Today we’re discussing adding front and back material to your soon-to-be self-published book. This is one of the advantages of indie publishing. You can add whatever bonus materials you want. In terms of Front Matter, less is better. You’ll want readers to access the first chapter as quickly as possible for the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. So what should you include? Here are some options:
Front Material may include:
Cast of Characters
Map of Setting
Story Blurb with Review Quotes
Table of Contents
If you have a lot of characters, a cast of characters might be useful to the reader. Or it might discourage them from reading the book if they think it’ll be hard to keep track. I’ve had feedback both ways from fans.
The copyright page contains the book title, author, year of copyright, publisher imprint, statements about fair usage and permissions, ISBN numbers, and a Library of Congress number. Some of these are optional and some are not. We’ll discuss these choices more in another post.
Maps are always popular as are family trees. These could be offered in the back of the book rather than up front to save space. Same for the Dedication. A Table of Contents is critical for a nonfiction work. For a fiction work, this will be added when you upload your mobi or epub file to the different distributors.
Back Material may include:
About the Author + Social Media Links
Book Club Discussion Guide
Call to Action for Newsletter and/or Reviews
Excerpt of Sequel
More Books by [Author] with Buy Link
World Building Details
After your story ends, you’ll have the chance to add bonus materials, such as a list of your books in series order, an excerpt of the sequel, reader discussion questions, research notes and more. Here you can put a Call to Action for your newsletter and/or reviews. Regarding buy links, keep in mind that certain vendors don’t like you to mention other sites. You’ll be safe if you use the book page on your website. Otherwise, you’ll have to change the buy link for each distributor.Adding Front and Back Material to Your Book #indiepub #writingtips Click To Tweet
General Formatting Notes
My personal preference for e-books is to format my work in Times New Roman 12 pt. font, 1 inch margins, indent first line 0.33 inches, Widow/Orphan off, single spacing. I put a page break at the end of each chapter. The first paragraph of each chapter or after a space break is flush left. Your formatting source might advise something different. You can also upload your Word file to one of the third-party aggregators like Draft2Digital and they’ll do the conversions for you. More on this option another time. Next we’ll discuss Buying and Assigning ISBN numbers.
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For writers, it’s important to set concrete career goals. These should be as specific as possible and ideally attainable. It helps to divide these objectives into creative and business aspects. As a professional author, you need to pay attention to both. So let’s see where I stand at the beginning of this new year.
1. Publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
This book is written but needs a final proofread before going into production. My cover artist is polishing the cover. The next step will be formatting, another inspection for conversion errors, and then upload for pre-orders. Sending out the book to reviewers, doing a cover reveal, planning the launch party and preparing for a blog tour are all part of the marketing for a new book release. The date is slated for March 10, so I have to get these tasks done.
2. Reissue mystery backlist titles and update earlier covers.
For purposes of author branding, my cover artist is tweaking my earlier covers to make them all consistent in terms of font, text placement, imagery, etc. One early cover has a total makeover and another one has a partial. The other tweaks are relatively minor. Adding to this task might be my four Five Star titles but they’re not on the horizon yet.
3. Revise and reissue romance backlist titles.
I still have six romance titles that need to be made available online. These early books require editing since my writing has vastly improved over time. I need about two months per book for this process as it requires one round of line editing and two rounds of read-throughs for polishing.
4. Do another audiobook.
I’d eventually like to put Writing the Cozy Mystery into audio. Or I could do the next Bad Hair Day mystery instead. It might depend on number 3 below.
1. Bundle books into box sets.
Once my backlist titles are all updated, I can begin packaging them into box sets.
2. Participate in sales and giveaways.
Again, once my entire backlist is online, I’ll have more leeway to offer pricing incentives.
3. Experiment with going wide for audiobooks.
My audiobooks are currently available only on Audible, iTunes and Amazon. I’d like to see how they would do if more readily available to libraries and other resources.
After Easter Hair Hunt, my next priority is getting all my backlist titles available online. Then it will be time for something new. But these books have been preying on my mind for some time now, so I have to get them done. It will be immensely satisfying to have all 27 books (8 romances, 16 mysteries, 1 novella, and 2 nonfiction titles) the best they can be and available to readers everywhere. At that point, I will face what to do next. What do you think it should be?Setting Goals for 2020 #amwriting #writingcommunity Click To Tweet
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How do you keep track of timelines in your work-in-progress? Do you use graphs, charts, or plotting boards to note the days of the week? When I was starting out as a writer, I kept plotting boards. This was a poster board that I divided into blocks representing each chapter. After I wrote a section, I’d fill it in on the poster for a quick visual reference. These days, I use a chapter by chapter outline in a Word file. I’ll still fill it in after I write each segment. I add the days of the week so I can remember what day it is for each scene.
