Your book’s junk drawer—
avoid making it an afterthought.
There are three main sections of a book’s content, front matter, body, and end matter, also called backmatter. Each of these sections can contain various elements, some required and some optional. Although the components’ order can vary, there are typical conventions that most books follow. In this article, I’ll discuss the end matter.
The end matter is all that stuff the author thinks is useful but has no clear place to go in the book’s body—hence “junk drawer.” As a designer, I have found the end matter some of the trickiest content to layout. It’s often thrown together at the end because the author thinks it may be useful, and it didn’t fit it in elsewhere. But by now, most writers are D-U-N—tired of working on the book and don’t have either the heart or inclination to take the time to edit or tidy up this additional content.
The end matter often has maps or tables that need to be scanned or recreated or require lots of fussy formatting. If you are working with a designer, you may want to keep this in mind to keep costs down. And show the end matter when getting estimates. If you don’t show your designer your end matter content when they quote on the job, don’t expect them to “deal with it” and stay within their original quote.
What goes in the end matter?
Acknowledgments. (optional and can be in the front matter)
Acknowledgments thank people who contributed time to writing the book but were not directly involved in the book’s production.
Often used in research-based books, such as biographies, textbooks, and memoirs, an appendix offers a place to provide additional information. Appendices may include articles, lists, maps, tables, references, and things of interest that support or illuminate the text. Works of fiction do not typically have appendices. An appendix may correct errors, explain inconsistencies, or update the book’s information. Appendicies are usually lettered, A, B, C, etcetera, when there are more than one.
Sometimes included in the appendix, a chronology lists events in the order they happened.
Addendum and errata. (not ideal, but can save you the cost of a reprint)
An addendum adds forgotten information. An errata corrects mistakes in the book. Addendum and errata may explain inconsistencies or errors in a previous edition. They are a way to make corrections and avoid redesigning, re-indexing, or even reprinting a book. Both can be bound in the book or a loose sheet slipped in. Addendums and errata are usually used to correct substantial mistakes or omissions that may be misleading.
A list of abbreviations can also go in the book’s front matter.
A glossary gives definitions and sometimes pronunciations of words used in the book.
Endnotes. (optional and can be in the body)
Endnotes usually contain supplemental information to the text and are related to a specific passage. Endnotes typically appear at the end of each chapter, and the numbering restarts with 1 for every chapter. But they can also go in the book’s back near the bibliography. Your endnotes can be numbered consecutively if they are in the book’s back. But I don’t recommend if you have a lot of them, because if you need to insert one, then all the notes that follow have to be renumbered.
A bibliography cites sources to maintain credibility. It can also list resources that may be valuable to the reader.
The index lists subjects and keywords used in the book and their respective page numbers. Create your index only after you have finalized and approved the entire book. Do it only when there is no chance the page numbers will change. Works of fiction don’t usually have indexes. Indexing is an art in itself. An indexer puts themselves in the reader’s place and works to predict what the reader wants to find. Even with software, indexing can be a daunting task. Indexing is best left to the professionals. Typically, the book’s body and the back matter are indexed, and sometimes the preface, forward, and introduction in the front matter.
Copyright permissions. (optional and can be in the front matter)
If the author used work from others, such as artwork, music, excerpts, those people/institutions that gave permission would be recognized here.
Colophon. (optional sometimes placed on the copyright page)
Usually, on the last page, a colophon credits writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, and designers involved with the book’s production. If brief, you can also put this information on the copyright/verso page at the beginning of the book.
Teaser chapter from the next book. (optional)
Only done in works of fiction, some publishers like to give a taste of the next book with the hopes the reader will want more.
About the author. (optional and can be in the front matter or on the back cover)
This page may contain a brief bio, some information about previous work, a photograph, or as little as a name and a website to reach the author.
The back matter may or may not contain any of the content listed above and varies from book to book. Sometimes the back matter is as little as an author’s bio, while other times, it can be quite extensive.