How front and back matter can stimulate book sales

Posted By on June 1, 2012

Most people wouldn’t think the front and back matter—those things that come before and after the main text in a book—would have much bearing on how it sells. Not so. This material can have a dramatic impact on your book’s success! Let’s first consider the front matter.

Face it: You want to stand out. Right? One of the more positive things you can do to accomplish that is to get a person widely recognized in the field to write a Foreword. (Notice it’s spelled “Foreword” not “Forward”!) Physicians, attorneys, and certain other professionals can be tapped for Forewords. They are often thrilled to get their names on book covers. And there may be an additional benefit for you; a doctor, for instance, will read your manuscript for accuracy as well because he or she would be embarrassed by errors.

Acknowledgments are another place to mention key names—not only those you genuinely wish to thank for their help, but also people you want to favor and impress. Sometimes they will be so flattered to be singled out they will buy your book and help with promotion by recommending it to others.

Have you ever gone to a bookstore and watched browsers? At first they look at the front cover. If the book still holds their attention, they turn it over and examine the back cover. The next thing they’ll usually do is flip through the pages, then turn to the Table of Contents and either decide to buy—or move on to another book.

Therein lies a profound revelation: The Table of Contents is one of your most valuable sales tools! Make it meaty. Exciting. Benefit-oriented. Include the subheads as well as the chapter titles. Tell potential buyers specifically what the book delivers, what problem it solves for them. Use punchy phraseology and active verbs.

If the book will be rolling off the press at the end of the year, use the next year in your copyright notice. It will seem fresh for a much longer time and have a better crack at ongoing reviews. It’s an industry standard to do this for any book coming out from September on.

Now let’s examine some of the ingredients that come after the main part of the book—the back matter—and can mean extra dollars in your pocket.

Fat Appendices pay big dividends. In fact, some people buy a book solely because of the unique reference information presented in the Appendix.

I had a client a few years back who had written an autobiographical expose decrying slipshod medical practices. Her topic lent itself to listings of various associations dealing with specific diseases, consumer medical advocacy groups, state medical policing agencies, and so forth. We counseled her to add these additional sources of information in the Appendix to increase the book’s worth. That way her autobiography became a “reference work” because it included a compendium of valuable resources not previously collected in one place.

Adding a Glossary can also be a smart move, especially if you use a lot of unfamiliar terms. Sometimes people who need to know the terminology of a certain industry will buy your book strictly for its Glossary.

A nonfiction book without an Index is like bread without butter. Readers want—and deserve—to be able to locate specific pieces of information quickly. The only way they can do that is through an Index. Librarians expect them; educational sales will be dampened for a book lacking one.

Last, but certainly not least, should be sales information. It is amazing how seldom books include this obvious sales opportunity. How often do you check out a library book, and subsequently want to purchase a personal copy? Or borrow a book from a friend, then want one yourself? Make it easy for people to buy your book by including information on where they can buy it. Remember to indicate that you offer a discount on quantity orders. (You do, don’t you?)

Keep in mind that all of these ideas should be done early in the writing or editing process. Good marketing planning begins when you first start thinking about the shape of a manuscript. By using these types of strategies at that early stage, you have a much better chance of stronger sales throughout the life of the work.

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2 Responses to “How front and back matter can stimulate book sales”

  1. [...] Collier (@SueCollier) on Self-Publishing Resources How front and back matter can stimulate book sales “Most people wouldn’t think the front and back matter—those things that come before and [...]

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