Structuring ebooks

Part 10: consider how you will structure the front and back matter of your ebook, and a word on copyright permission.
So, you’ve written, edited and proofed your book. You’ve downloaded the necessary programs to code and convert it. You’re all set to go, right?
Nope. Not yet. There is the small matter of deciding what will go in the pages surrounding your writing. These parts of the book are called the front matter and back matter. It’s up to you to decide which part belongs where.

It’s not this complicated     (source)

Common front and back matter

Front matter

1. Cover
2. Half title: a page, usually immediately after the cover, which contains just the book’s title.
3. Frontispiece: a minor illustration, in theme with the cover.
4. Reviews *
5. Title page: features the title, subtitle, author and publishing information.
6. Copyright page
7. List of works: the author’s other books.
8. Dedication and acknowledgements
9. Epigraph: a quotation which suits the theme of the book.
10. Foreword: usually written by someone other than the author.
11. Preface or introduction: a short explanation of the elements within a book.
12. List of figures, tables and images
13. Table of contents
14. Prologue

Back matter

15. Glossary
16. Bibliography
17. Index *
18. Author details
19. Book details: there may be matters you wish to set straight with the reader once they have finished reading.
20. Advertisements/ extracts for other books by the author.

How front and back matter is evolving

You’ll notice that some of the front matter has been marked in bold, and some in italics.
If the section is marked in italics, I’d argue that it is no longer relevant in the context of an ebook. If it is marked in bold, I would suggest that it be moved into the back matter. As for the two sections marked with an asterisk:
1. Reviews are critical, but are going to be on the book’s Amazon page anyway. Placing them in the front matter as well is plain overkill.
2. Indexes have been rendered obsolete by both the lack of page numbers, and the Kindle’s ‘find’ function. For instance, I can search for the word ‘dairy’ in Saving Davey Gravy by using the Kindle’s keyboard function and quickly travel to each instance of its use.
Why is this? Ebooks are not quite the same creatures as paper books. Many readers pay scant attention to the front matter. In a paper book, it is relatively simple to flick through the front matter until you hit the blank page or two which signifies the start of the book proper. This is not so simple with an ebook. Each page must be moved through by a press of the ‘next page’ button. It can be galling to have to press this button 15-20 times to reach the actual story.

Too much front matter can spoil the previewing experience

A more pressing concern is how your book appears as a preview, via the Look Inside! feature within the Amazon site. This preview is generated automatically when you upload your book to Amazon and usually only includes the first sections of the ebook. If you’ve filled this with 15-20 pages of front matter, that may be all a potential reader gets to see of your book.
It may seem odd to readers of paper books, but placing most of this information as back matter works well. If you have done your job as an author and told a cracking story, the reader is probably in a contemplative mood as they turn the last page of the story proper, and more likely to absorb the material contained within the back matter. If this contains a couple of sample paragraphs from your other novels as well as some snappy copy and links to the purchase page, you may find that you sell that reader at least another one of your books.

Too much back matter may also disappoint the reader

Now that I’ve gone and told you to stick as much as possible in the back matter, don’t put so much in there that it takes up more than a fifth of the book’s overall length. Because of the way Kindle ebooks are structured (with a % bar instead of page numbers), readers may respond poorly when they feel a book stops earlier than they expected. Say what you need to say in the back matter, but try to be succinct.
Finally, you may be wondering why there are asterisks next to the Reviews and Index sections. The search function of a Kindle makes indexes largely obsolete. You may certainly feature reviews, but a better place for these is on your Kindle page. It would be a great idea, however, to feature the best and most succinct reviews for additional works you are featuring in the back matter.
In the end, the best advice for a publisher is to think like a reader. Explore other ebooks with your attention focused on the front and back matter, and replicate elegant layout designs.

What I included in Saving Davey Gravy

1. Title page
2. Table of contents
3. Preface (a three paragraph preface was needed to point the reader to the appendix)
Body text
4. About the author (contact page)
5. About the book (title page)
6. Explaining Davey Gravy (appendix)

Copyright permission

Including the work of other people in your novel (for example, lyrics or lines of poetry) can be a minefield, and the general advice seems to be that, unless you’re certain the work is in the public domain, you should give it a miss because the cost can be horrendous. Blake Morrison, for example, did not see much change out of £5,000 (yes, pounds) for the privilege of using a few single lines from popular songs in his book South of the River.
If you are hellbent on using a particular, do your research. A good place to start is Jane Friedman’s article on using permissions.

Proceed to Part 11: ‘Preparing the manuscript for coding’, or return to the article index.
Return to Re: writing
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.

Rhys About Rhys

Teacher, writer, editor, cook: a bit like that nursery rhyme, really.
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