Nonfiction book consultant on importance of book design
A lot of people say they want to write a book, but very few actually do it. If you’re contemplating your book cover design, this means that you’ve accomplished (or nearly accomplished) something spectacular. Even if you’re in the early stages of writing your book, it is also valuable to consider how to structure the additional front and back matter that appears in your final book.
Remember, as you are working to craft the design of your nonfiction book, you are also constructing the reader’s experience. The information you include in your book will either help or hinder them from realizing the solution your book offers. You already know that your front and back cover are key, but so is the front and back matter that is a common part of nonfiction books such as memoirs, historical books, biographies, academic books, leadership, self-help, and business books. Here are my recommendations:
Nonfiction book content design elements
Your front matter is typically informational and may include elements such as book endorsements, a title page, a copyright page, and table of contents. Here are some optional elements that you might also consider:
- Foreword: This is the part that comes before the main text of your book. It is typically usually written by someone other than you, often an expert who can attest to your credibility. The Foreword should display the same quality of writing as every other page you’ve painstakingly created. If you are lucky enough to garner a Foreword from a celebrity or expert of note, be sure to add their name on the front cover of your book. (Note: Remember the spelling of this section. Spelling foreword as “forward” can be a credibility killer. This is literally the fore word–the words that come before the core text of your book.)
- Introduction: This is typically written by you and should be used if you feel there is something pertinent your readers need to know before they read the book. It could be something that gives them a clearer understanding of the book, or you can share why you felt compelled to write the book.
- Dedication: This is a nice touch if you want to dedicate your book to someone important to you or if you feel that the work was inspired by someone. No author takes the journey alone, and recognizing the ones who support you is an excellent way to thank them.
- Epigraph: An epigraph is a phrase, quote, or poem that is placed on its own page at the beginning of the book. Be careful when you use epigraphs because they can alienate your reader if the connection to the material isn’t clear. While epigraphs can be used to create an air of mystery in fiction books, when used in nonfiction books they should be clearly relevant. Include an epigraph only if it benefits of the reader.
The back matter usually isn’t as important to the reader’s experience as the front matter may be, but it is important in other ways.
- Back Cover Design: Your back cover and content can either support your marketing or kill it. Your front and back cover blurbs are your sales message. In The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, publishers Avon and Bantam Dell Publications shared that twelve words are the maximum number for front book cover. However, you have about seventy-five words to work with on the back cover. Remember, people don’t buy books, they buy solutions! Your back cover is essentially your sales pitch, and this is where you can share the solution your book provides. Lead with your Purpose Statement–the promise that you’re offering to your target audience. Here’s an example of how you can structure your back book cover content with a simple formula that will speak to your audience.
- Epilogue: An epilogue is used to bring your readers up-to-date on any developments that came after the end of your book or to provide closure to the story.
- About The Author: This section can be included in a separate page or on the dust cover of your book. This is your brag page. Self promotion is never easy, but this page should be promotional. This is a great place for a listing of your credentials, experiences, and expertise. One of your goals for writing your book may have been to establish yourself as an expert, a brand. This page is an important step in that journey. It will likely be used as your introduction at future speaking events, so be sure it’s well-written and contains information that you’re proud to share.
- Acknowledgements: This section can be used to highlight anyone who contributed to the information in your book. These people may have simply been an inspiration, or they may have had a direct contribution to the work itself. Some authors put their acknowledgements at the front of their book, but I prefer to have acknowledgments at the back, so the reader can jump right in to the core material.
- Index: This is an alphabetical list of names, subjects, events, and key ideas in your book. If your nonfiction book will be a reference guide, I recommend that you hire a professional indexer to create this section. This can only be created once the book has been finalized for print.
- Glossary: A glossary may be a suitable substitute for an index. These can be useful to explain terms and can be a place where additional resources are referenced for those who want to learn more about a particular concept.
- Additional Resources Section: If there are complementary organizations or online resources that add to the experience of your book or make it more useful to the reader, you can add a page or two with additional resources your reader can explore.
- Online book writing classes (self paced)
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About Nonfiction Book Writing & Publishing Expert Nancy Erickson
Nancy Erickson is better known as “The Book Professor,” a writing and publishing consultant who specializes in helping aspiring nonfiction authors bring their book ideas to market. Nancy works as abook coach assisting authors that write self-help books, biographies, business books, and other nonfiction books through online courses and book coaching. Contact Nancy with questions or to have her speak at your upcoming event by clicking here.