Back Matter in Your Book

reader reading-1246520_960_720So you’ve edited and re-edited your book, you’ve tweaked and re-tweaked, and read it over so many times you’re bleary-eyed. You’re ready to publish. The front matter of all books is pretty well prescribed: title page, publication page, and perhaps an introduction or table of contents. But what the heck do you put at the back of the book? If you’ve been involved in many online forums, you’ve probably seen quite a bit of discussion about this. Let’s break it down.

Request for a Review

We all hope to garner as many reviews as possible, but the hard part is getting readers to actually leave them. There are many reasons readers may be reluctant to do that: not knowing what to say, being afraid their writing skills are not up to par, thinking it’s a lot of work, etc. If we could only convince them it’s not difficult, doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, and it’s very, very important to us.

How do we do that? Ask for it. The first thing I put in my book immediately after the end of the story is a request for a review.  I keep it short and sweet while hitting all those points above. Here’s what I use:

I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you did, I would greatly appreciate a short review on Amazon or your favorite book website. Reviews are crucial for any author, and even just a line or two can make a huge difference.

And why do I put this immediately after the end of the story? Because so many readers do not read beyond the story. Many readers completely ignore any back matter, so I want to get my pitch in right away, while the afterglow of the story is still fresh. However, for those who do read beyond, there’s so much more we can give them.

About the Author

Most readers want to know a little bit about the authors of books they like. Who is that masked man (or woman) behind that book? It’s easy enough to give them a glimpse into our lives, our personalities, without writing a dissertation. As a matter of fact, I believe one or two paragraphs, max, is enough. Whenever I see an author bio that goes on for a page and a half, the first thing I think is: newbie.  Yes, I know it’s exciting to have that first book out there, I know it’s exciting to “come out” as an author, but really, less is more. I don’t need to know what high school you graduated from, or what the names are of your five mixed-breed dogs. I’m sure they’re incredibly sweet, but… just no.

Other Books by…

If this is not your first book, you definitely want to list your other books. If the reader has enjoyed the story, the first thing they will want to do is check out your other titles. I will usually list my books in the front matter, but in the back, I include a paragraph about each of the books to entice readers to go deeper. In my eBooks, I will absolutely put a link from the book title to its page on Amazon.  (Note: Kindle allows this, obviously, but other eBook publishers like Smashwords will not allow links to Amazon. Make sure you know and follow the rules for your publishing company.)

Sample Chapters

Many authors choose to put an entire first chapter of another book in the back material, hoping to snag the reader’s attention and lure them into another story. In paperbacks, this can increase your page count significantly, and with it, your shipping costs and overall price, so there’s that to consider. In eBooks, of course, there are no such concerns and you can load up the back end of your books to your heart’s delight. Interestingly, there is a split opinion about this. I’ve seen in forums that many readers do not even look at sample chapters, while others enjoy them. It seems to be a toss-up.

Contact Information

In the olden days, authors were pretty much ensconced in ivory towers, protected by the dragon-infested moat that was the traditional publishing company. If you wanted to contact an author, you had to write a letter (yes, complete with envelope and stamp) and send it in care of the publisher, and then you just might — might — reach the actual author. Getting a response back was another matter. Nowadays, though, with social media, most of the barriers between authors and readers are gone. And readers like that. They like to be able to connect with authors and — admit it — we authors can get pretty jazzed about a nice e-mail that gushes about our latest book. As long as we are careful about what contact info we put out to the world (obviously not our home address or private phone number), and as long as we conduct ourselves professionally when responding to readers, it’s all good.

What contact info should you include? How about your Amazon author page to start, then your web page, your blog, your Facebook author page, your Twitter handle, and so on. In addition, you can add your profile on LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and all the other social media sites if you feel so inclined. The boundary on your availability should only be dictated by your own time and energy constraints. You don’t want to put out a contact avenue that you’re too busy to respond to. Let’s keep those readers happy, engaged, and ready to read!

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

13 thoughts on “Back Matter in Your Book”

  1. I like your “please review” message. I think it hits all the right notes. I’m going to make up one just enough not like it to be plagiarizing 🙂

  2. Good suggestions. I, too, find a lot of dissent over sample chapters. I tend to include them in my ebooks, but some people don’t do it because they’re concerned it gives the wrong length impression to the reader. This actually happened to me once, way back when Kindle didn’t offer page numbers. I had maybe 15 percent left in the book, so I went to bed, because I was tired. Turns out, I only needed to read half a dozen pages to finish the book. The rest was back matter (a Q&A with the author, sample chapter, other books by). I was mad, because I’d set aside some extra time to finish up the book, and I needed all of five minutes to finish it. So, it’s an interesting dilemma. For whatever reason, I’m more likely to flip through a paperback book, to see where it ends, than I am to look thoroughly at the ebook TOC, which would also give you a clue that there are sample chapters are the end.

    1. I’ve heard similar complaints, RJ, mostly by my husband! Like you, he’d settle in for a nice long reading session and have it cut very short by the inaccurate percentage left according to Kindle. There are quite a few aspects about that topic, so I hope authors will consider it carefully.

    2. I always call my back matter ‘Afterword’ in the TOC, but good point about the book length. I still think it might be worth it in the long run.

  3. Great post, Melissa, but I fear that until readers can dash off a quick review from within the e-reader itself – perhaps the way we do with our mobile phones – I don’t know that we’ll get many reviews. I know from personal experience that I have to really like [or hate] a story to go to the effort of logging in to Amazon and actually writing something. And I’m someone who likes writing reviews. 🙁
    On the other hand, I think the sample chapters may work. If nothing else, they let the reader know that there is more.

  4. Hi, Melissa: Great post. Sharing this: The gentle plea for a review needs to be right after THE END and NOT on a next page in a ebook, because Amazon shunts the reader to its own review plea. I’ve begun adding: Turn the page for more…so the reader sees my author note to the reader. I often get comments about the author note in reviews.

    I don’t add excerpts of other books in my book matter because I find that redundant with Amazon’s “Look Inside”. I don’t put excerpts on my webpages either. I tweak back of book matter with each book. I’ve mentioned the title to one or two other books and offer a few review quotes. I add one link to an SOE or my webpage. If the reader gets that far, they can get the rest of the way–if interested.

    Back of book is really prime real estate. It takes a while to discern which of our inputs gets the most response. I really like this post. Super important.

    1. Thanks, Jackie. Good point about what happens at the end of an eBook. We always have to be mindful of how Amazon does things “for” us! Thanks for commenting.

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