So, I’ve written Beware the Falling Avocados, and sent it to the proofreader; and I’ve got the cover designed: I’m all set to publish, right?
Wrong. A book is more than just the story. What else goes inside the cover? Pick up any published book and you will find these bits and pieces, in varying order.
About the author: A brief biog, which can be funny (read Terry Pratchett’s) or a list of qualifications and awards (essential to an academic work) or just factual. It is designed to make the author real, to justify why they wrote the book and why you – the reader – ought to buy and read it. Because the author is, after all, the best person to have written the most excellent piece of work that is to follow.
A big title page: BEWARE THE FALLING AVOCADOS + lots of white space. What have I learnt about this in my previous book? It’s a good place to write my signature for those few people who desire signed copies. (Maybe they’ll be worth millions in years to come…!)
ISBN numbers and copyright: this, actually, has to be on ‘page 2’. I also put my disclaimer there – the legal bit that in novels would say “Any resemblance to any actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental” (or words to that effect), but which can’t be said in my two books as they are memoir. That doesn’t stop the necessity for a disclaimer: I am putting words into the mouths of my friends and relatives, and for that I am responsible, not them.
I have been asked about ISBN numbers. I published In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree through CreateSpace who offered me an ISBN number free of charge. In the UK it is possible to buy your own ISBN number (or rather, numbers, as I believe you are obliged to buy ten). CreateSpace does offer you the option to enter your own number(s) and, having written a second book, I have a little regret that I didn’t purchase my own. But that’s only a matter of pride and ownership. What are the real legal ramifications? Virtually nothing. The point to remember is that the ISBN number is to identify the book, but gives CreateSpace (or whoever else publishes the book) no rights over your work at all. None. At. All. The rights come from the copyright – that little (c) symbol, which I attach to my name, not the ISBN numbers. Yes, you’ll see them printed on the same page in every book you pick up, but no: the ISBN number is simply there to reference the book and make it available to different booksellers.
Reviews: Some authors are lucky enough to have reviews from the Times Literary Supplement and Barnes & Noble. Others have them from world-renowned authors and celebrities. If you do, list them. If not, keep quiet about it.
Also by…: A new page for me in Beware the Falling Avocados. This gives me the chance to cross-reference to my first book. The business-woman in me says, “Ker-ching! More sales!” though the real me just glows with pride that there is something else out there.
Acknowledgements: The advice I was given was to acknowledge every one you can who has contributed to the book, because they they’ll go out and buy it. A little cynical and money-grabbing, I feel, since if they’ve contributed that much I think I should give them a copy as a thank-you. Nevertheless, nearly everyone likes their name in print and this is the big opportunity to thank all the friends and family who have tolerated you being anti-social and hidden away in your garrett for so many long months.
An additional point: I have noticed that it is more common these days to put the Acknowledgements section at the back of the book, after the story. I think this is partly due to the rise of eBooks, and that the acknowledgements tend to clog up the beginning part (readers just want to get on with the story!) As Beware the Falling Avocados is a sequel, I will still have mine at the beginning, if only to keep it consistent with the first book.
Dedication: the personal note to someone you love and care about.
Contents table: I chose not to list my chapter headings as I felt there was quite enough bumf at the beginning of the book without these. Besides, I had over 30 of them, so it was going to be a list covering a couple of pages. It also ran the high risk of cross-referencing to the wrong page number. This would have driven me nuts! Unless you are really, really good at proofing and cross-checking and remaining consistent, I’d suggest that these lists are unnecessary.
(Though I’d have been more patient with three sections than 30 chapters!)
Epigraph: the arty term for a quote that precedes the book. My first book quoted the children’s rhyme ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’, for obvious reasons. I’m still searching for the appropriate Avocado quote!
Chapter 1… (Yes, this bit’s done! Let’s skip to the end of the book…)
Glossary and Index: Glossary to explain words; index to refer back to topics in the text. An index isn’t required for a novel, and I only felt a need for the glossary as I was writing about a country that many people wouldn’t know, with local terms and references.
Other options include: Recommended Reading (particularly useful if you refer to something in the book, or if it is non-fiction or academic); Book Club Questions (book clubs and reading groups are another good source of sales!); Interview with the Author (less appealing if you’re interviewing yourself…)
Teasers: entice people in to purchasing your next book. This is best done if (a) you’ve written it and/or (b) you know what you’re going to do. Some books insert the first chapter of the author’s next novel: you are welcome to do this, if you are sure that your next book isn’t going to change (a further proof-reading exercise), and if you aren’t bothered about irritating people like me who feel short-changed with the current book when it finishes 20 pages before the expected end of the paperback I’ve bought. (Just saying.)
More about me: ok, so that’s not the actual title given to the page, but my final hurrah was to link the reader back to my webpage (here!), to Facebook and to Twitter. If I could cope with a hundred more social media sites and interactions, they’d be listed there too. I do now have an Instagram account, so do join me there if you wish.
Typing of ‘THE END’ is so rarely the actual end. The book keeps growing. Not every book needs all of the above, and the requirements change slightly for an eBook, but to make my self-published book as professional as possible, all of these are considered and their layout and wording is carefully thought through. Being pernickety and getting it looking right carries me a long way towards a perfect book.
Now, just to get all the chapter titles laid out correctly, and use a beautiful font, and to put in page numbers, and running headers, and…
There’s no end to the work to be done!