Friday, February 7, 2020

Front and Back Matter, does it matter?

 image: S.B. Borgersen

I don’t know about you, but when I have a new book in my hand I take time to consider the front matter, from the cover all the way through to the table of contents before I settle down to Chapter one.

It does aggravate me, however, when certain e-books swing right into that first chapter, skipping over all the well considered front matter:

Traditionally, front matter is the last thing to be written by the author, but hopefully the first thing the reader reads, well this reader anyway. Some of the formal front matter is provided by the publisher e.g. title, copyright, and table of contents pages. The rest is optional and says much about the author to the reader. Every page of the front matter is numbered in lower case roman numerals beginning with i for the title page.

All front matter pages should begin on a recto (right hand) page, except the copyright page with is placed on the verso (left hand).

There is a long list of optional front matter - and for me they all really do matter. This is where the author has applied much thought and it all deserves to be read and considered: 

Author’s introduction
Author’s notes including sources of reference material
Prologue - these seem to be making a come-back
And finally, before chapter one, the all important acknowledgements - in my experience it takes more than the author to create the finished book - so time for all involved to take a bow.

Now the back matter. You’ve finished the book, you take a deep breath of regret that it’s over, and another deep breath with appreciation for the creation that has just been shared with you.

The back matter can consist of:

An epilogue or after-word or postscript
Endnotes, good alternatives to footnotes
Bibliography, references to sources - could be alternative to author’s notes in the front matter if appropriate.
Glossary, if any special vocabulary has been used.
Copyright permissions, where a fee has been paid to use copyrighted lyrics or images for instance.
Image credits, linked to the above - but could apply separately to the cover images.
Further reading, often the opening chapter of a sequel or other book by the same author
Index, if necessary

Then, on the back cover, or inside the flyleaf, is the all important author biography, usually called ‘About the Author’ with a super mugshot, often with their pet cat or dog, or in their garden surrounded by daisies, or on a balcony overlooking Venice - well you get the picture.

So, my question to you is, with all the work that goes into the front and back matter, do you read it? Does it really matter to you. 

It really and absolutely matters to me.

image: S.B. Borgersen