MF 239 : Breaking down the front matter of your book
Updated: Jun 22
On this episode, we take a look at the front matter of your book including title page, copyright statement, foreword and more. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Part 1: So what do you do?
“So what do you do?” I went on a date recently and this question inevitably came up. There was a time when I had a ready one word or phrase answer. At different points, it was “lawyer,” “account manager,” “client consultant.” I even added “actor” to that list. Now, it’s much harder for me to answer that question. Last year, I gave a TEDx speech on that very question, which is tied to a larger question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I’ll save you the suspense, I never quite figured it out. Sure, I can say “entrepreneur” but that seems like a very amorphous and trendy answer. Truth is, I do a lot of things but they don’t all address the question of how I make my living. I wrote my first book so I could say I’m an “author” but one book does not make for a living wage. I can and sometimes do say I’m a podcaster but podcasting doesn’t pay my bills. For now, it’s purely a self-interest and personal development venture that keeps me engaged and learning. Outside of that, I’ve done everything from run a small ATM business which I recently exited, small business consulting, to operating a Poshmark business (which I still do regularly) and more. I also invest my money carefully, trying to make it do as much heavy lifting as it can so I can have some freedom to pursue these other ventures. The other truth is, is that it’s not easy. For the last year and a half, I was focused on a biotech startup. That journey ended recently and we’re on a hiatus until we figure where we go from here. In the meantime, I’m doing what I always do: trying new things, maintaining what works and continuing to move forward. It doesn’t always match up with people’s expectations nor does it provide a quick and easy answer to the question. But I’m ok with that.
How about you? Do you have an easy, definable answer to the question or are you like me and answering it requires a bit more thought and time.
Part 2: Breaking down the front matter of your book
[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode are out of print. For more, check out episode 388.]
Let’s go back to the building block concept which I talked about in episode 233. Open up a book from your shelf and review some of the “blocks” you see. The manuscript is the heart and as we covered follows a general BME structure of beginning-middle-end. However, the manuscript is itself part of a larger BME. It is the middle block that is surrounded by a beginning and end. The beginning block is sometimes called “front matter.” Let’s cover what some of the basic pieces are to front matter or front block.
This is a page showcasing you title and subtitle followed by the byline for your author(s). We covered titles last week so go back to episode 238 if you need a refresher on the basics.
This protects your intellectual property. It’s usually a paragraph or sentence of legalese proclaiming ownership over your IP. It can also serve to disclaim that the story (if fiction) is purely made up and that the names, people, etc. are not real. In my case, I had the dual task of outlining our copyright stake, while disclaiming that this was not an officially sanctioned book by CBS or Paramount, the IP holders of Star Trek. Your stakeholder is usually yourself as the author or an LLC or C-Corp if you have one.
This is an individual or a group of people that you’re dedicating your book to. Common examples are a spouse, children, parents, a teacher or mentor. It can be a combination of several people. This is a personal decision and one you should give thought to as you’re starting to approach the finish line.
This is someone else’s introduction to your book or you. I recommend that you approach the person you want to write your foreword early. You may have to send them a copy of your manuscript for review. It doesn’t have to be someone famous, just someone who has some meaning to you or the story. You can also write your own foreword too!
Table of contents
Some books will have an outline of parts, chapters, sections contained within. This will depend entirely on the book you’re writing and your personal preference. Typically non-fiction books, business books, and reference manuals will have a TOC while novels won’t but there aren’t any hard or fast rules on this as far as I know.
Blank separator page
Paperbacks will often have a blank separator page between the end of the front matter and the start of the introduction or first chapter. Scrivener templates usually have one for paperbacks. Ebooks usually skip this.
Start thinking about your front matter building block. Even as you’re still in the middle of writing your manuscript, give some serious thought to who you want to dedicate your book to. If you want someone to write the foreword, approach him or her early. Give them the gist of the book, a time frame, and offer to send a copy of your manuscript if they ask.
[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode and in the book writing series are out of print. I am leaving these episodes mostly as is and strictly for informational and instructional purposes only. I have retracted my story from the book discussed in this episode and its sequel with full reservation of my copyright. For more, check out episode 388.]
Part 3: What I read
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee (***1/2) who also wrote Pachinko. The story follows several characters, starting with Casey Han, a Princeton graduate who finds herself unemployed and moving back home with her parents. She has a very troubled relationship with her parents and many people around her. From there, the story expands to more characters, getting us involved in their stories and relationships. Lee has a real talent for writing complex characters in messy situations and the first third of the book is riveting. The middle and last third drag at points and the ending left me a little unsatisfied. I much prefer her second book, Pachinko, which I found to be one of the best I’ve read this year.
Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.
Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.
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