Imagine your target reader devouring the last few pages of your book at 1:32 AM, crying happy tears, and pumping her fist in triumph. Your reader is having a powerful emotional experience when she comes to the words “The End.”
She flips through the remaining pages of your book, hoping you’ve written something else she can devour.
If those pages are all blank, your reader will be sad and, since you have missed an opportunity to thrill your reader (and make a sale!), you are sad too.
If you’ve used the back matter of your book to connect with and thrill your reader, you’ll both be on your way to happily-ever-after.
What is back matter?
Back matter consists of all the pages that come after the last line of your book, and it is a powerful tool for selling more books and growing your email list.
Back matter is a form of passive marketing. If you have effective back matter, you could be dead, and your back matter would continue to sell books for you without your involvement.
Traditional and indie authors have equal opportunities to use the back matter to sell more books.
If you are traditionally published, your book is printed in signatures. The total number of pages in your book is divisible by 16 or 32, which means there may be blank pages at the end of your book. Since your publisher pays for those pages anyway, they’d love to print something on them to help sell your books.
But often, those pages are left blank simply because the author didn’t ask. If you bring your publisher an innovative and collaborative idea that helps you sell more books, they’ll be glad to do it.
The only exception might be if adding back matter would require your publisher to add another signature (more pages). In that case, the publisher may not be willing to spring for the cost of the extra pages.
Indie authors can update and edit back matter at any time, while traditionally published authors must have their back matter finalized long before your book is released.
Common elements found in back matter are:
- Acknowledgments and credits
- Titles of your other books
- First chapters of your next book
- Photo and link to a lead magnet on your website
- Request for reviews
- Reading group resources
- Author photo and bio
- Appendix and notes
Why is back matter important?
One of the main goals of your novel is to give your reader a powerful emotional experience. If your book is well-written, a reader will finish your book with an insatiable need to know or read more. They are warmed up and ready to buy another emotional experience from you.
Rather than making them search for you on the web or wait for your newsletter, give them something to do as soon as they finish your book. This is the best time to ask your reader to take the next step, whether it’s joining your email list or buying your next book. And at that moment, they want your help connecting with you and your work.
Don’t waste this opportunity.
Timing is wildly important.
When I finished the first Hunger Games book, I had such a powerful emotional experience that I immediately bought books two and three. I loved it so much that I committed to the entire trilogy the moment I finished reading book one.
Help your reader find your next book as soon as they finish the first one.
How do I edit my back matter?
Traditionally published authors must submit changes to your publisher, and they will edit and typeset it for you. That’s one of the advantages of being traditionally published. But they also make the final call on whether the back matter is included. If you have previous books with another publisher, it can get a little awkward, but it’s worth the ask.
Indie authors are responsible for editing their own back matter, and there are several tools to help you.
Vellum is the best tool for typesetting, but it only runs on Mac. However, there is also a way to run Vellum on PC in a cloud-based virtual machine.
Authors rave about Vellum’s ease-of-use and functionality.
Draft2Digital converts Word Docs into ebook formats for free. Many authors use Draft2Digital and give it great reviews.
Calibre is a free, open-source tool for creating ebook files. However, it’s clunky and hard to use.
Hire a Contractor
The fast and easy way is to hire someone on Fiverr (affiliate link) to edit your back matter through Vellum and send you the files for $5 or $10.
Edit Your Back Matter Frequently
If you have ten books, the best way to improve your sales is to stop all your current marketing efforts and use your time and money to update the back matter of all your books. Use those pages to direct people to your lead magnet, your website, or the next book in the series.
Your old books should promote your new books, so each time you release a new one, update the back matter in your previous books.
What should I include in my back matter?
I’ve listed 12 common elements used in the back matter.
But please, do not use all of them in one book. Consider this list a pantry from which you can select ingredients to make a tasty dessert for your reader to enjoy.
If you use all the ingredients in the pantry, it will be too much, and your reader will not be asking for more.
Ingredient 1: Request for Reviews
Almost universally in ebooks, authors ask readers to review after they’ve finished. Readers can tap a link and leave a review while they’re still floating on the emotion of their reading experience.
But be aware, if you include a link to review on Amazon on a Nook or other non-Amazon ereader, your book will likely be rejected. Companies do not like you to link to their competition’s ebooks.
If you’re publishing only on Amazon, it won’t be a problem. But if you’re publishing wide, you’ll need to create different files for the different platforms so that Nook readers can review on Barnes & Noble and Apple users can review on Apple Books.
You may also want to include a link to review on BookBub or Goodreads.
Ingredient 2: Promote the Next Book in the Series
Make it easy for your reader to learn about your next book. Include the following on one page of your back matter:
- Book cover
- Link to buy (at the respective retailers)
- Link to your book’s landing page
I recommend authors buy the domain name for their book title. For my book Courtship in Crisis, I bought CourtshipInCrisis.com because it was far easier for people to spell than Thomas Umstattd.
CourtshipInCrisis.com will take you to the book’s landing page on my website ThomasUmstattd.com. NameCheap.com will redirect your book’s domain to your website for around $10 per year. Most of the domain registrars will do it for you.
