Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Kindle 6 - Front and back matter

If your manuscript survived the Muse’s horn last week and you’re still keen to turn it into an e-book, you now have a bit more writing to do.

Before you groan, I don’t mean more work on the actual story. You’ve told me that’s finished and has been edited and proof read, so the Muse will believe you. At this stage (if you're anything like my author) you’ll be totally bored of your own story, have forgotten why you ever wanted to write the book in the first place, know each full stop and comma intimately, and just want to see the back of the thing. That's a good sign – and it proves your author work has been properly done. Normally this is where your publisher will take over, at least until the book comes out and you need to do some publicity – by which time you’ll hopefully be refreshed and ready to talk about the book with some of your original passion.

But now you’re a publisher too, remember. So you need to put on your publisher’s hat (preferably one with a glittery feather in it) and add some pages at the beginning of your story, and maybe some at the end, to make it into a real book. If you don’t know where to start, then take a look at a paper book as a guide.

Suggested front pages:
Title page – including your name and the book title.
Copyright page – with your name and the date, any previous publication credits, and other legal things such as permissions for using other people’s copyrighted material. Take care! You cannot, for example, use song lyrics without clearing (and probably paying for) permission. Same applies to copyrighted pictures.
Review page – if anybody has read your book and said something nice about it, you might want to quote them here (possible exception if it’s your mum).
About the Author page – a short piece about you.
Contents page – list of chapters or stories in your book, including front and back matter. To avoid a boring list of numbers, why not name your chapters? This will also give your potential reader a good idea of what they're missing when they download the free sample.

Suggested back pages:
Other books by - a list of your other published books.
Links - your website, etc.
Teaser chapter - for your next book, particularly if it is part of the same series.

If you have a backlist title then it might already have some of this material, but you’ll need to update it for your e-book. You can’t use your previous publisher’s layout, anyway, because that remains their property – you only own the copyright in the words of your story. So if you have managed to get hold of the print pdf file from your publisher (or have scanned in your old paper book), then at this stage you should extract your story and convert it back into a Word file. If you don't have any conversion software, try www.freepdfconvert.com

Don’t worry too much about the formatting at this stage. Just put in the extra text you want to include, with page breaks where appropriate, and I’ll show you how to make it look pretty on Kindle next week.

Also worth thinking about when adding front and back matter is the finished length of your book, because when people download the free sample from amazon to their Kindle they’ll usually see the first 10%. This will obviously include all your front material. So if your book is very short, your potential reader might not get to read much of your wonderful text, particularly if you have put in ten pages of reviews beforehand (I’ve seen it done!) or several large pictures. My author recently downloaded the sample of A Simples Life, which has so many images that it cut off halfway through the contents page – not terribly useful! If this is the case with your book, you might want to consider moving some of your front matter to the back. Think of the first 10% as an advert for your book, the teaser that will make people want to buy.

A quick word about images. It’s possible your book contains pictures as well as words. Fine. If they are already in your Word document, just leave them where they are for now. Otherwise keep them somewhere handy on your computer, and I’ll deal with them in a later post. We’ll concentrate on getting the words looking right first. Pictures in general are no problem, but remember the Kindle displays colour images as greyscale, so if you are thinking of having some new illustrations then these will work best in black and white.

Once you’ve added all the front and back matter you think you need, then you’re ready to start formatting your book to make it Kindle friendly. I suggest you use the rest of this week to check copyrights, canvass people for reviews if you haven’t got any yet, and brush up your author page. First impressions count, so you’ll want that 10% sample to look as good as you can possibly make it.

In the interests of market research, the Muse also suggests you download a few free samples from the Kindle store to see what sort of thing other publishers put at the front and back of their e-books. You can get the sample of my e-book “Spellfall” here. You’ll probably notice mine, and most of the other samples, have underlined hyperlinks on the contents page. Take note of what they do, but don’t worry about them yet because I’ll show you an easy way to put these in later. Most samples will also include a cover image, and some will "open" in unexpected places. Again, don’t worry, because all will be explained later! (You can check where you are in the sample by looking at the progress bar across the bottom of your Kindle – if it seems to open halfway through, then just backpage to see what is included at the beginning).

Have fun, and I’ll see you next week!

Muse tip: If you haven’t got an actual Kindle, you can download free Kindle software from amazon for your computer, ipad, blackberry, etc. and read your samples on that.

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