By Bruce L. Cook
You’ve completed your manuscript. Now, what do you put on the front pages? (Or, “Front matter” as it’s called.)
Surprisingly, this decision does matter. As superb as your writing may be, it needs to have a standard start if it’s going to stand with the professional.
Think of it. When you open a book from the library what do you expect to see on the first sheet? Would you prefer 1) a garish cartoon of Zoom-Ba-Ba, or maybe 2) the title and author. Not a hard choice, is it?
Then, on the reverse side of the front sheet, will it be 1) a map of a fictional land or 2) copyright indicia, cover art credits, Library of Congress stuff, etc. Again, kind of an obvious choice, especially when that’s where copyrights are supposed to be placed.
Not bad for a start. Next can be a Table of Contents. (Very easy to construct in Microsoft Word, by the way.) Then a blank page and then the first page of your fiction story.
A blank page? Ouch! What’s that? Sorry, it’s just professional to start main content on the right-hand page. So, blank pages are OK. Also, within the book, it’s doesn’t hurt to insert a blank page whenever the next chapter starts on the left, but this isn’t essential. That way each chapter start on the right-hand side.
But wait! Isn’t there more?
Well, for fiction you may have an acknowledgements page in which you recognize your spouse for sitting quietly while you write and she doesn’t get to participate, especially if cancelled family or party events are involved. And, of course, you should list others who you have consulted with.
Other possibilities are a frontispiece (the map mentioned above, for example).
An introduction is possible, to, especially if the reader needs to have certain information to understand the story. For example, history and context.
And, for nonfiction especially, consider a preface in which you survey the book’s contents, chapter by chapter perhaps.
And, a foreword. (Not a forward please! If you title it that way, you are embarrassing yourself. It is a word which comes before, a fore word (one word). Please.
What about back matter, the pages that come after the main pages?
At the end, especially for nonfiction, it’s professional to include an “About the Author(s) section with biographical material
Then, after that, an index. (Again, a nice index is easy to construct in Microsoft Word. Caution, when you click to build it, be sure you’re not in “show hidden characters” mode!)
Think these things over. If they enhance your book and make it more professional, why not?
Chances are you’ll find that front mater (and “back matter”) matter!
- Bruce L. Cook