You can use your book title’s domain name in your back matter as well as in podcast or radio interviews. Your title is often easier for listeners and readers to remember than your name.
Ingredient 3: First Chapter of Your Next Book
In print, audio, and ebooks, including the first chapter of the subsequent book is an effective way to use the back matter of book one to sell book two.
But, make sure your first chapter ends on a cliffhanger. If the readers must find out what happens to that character they’ve grown to love, they’ll want to buy your next book immediately.
Ingredient 4: Goodies and Extras
Consider including extra material that adds value to the reader’s experience.
- Photos that inspired the story
- Photos of where the book was set
- Link to a landing page where readers can access deleted scenes
- Soundtracks that perfectly fit the mood and action of your book
- Maps of your story world
Ingredient 5: Credits
Credits are rarely mentioned in back matter, and I think it’s a missed opportunity. When someone puts their name on a piece of work, they’ll do better work for you.
Anyone who touched the book ought to be mentioned in your credits.
- Cover designer
- Interior page designer
- Alpha and beta readers
- Launch team members
They will work harder for you if they know their name will be in the book. It’s also a way to advance their career. If someone thinks the cover is great, they’ll look to see who the designer was.
In my book, Courtship in Crisis, I mention my three editors, my book mentor, the cover designer, the launch team members, and my alpha and beta readers.
Steve Jobs believed in this principle. The early Macs were shipped with the signature of the engineers etched into the metal or signed with Sharpie. If you have one in your closet, you might want to open it up and see if there is a signature, because they are really valuable now. Jobs wanted his engineers to feel like it was their work. It’s a powerful motivation.
Ingredient 6: Acknowledgements
In the acknowledgments, you can thank the people who helped you as a person. Include your encouraging spouse or parents. If you wrote at a particular library or coffee shop, you could include them here. These are the people who didn’t necessarily work on your book, but they were still helpful to you. Some people will be on both lists.
If they are brief, acknowledgments can also be placed in your book’s front matter.
Ingredient 7: Letter to the Reader
A letter to your reader is where you can mention how they can contact you and ask them to join your cause.
In my book, I asked readers to review and share the message so we could advance the cause and bring about a change.
Some authors include their contact information. Business book authors sometimes even include their cell phone number so readers can ask questions or give feedback.
Fiction readers often wonder what inspired the author to write the story. In your letter to your reader, you can explain where you were or what you felt that prompted you to write.
Ingredient 8: Lead Magnet
Your lead magnet is a free resource you give away in exchange for someone’s email.
For fiction, the best lead magnet to include in your back matter is the prequel to the book or a short story that happened after “The End.” You might consider offering deleted scenes or an MP3 of a song written by one of your characters, as James L Rubart did in his novel Rooms.
Nonfiction authors can offer a discussion guide, leader guide, or downloadable worksheets that will help readers apply what they learned.
Learn more about how to create and deliver a lead magnet your reader will love.
Ingredient 9: Reading Group Resources
If you have page space available, group discussion questions can be listed right in the book. Readers and group leaders are more likely to use the questions when they are printed in the back matter.
However, if you want to collect the email addresses of readers and book club leaders, offer your discussion questions as a lead magnet. Give the URL for a webpage where they can sign up to receive your discussion guide.
A video of your teaching or talking about your book is also a valuable tool for group leaders. You can easily link to videos in your ebook. Or you can create a landing page URL for your printed book and ebook where readers can get your video content in exchange for their email address.
Listen to Episode 165, How to Create Book Club Resources to learn what group leaders and book clubs want and need.
Ingredient 10: Social Media Links
Social media links are a quick way for readers to connect with you. After they’ve had a powerful emotional experience reading your book, they’ll probably want to know more about you. Linked social media icons at the end of your ebook, or your handles printed in the back matter, make it easy for them to find you.
In the printed version of my book, I even used a hashtag #CourtshipInCrisis. It served as a universal marker where readers could discuss the book.
Ingredient 11: Author Bio and Photo
Readers want to know about the author they just spent hours with. Your photo and bio are one more way to introduce yourself to your reader.
Ingredient 12: Endnotes and Appendix
Many of these ingredients could be labeled as an appendix, but I think the word “appendix” tells the reader they can stop reading. That’s why I prefer more specific labels for the elements listed above.
Which back matter element goes first?
The order you use will depend on your priorities. What is the most important thing you want your reader to do when they finish?
- Leave a review?
- Sign up for your lead magnet?
- Buy book two?
- Share on social?
The most important action you want them to take should be the first thing they see when they’re done. You’ll probably want to invite them to download your lead magnet or leave a review.
Arrange your back matter in order of importance Those elements farther back are less likely to be read, so keep the most important calls-to-action first.
Your next book’s sample chapter, with its cover image and purchase link, should go last.
Choose a few of these tempting ingredients to prepare a literary dessert for your reader to enjoy after they’ve finished reading. Your reader will be delighted, and your email list, reader reviews, and book sales will increase as a result. And authors and readers will all live happily ever after.
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