8 ways to make your book’s back matter work harder and smarter
Back matter (or end matter) is the content that goes at the back of your book to help you sell more books and grow your audience. And it is incredibly important, especially for ebooks.
Even if people are reading your book for free—you may be giving it away, or the reader may have borrowed the ebook or paperback from a public library—it’s important to make a connection with those readers and turn them into fans.
The following steps will make your back matter work better for you. They mostly apply to ebooks (because you’ll be including direct links) but they’re just as important in paperbacks. Swap out the ‘click here’s for a shortened printed link in your paperback where possible, so that paperback readers can look you up when they’re next on a device.
1. Do not type ‘The End’ at the back of your ebook.
When I first read this advice a year or so ago, it felt counterintuitive. An author always writes ‘the end’ at the end of their story. With ebooks though, especially ebooks borrowed from public libraries, readers will flick back to the library website on their device to see what else is available once they see those closing words.
As an author, you want the reader to stay with you for just a little bit longer. You’ve charmed and delighted them for an entire novel—now show them your next one!
Because we don’t have digital lending rights in Australia at the moment (Join the ASA and help campaign for your own interests!) it would be excellent to get at least a sale or two after winning a reader over.
Instead of writing ‘the end’, just use a scene break or an ornamental break or those three asterisks in the middle of the line.
Now you’re ready to write the rest of your back matter, which will help you get more sales and make stronger connections with your readers.
2. Thank the reader.
Something along the lines of ‘Thank you so much for reading Oliver and Gustav’s story. I hope you had a wonderful time with them in the Andes as they battled snow monsters. I’d also like to thank my pet turtles for their inspiration and support, and my physiotherapist for fixing my shoulder again and again.’
Then it’s time to…
3. Mention and provide a link to your author newsletter.
For example: ‘Would you like to be the first to hear about my latest news? Please click here to sign up to my author newsletter. I’ll send them out whenever I have some news (once every two weeks, once every two months). They will be packed full of survival tips, the best recipes for snow monster stew, and free and discount book offers.’
Make the words ‘click here’ a link to your signup page. If you’re putting this in a printed book, it may be a little trickier. Perhaps encourage them to visit your author website and join your newsletter that way.
If you don’t have an author newsletter yet, click here for my free guide on how to set up an author newsletter and help it grow. And no, you don’t have to sign up to my newsletter to get it. (But you will see at the back I have extra links if you feel like it afterwards.)
4. Mention your other book in the series—and then include a sample chapter.
‘If you loved reading about Oliver and Gustav and their acrobatic goats, you will adore the next death-defying book in this series. Turn the page to read the first chapter of their next incredible story, Oliver and Gustav and the Fang Dragon of Bhutan.’ Then put that first chapter in.
If you don’t have other books in this series, add a chapter from any other book or short story you’ve written. If this is your very first book, don’t stress. Just mention you’re writing more books and you’d love them to visit your website (and include a link).
5. Do not write ‘The End’ after that sample first chapter either.
Instead, put in another scene break.
6. Add your buy links.
You could write: ‘Click here to buy the rest of Oliver and Gustav and the Fang Dragon of Bhutan.’
Make the link go to this book’s page on your author website, where you’ve already placed direct buy links, because you’re so very organised. Do not make the link go directly to the Amazon or iBooks stores (unless you are loading retailer-specific editions directly to those stores). iBooks will knock back books with direct Amazon links and vice versa.
You can also create aggregator links using the free service on books2read.com. The reader will click a link that takes them to a centralised page showing all the retailers connected to the book, and they can then click through to buy the book via their retailer of choice.
7. Include an ‘Also By’ section.
List all of your other books and/or short stories that are available for purchase. Also list your author website or, at the very least, your author Facebook page.
8. Ask for a review.
And ask nicely: ‘Authors love reviews. If you enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads or your website of choice.’
Do not provide direct links here either, as some distributors will get cranky. And by cranky, I mean they’ll refuse to sell your book if you mention the competition.
It looks like a lot of work, but it’s fairly easy to create your own ‘back matter template’ and put it into the back of all your ebooks. I’m currently reformatting my fiction and nonfiction titles to do this very thing.
Print is a little more difficult, as you can’t put direct links in a paperback. But you can put your author website, and you can ask for reviews, and you can easily put the first chapter of another book in the back of a print book.
Keep writing awesome books!
Ebony McKenna is the Melbourne author of seven YA novels and multiple nonfiction guides for authors. Her latest title is Get Your Book Into Australian Libraries. You can find her on Facebook or her website. If you find her wasting time on Twitter, tell her to get back to work.