I’m getting close to wrapping up my series on writing book proposals, but we still have a couple more issues to address. For this post, I’d like to talk about those little “extras” that either will be included in your book or help identify the physical attributes of the book. Specifically, these are back matter, special features, and the book’s specifications.
Let’s start with back matter. What exactly constitutes the back matter of a book? This will entirely depend on the type of book you’re writing. For a children’s book, back matter may include a glossary of words that you’ve included which may be new to the child. It may also include other similar books that the child can read to learn more about your subject. Or, back matter may have a list of websites with activities or other resources that tie in to your book or your subject.
If you’re writing a fiction book, back matter will be limited if even included. I’ve seen some historical fiction books that added a page of resources at the end to direct the reader to interesting facts or places mentioned in the book. Some authors also like to include an author bio page or perhaps contact information for how their readers can reach them. Beyond this, you probably won’t need much back matter for fiction.
Nonfiction, however, can have quite a bit of back matter. Some things you may want to include at the end of a nonfiction book are: an appendix (or appendices), an index, tables or graphs, bibliography or end notes, a list of resources for additional information, an author’s bio and contact information.
The main idea of back matter, regardless of the type of book you’re writing, is to make the book as helpful as possible to the reader. You will normally list your back matter in one short paragraph in your proposal where you discuss the contents of your book. You’ll also want to give the publisher a rough idea of how many pages or words your back matter will include.
In this same section of the proposal, you’ll want to mention the special features that your book will contain. Keep in mind that special features are different than benefits of your book. Features are those things that make your book useful and appealing to your reader. Benefits, in turn, are how those features will ultimately help you reader and keep him coming back to buy more of your books.
For example, a feature of a how-to book might be its detailed illustrations that walk the reader through each step, while the benefit is that it makes your book easy to follow because everything is drawn out for the reader. A feature of a children’s book might be that one side of the spread is written at the child’s level while the other side is more in-depth so that the parent can provide the child with more information. The benefit here would be that parent and child can read together at two different levels.
Other book features may include visually appealing graphics, photographs, sidebars, maps, or a discussion guide. You’ll notice that the features I listed are normally only found in nonfiction books. Features for a fiction book, like back matter, will be more limited, if not nonexistent. Exceptions are YA novels, where you may find graphics or photos.
Special features are an important part of your book. They can go a long way to make your book more helpful, more visually stimulating, and hopefully, more interesting to your reader. And publishers will always love that!
While back matter and special features are things you can add to your book to help it sell, book specifications are what will be inherently part of your book in a physical sense that you simply need to share with the publisher. Ideas of what to include in your book specs section are: word count (including back matter word count), trim size, delivery date, and any special requirements your book may need. In particular…
word count: you need to give the publisher some idea of how long your book will be. They know it’s not going to be exact, but a good estimate is required. To come up with a good estimate, figure about 12-15 words per line and about 250-265 words per page.
trim size: if you’re expecting your book to be a standard paperback or hard cover trim size, you won’t need to mention this. But if you envision a special size for perhaps a children’s book or a larger, workbook size (like 8.5″ x 11″) book, then you’ll want to let the publisher know what you’re thinking. Specialty-sized books will cost more to produce, so that will definitely be a factor to consider.
delivery date: this is the date by which you can commit to having your manuscript finished. Most delivery dates will be around 6 months from the time the publisher issues a contract. If you’ve discovered through the publisher’s website that they require manuscripts to be finished within a certain time frame, make sure that is the time frame you state on your proposal!
special requirements: this can include many things, or you may not have any special requirements at all. Some things that may fall in this category would be illustrations or photographs that you need to secure, a special type of binding that your book will require, or perhaps add-ons that your book will be using (pull-out charts or maps or textures for children’s books, for example).
Your Book Specification section will be separate in your proposal, usually added at the end of your overview and before your outline.
Speaking of which…during my next post I’ll talk about how to best construct an outline for your proposal, so I hope you’ll stop back and join me!