Someone’s looked at the cover and decided they want to look inside. Woohoo! There’s a lot of stuff people expect to see before they get to the story. I already kind of knew about the half-title page and the title page (the latter which I referred to incorrectly as the ‘copyright page’ before I learned the correct nomenclature), and the table of contents, but then there’s also dedications, acknowledgements and other things that my potential reader probably doesn’t give a crap about as they flick through to the story.
In a day and age of “look inside” before the reader buys, it would be wise to compress a lot of these pages together so that a reader can get enough actual story to be hooked. If I fill up the preview pages with all this ‘front matter’ then they’ll have less story to draw them in. It makes sense that I want to get them reading my words as soon as possible and not give them the peeves with all this other stuff they don’t really care about (but still expect to see). Fine line, anyone?
1. The Half-Title Page
This is the same thing that appears on your cover, reduced to text only. Title of the book, then author’s name. I’m going to compress this because it’s unnecessary, but I’m not going to leave it off altogether because readers expect to see it. I personally feel like I’ve skipped a page if I don’t see a half-title page, so I’ll use my own expectations as a guide. It doesn’t really matter if it’s not included, but some readers might find it jarring when they don’t see it.
2. ‘Other Books By The Author’ or ‘Other Books In The Series’ Page
I won’t be including this because I don’t have any! Not yet. This particular page can be inserted where you think it’s best, but it does lend credibility when you have a few titles here. This is necessary for all those books further on in the series in case your reader has stumbled onto book three first. Hyperlinks to books one and two would be wise. I will certainly do that once the series books get going. If this book is part of a series, then it would be wise to say so up front.
3. The Title Page
This is where all the copyright and contact information goes, so you’re darn tootin’ it matters. I’m going to put all this stuff on the bottom of the half-title page to get an extra page of story preview while still including everything. I don’t want to leave anything out, or give the impression I’ve forgotten stuff.
Your copyright applies the moment you write anything down, so apply the year you finished your work. If you wrote the book in 2005 but are releasing it in 2014, then the copyright is 2005. If you make dramatic changes to the content in the year of release, then the copyright changes to 2014. If you create a new edition,you can show the copyright year of each edition, as a way of documenting it.
Your copyright sentence should include either the © symbol, the word ‘Copyright’ (or both), the year the copyright applies and the author’s name (or names, if there are more than one author). If you have a collection of short stories, it would be wise to include each title and relevant copyright, and where it first appeared if you’ve published it anywhere.
There should be some kind of disclaimer or legal-speak about rights of the book. “All Rights Reserved” covers it nicely. Something fictional will have the ‘this came entirely from my imagination, it’s not about people I know’ sentence, in legal-speak. There’s also the ‘You can’t copy this at all in any way unless you want to review it in which case you can quote a few things’ sentence. It’s a good idea to be reasonable about it.
There will then be the publisher/contact information. A website or email can replace the need for a postal address but make sure the publisher (you, if you’re indie) has a way they can be contacted in case someone wants to seek written permission to produce something, or even to find out if you’re interested in their making a mega blockbuster movie based on your book. Don’t make it hard for them to find you.
4. Dedication Page
I would like to dedicate my novel to some special people, so I’m definitely reserving myself some space for this.
5. Acknowledgements Page
This is the place to thank everyone that helped you get going. A lot of writers thank their proofers, cover artists, editors and supporters. This is entirely up to you whether you include one or wish to acknolwedge anyone. I’m going to combine a small note of acknowledgement a number of spaces beneath the dedication–combining the two into one page. I feel that they’re related messages.
6. Table of Contents
Since I have 30 chapters, I will certainly be including this, with hot links to the relevant chapter.
7. List of Maps, Photos, Illustrations
Usually given after the Table of Contents and before the story begins. I don’t have any maps because my novel takes place in a single city (mostly).
The Foreword is not written by the author. It’s an introduction of the book. I don’t see Forewords often.
This one is written by the author, giving important information that would be relevant to the book.
All of these parts of the book is considered ‘front matter’. The more front matter you have, the more pages a reader has to flip through to get to your story, and in the age of digital books and previews before purchase, it’s a risk to include too much.
I already felt I might have too much, which is why I combined four of the pages to only take up two (i.e., Half Title Page & Title Page combined, Dedication & Acknowledgements combined) plus a Table of Contents. Three pages feels like reasonable front matter. I might have to change my mind on this, if I go ahead with print copies (via Createspace), as this option will firm up the pages in the ebook. I don’t want a combined Half-Title and Title Page in a printed book. At the least, I’m looking at three pages of stuff my potential reader doesn’t give a crap about. At the most, five.
That seems reasonable to me. I hope it will be reasonable to others, too.