Think about every time you open a book: you probably skim through the first few pages until you reach chapter one. But what about the books you love?
You likely go back to these pages (called “front matter” and “back matter”) to learn about the author, see if there are any intriguing dedications, and discover whether the author has other books to check out.
This is why front/back matter is so important: it funnels readers to your website, prompts them to sign up for your mailing list, and guides them to your backlist.
This comprehensive guide will explore topics like:
- What exactly is front matter and back matter?
- What should you include in front/back matter?
- How can front/back matter boost ebook sales?
What is Front Matter and Back Matter?
“Front matter” and “back matter” are terms used to describe the first and last pages of a book (but not the actual story or body content of the book). This includes pages like: table of contents, copyright, bio, etc.
The purpose of front matter is mostly to make sure your book looks as professional as possible. While it might not seem like a marketing tool, front matter does have an influence on sales.
As a self-published author, you must be able to impress readers during their first look inside your book. This means it needs to look indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. If readers don’t see what they usually expect (like a copyright page or functioning table of contents), this signals to them: “poor reading experience.”
Back matter, on the other hand, plays a more active role in driving future sales. If a reader has successfully made it to the end of your book – this is ideal. You want to keep these readers around and direct them to your backlist.
Optimizing Your Front Matter and Back Matter
Writing your book is the first step in your self-publishing journey, but in order to really sell books, you have to think like a publisher. This means engineering your book so that it’s a marketing tool itself. Optimizing your front matter and back matter makes this possible.
While there is no official right or wrong way to set up your front and back matter, here are some crucial pages to include:
Copyright Page: This should include the book title, author name, link to your website, year of publication, and basic copyright language. This gives your book a professional touch, and lets readers know that you have an official website*.
*By the way – your author website is another important marketing tool; it forms the foundation of your online presence. It should make it easy for readers to: 1). Sign up for your mailing list, 2). Buy your books. Make sure your author website is designed with these key elements in mind.
Table of Contents: If you want happy readers, then you’ll need to give them a good user experience. The point of including a table of contents is to make it easy for readers to navigate your book.
Be sure to double check your hyperlinks and make sure they link to the correct chapters. Since ebooks have reflowable text, there is no need to include page numbers. Most ebook retailers require a functioning table of contents, so this isn’t a step you’ll want to skip.
(Note: if you don’t know how to create a table of contents – no problem. Use our free ebook converter and we’ll create a table of contents based on your manuscript’s headings).
Mailing List/Newsletter Sign-Up: If you haven’t set up a mailing list, you should make it a priority (read our step-by-step guide to learn how to set up an author mailing list). This allows you to directly target readers who enjoy your books, and update them with your new releases.
“Thank You” Page with Review Prompt: Reviews help sell books and build trust; they are crucial if you want to seriously make a living as a self-published author. The first page of your back matter should thank the reader for reading your book, and include a friendly line that asks them to share their thoughts by posting an online review. But remember: never incentivize reader reviews.
Mailing List/Newsletter Sign-Up: Collecting email sign-ups is so important that you should include your mailing list link in your front matter and back matter.
List of Previous Works: If a reader enjoyed your book, chances are they’ll like your other work. Include buy links to directly market readers who are already primed to buy.
(Note: if the book is part of a series, include a line that says something like, “Best enjoyed if read in the order listed,” and then list your books in the proper reading order. This helps the reader and can improve sell-through).
Preview of Next Book: If possible, include an excerpt from your next book in the back matter. This works particularly well for series, but it’s a great marketing technique even for stand-alone books. At the end of the excerpt, include a buy link.
The great thing about self-publishing is that you can update your back matter whenever you want, so you can build upon your marketing efforts. For instance, whenever I launch a new book, I typically update my back matter on the previous book to include an excerpt for the new book.
(Note: If you’re enrolled in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited, you cannot make more than 10% of the enrolled book available anywhere. Be sure your excerpt only includes 10% or less of the book’s content for Amazon-exclusive books).
Bio/About Page: Include an “About the Author” page to leave readers with a lasting impression of your brand. Remember, your back matter should be strategic, so even your author bio can be a marketing tool. Create an author bio that aligns with your brand and appeals to readers in your genre. If you’re struggling with this, read our step-by-step guide to writing the perfect author bio.
Once you’ve perfected your front and back matter, you’re ready to hit “Publish.” If you distribute through PublishDrive, we can list your book in over 400 online stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, and Kobo. We also offer free ebook conversion, royalty splitting for co-authors, and built-in marketing tools to boost sales.