For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing a blog series on the back matter of a book. (We did a similar one on the front matter) You’ll remember that the front matter is all of the material that comes before the central story – or body text – in a book. This includes the title page, half title, table of contents, foreword, prologue, etc. All of these sections function to introduce the book, the author, and the subjects to be discussed.
If the front matter introduces the book, the back matter then wraps everything up. It comes after the body text and includes concluding sections that provide further reading, deeper explanations, and any final thoughts from the author or another writer. All of these pieces – front matter, body text, and back matter – fit together perfectly to create a complete book.
What Does the Back Matter of a Book Include?
The back matter is the concluding section of a book, and it can contain a whole host of information, and many of these sections are entirely optional. The self-published author doesn’t need to include any of these. However, these sections can add a lot of depth and additional information to the book, so it’s worth considering adding them to your soon-to-be self-published book.
The back matter includes the following: the epilogue, acknowledgements (these can go in the front matter, too), discussion section, appendix (or appendices), glossary, bibliography (or works cited), index, and colophon. We’ll discuss each one a little more below.
The Order of the Back Matter in a Book
Listed below is the typical order of the back matter in a book. Not all books will include each of these back matter elements, and since you are self-publishing, you get to decide what you want to include.
The epilogue is a section that comes after the story, but is still, technically, part of the story. An epilogue goes a step beyond resolution. It may be only one scene or several scenes, but it must have some sort of impact on the story. Any scene that happens after won’t do; it has to be relevant, and it must pack a punch.
Acknowledgements (if author wants them in the back matter):
An acknowledgement page is (usually) a one to two page section that can be in the front or back matter, and its focus is thanking and bringing attention to instrumental persons who helped the book become realized, written, and published.
If a book is slated to be discussed in high school or college English courses, or if it’s marketed as a book club selection, the author and publisher may elect to include a section at the end of the body text that introduces questions about the story and facilitates an academic discussion of the themes, characters, and deeper meanings.
An appendix is a section located at the back of a book that includes any additional or supplementary information on the book’s topic, such as other books on the subject, references, citations, etc. As appendices are used to bolster research, provide credibility, and list further references, they’re used (more often) in nonfiction books.
If a book includes rare, unfamiliar, specialized, or original words or terms, the glossary serves as a dictionary for the reader to reference throughout their reading of the book. (Note: this section should only contain definitions for specific terms in the book. It does not function as an ordinary dictionary.) Glossaries are included to help enhance the reader’s knowledge of a certain subject, as they provide a neat and orderly list of definitions and translations (if applicable).
The bibliography is a necessary section that cites sources used throughout the book. These sources may be used to bolster the author’s credibility, strengthen their argument or cause, or negate certain claims made in other books.
The index is a list of terms and their page numbers. It can be a resourceful tool for readers who may be using the book in their research, or for readers who just want to read up on a certain subject.
The colophon is a brief section that states publisher (name, location, and date) and type (font) information. Historically, colophons were always located in the back matter, but, nowadays, they’re can also be featured in the front matter, after the title page. It may also be used to identify book designers, software used, type of printer used, and the kind of ink.
Why the Back Matter Matters
Self-publishing comes with an unlimited amount of freedom. What you write, when you write, when you publish, and how you sell your book is entirely your decision. There will be no pressure from in-house editors, designers, or marketers. This can be incredibly liberating, but it can also lead to the complicated dilemma of should a self-published author include everything that a traditionally published book has?
The short answer is no. As previously stated, you don’t need these sections in your book. However, it’s worth considering. As a whole, the front matter, body text, and back matter fit together perfectly to create a fully-realized book. All of your ideas, visions, and goals will find their place in these three sections.
The back matter is the last word. The story may be done (unless it’s a trilogy or saga – then it’s just done for now), but the discussion behind the story, the resources used, and the details of the book still matter – to readers, critics, book clubs, and, ultimately, you.
What it comes down to is author preference and what the book calls for. Take care in realizing and understanding what your book needs and why – not all books will need an epilogue, and certainly not all books will need a glossary. The back matter will leave a lasting impression on your reader, it needs to be strong and well planned.