Spoiler Alert! As I was working on EASTER HAIR HUNT, #16 in my Bad Hair Day mysteries, I hit a major snag. The story begins on the day before Easter. It’s March. My hairdresser sleuth, Marla Vail, is seven months pregnant. Her mother wants to plan a baby shower. Meanwhile, Marla is chasing down her missing friend, Blinky, who disappeared after an Easter Egg Hunt at Tremayne Manor.
How much time has passed since Blinky had gone missing? Was it reasonable to think she might still be alive? Uh-oh, I’d better check on the timeline. This realization led me to a plot twist two-thirds through the story.
I’d been concentrating so hard on the storyline, that I had lost sight of the subplots. If Marla is seven months pregnant, when is her due date? I had to go back to the previous book, Trimmed to Death, to figure out when she might have conceived. Then I printed out a set of calendars from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/
According to what I read online, Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25. In 2008, Easter was March 23 and Passover was April 20. Okay, my story will start on Saturday, March 22. By counting the weeks, I figured out Marla’s due date will be June 15.
By now, my story had progressed into April. Her mother could hold the baby shower on April 19, the day before Passover. I penciled in other events involving Marla’s friends and relatives. Now I know exactly what is happening, and when. Had I done this from the start, I wouldn’t have had to go back and change each conversation that mentioned these personal issues. I’d like this story to finish before Marla’s baby shower, so that could be my final wrap scene.
Sometimes you get carried away in the rush of storytelling and have to go back to fill in the details. What’s my advice? Get a calendar and follow your story along so you know which week you’re on and how long the action is taking. Sometimes you’ll read an entire murder mystery that takes place over a weekend. In that case, you’d need to keep an hourly account. Either way, keep track of your timeline from the start and save yourself some time-consuming revisions.How do you keep track of timelines in your novel? #amwriting #writetip Click To Tweet
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Self-Publishing Made Simple – Manuscript Preparation
Reissuing Your Backlist Titles
1. For older works where you don’t have a cohesive master file, you may need to use a scanning company such as Blue Leaf (http://www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com/). You’ll need a print copy to send in, and it won’t be returned. Send the version that’s the most up to date, i.e. later paperback instead of original hardcover.
2. After receiving your digital copy, review the story to correct formatting errors. Turn on the paragraph symbol in Word and look for weird symbols in between letters, missing or wrong punctuation, misinterpreted words, and misspellings. Search for ^- or an optional hyphen. Look for “die” instead of “the” or the number 1 instead of “I.” Italics might be missing or bolded instead. Look for “rn” coming out as “m”, such as “comer” instead of “corner.” In other cases “tly” might come as “dy”, as in “slighdy instead of “slightly.” Quote marks might be reversed, or there could be section breaks instead of page breaks.
3. If your publisher has provided you with a final pdf file, or you’ve downloaded an ebook file, you can use Calibre Ebook Management (https://calibre-ebook.com/) or Zamzar (https://www.zamzar.com/) to convert it into Word. However, the formatting may be messed up. In this case, copy the entire document onto a blank sheet and save it as a text file. Click on Remove Formatting (see symbol on Home page). Then reformat and save it as a Word file. You will lose italics but any weird justifications will be gone. You’ll have to read through the story very carefully adding in italics and looking for spacing errors or other problems as above.
4. Decide if you mean to revise the work and update the technology in the story.
For a full-length original novel, hire a developmental editor and a copy editor/proofreader. Join author groups online and ask for names of editors who have experience in your fiction genre. You don’t want the local newspaper editor who’s your friend. Fiction is about structure and pacing along with grammar. You need an editor familiar with genre conventions. Experience at a publishing house is a plus.
Use a program such as Smart Edit (https://www.smart-edit.com/) to look for redundancies and repetitions. Revise your work as many times as necessary to give it professional polish. Ask beta readers to critique your story. Make it the best it can be and don’t be impatient, or your lack of care will show in customer reviews.
General Formatting Notes
I hire a professional formatter, so this section isn’t in my realm of expertise. However, I can share that we use Times New Roman 12 pt. font, 1 inch margins, indent first line 0.33 inches, Widow/Orphan off, single spacing. I put a page break at the end of each chapter. My chapter headings use Heading 1 so they get marked for the table of contents. The line of each chapter is flush left as per my preference. There are lots more choices here, but I’m not going into further details because your formatting source might advise something different. Or you can upload your Word file to one of the aggregators and they’ll do the conversions for you. More on this in a subsequent post.
The main point of this section is to be sure you have a polished, edited work that you’ll be proud to share. You can hire a formatter or learn how to do it yourself, but that’s later down the road after your manuscript is ready.Self-Publishing Made Simple - Part 2: Preparing Your Manuscript #indiepublishing #amwriting Click To Tweet
Coming Next: Adding Front and Back Material
Are you interested in reissuing backlist titles or publishing new, original works?
