Author (and review request) first, because it improves your chances of getting that crucial review.

And finally…

Once you have finished your back matter sections and checked them carefully, you need to update your Table of Contents so that the back matter is included. If you’ve forgotten how to do that, it’s covered in my TOC blog.

Then you can save your Word doc and upload it. Once it’s been processed by the platform, you need to view or download the finished version and check it very carefully before you press the Publish button. Go through every page with an eagle eye. And test every URL to make sure it works as you want it to. You want a professional result so don’t skimp on the final check.

Sounds a lot, but it’s easy really if you just follow the steps. Honest!

Happy self-publishing

Joanna Maitland author


4 thoughts on “Formatting Back Matter : hints for Independent Publishers

  1. Sophie

    Goodness, there’s a lot more to think about than I realised.

    Very interesting that images don’t resize with the text. In a book I was reading a few months ago I tried and tried to increase the text of a letter that a character discovered – and failed. I now realise that it must have been an image. The font was a bit witchy, now I come to think about it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Images in text books can be a real pain. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s possible to magnify them. If, when you put a finger on the image, you get a little + in a circle, you can often hold your finger on that and it will magnify. Then you can scroll across the image to see it. It works with some maps in non-fiction, I do know, but not always. Basically, images on a Kindle are pretty rubbish. That’s why I recommend keeping a PR cover image quite small. No point in annoying the reader, is there?

    1. Joanna Post author

      Glad you find it helpful, Liz. But having to keep updating the book list is a chore, as I said. And I admit I don’t always do it as promptly as I should. Case of “do as I say, not do as I do” I’m afraid 😉

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