It’s important when editing your work to detect inconsistencies in word use. As I am revising my backlist titles, I am coming across several of these instances. One way that you can help avoid them in the future is to create a style sheet. Sometimes your publisher does this for you. Or you can note down observations yourself to make sure you follow through during the editing phase.
Here are some examples of items to note:
Two words or single word – town house or townhouse; coffeemaker or coffee maker, nightstand or night stand?
If you have different publishers, each one will have their own preferences. But if the editing is up to you, choose one way to list your word(s) and stick to it. Don’t know which one is correct? Look it up in your favorite grammar text. And if both are commonly used, choose the one that suits you and use that one on a consistent basis.
Wine types – Chardonnay or chardonnay? I’ve seen this done both ways. Whichever you do, be consistent for all wine varietals.
Character names – Chris or Christine? Jan or Janice?
In my recent book that I’m editing, I noticed that sometimes I referred to a character by her full first name and at other times by her nickname. This can be confusing for the reader. We’re reading about Jan through several chapters, and then there’s a Janice who shows up. Who’s that? Best to stick with one rendition, unless you happen to be giving the person’s full first and last name together, like in an introduction.
Terms of endearment – hon, sweetheart, or babe, as used by a particular character
If your guy is always calling the ladies “babe” then don’t have him switch suddenly to another word. It’s part of his characterization to use that one term.
Foreign words – chutzpah or chutzpah?
Decide if you are going to italicize the foreign word or not, and then be consistent throughout the story.
Hyphenated words – hard-boiled eggs or hard boiled eggs; fund-raiser or fundraiser?
Again, this can be a publisher choice. If not, look it up to see what’s correct or make your own decision about the hyphen.
Whatever your word choices, be consistent as you edit your work. Keeping a style sheet will help you remember which word to use.
When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.
Here are a couple of examples:
Perish by Pedicure
The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”
“Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”
“So she arrived on…?”
“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”
“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”
“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.
“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”
“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.
In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.
Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)
“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”
Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.
Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.
A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.
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As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP.
So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list:
Grades for any school-age children
Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status
Dates for Holidays
For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this:
Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25.
Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20
Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23
Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23
I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later.
Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors:
Month your story takes place
Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful.
Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends.
Here’s an example of my timeline notes for Trimmed to Death:
Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old.
Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.)
Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band.
Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28)
Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill.
Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August)
Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov).
What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes.
For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists?
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Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.
So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.
Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)
Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book
Enter latest releases in writing contests
Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media
Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions
Bundle books into box sets
Consider wider distribution for audiobooks
Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise
Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control
Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.
What is the main item you want to get done this year?
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Do you want to send an agent a query letter but have no idea what it should include? Or perhaps you’ve sent out several queries and you keep getting rejections. What could you be doing wrong? Here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the path to success.
· Check the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. This will tell you what genres the person represents and if they prefer email or snail mail submissions. The guidelines will also state if you should include any sample chapters.
· Make sure the agent does not require an exclusive submission. If so, you’d lose months while waiting for a response. See if the agent mentions their expected response time.
· Write a one-page snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, a catchy story blurb, and your writing credits. If possible, include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This means using keywords such as “paranormal” or “dystopian” or “domestic suspense” or saying your story is “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.” If you can compare your style to similar published authors, do so without bragging about how your book is as wonderful as Ms. Bestselling Author.
· Be careful not to sound as though your writing is all over the board in terms of genres. Be clear about your focus. For example, don’t give the genre as a suspense novel and then mention that it takes place on another planet and your next book will be a vampire story. You’ll want to build your author brand by focusing on one genre as you grow your readership.
· Do not describe your life history or any personal details unless they relate directly to your book. Do include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.
· You can also mention why readers might want to read your book. What is the value in it for them? Again, don’t brag and say it’s the most exciting book they’ll ever read, or it’s a fast-paced thrill ride. This is for readers to determine. But if it helps them appreciate family values or learn about how you can rise above past mistakes, this could be useful to include as a theme.
First Paragraph – State your book’s title, genre and word count. Here you can put if you’re a published author seeking representation or a new author seeking an agent for your first book.
Second Paragraph – This is your catchy book blurb. Write it like a log line for a TV show or like the back cover copy of your book. You’ll want to engage the reader’s interest.
Third Paragraph – Here offer your biography as it applies to your writing, including works you’ve published, memberships in professional writing organizations, writing workshops you’ve attended, critique group participation. Mention any expertise or work credentials that apply to your book. You can also make marketing suggestions or mention your proposed target audience. Mention if your story is book one of a series.
Last Remarks – Thank the agent for their consideration and offer to send the completed manuscript upon request. Do mention if this is a multiple submission.
Signature Line – Here is where you can add your social media links. Doubtless the agent, if interested, will look you up to see if you have an online platform.
If you hear nothing back from the agent for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if she’s received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the message.
If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Also respect that while the agent might offer suggestions for improvements, this is not an invitation to resubmit your work unless the agent says so in her response.
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