Monday, October 15, 2018

Self-proclaimed publishing queens can kiss my royal behind

Years ago, "Queen for a Day" was a popular radio and TV game show, where ordinary women competed to be treated royally.

Today, there is no need to impress a studio audience, or be the daughter or bride of genuine royalty. If you want to be a queen, just proclaim it and so be it.
  • Kylee Legge (now Kylee Ellis) calls herself "The Publishing Queen" and lies that she "has been involved in writing and publishing books since the day she was born." She thinks she can teach people how to write a book in just seven days. She's an extreme egomaniac and an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
  • Heather Covington beats Kylee in the Queening competition, two-to-one! She has TWO realms, as both "Print-On-Demand Queen" and "The Queen of Murderotica Suspense." She also brags that she is a "YouTube marketing expert, editor-in-chief and publisher." Her Egomaniacal Highness has also claimed to be "Literary Diva," "The Literary Heat" and "Babe Charisse Worthington." This queen wants us to know that she is an entertainment journalist, author, motivational speaker, awards official and promoter. Like Queen Kylee, Queen Heather is an extremely sloppy writer and editor.
  • Queen Elizabeth II became queen the old-fashioned way—she was born into royalty, as the first daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I. This Queen is Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, Tuvalu and Jamaica. Her son and grandson are scheduled to become kings. Liz seems to have her ego under control, and I don't know anything about her writing or editing ability.

  • Queen Heather lives in the Bronx, New York. I was born in the Bronx, in the ROYAL HOSPITAL, and lived in the Bronx from 1946 to 1952, and then again from 1970 to 1975.

    I am therefore even more royal than Heather Covington, and I hereby proclaim myself to be Publishing King.

    Bow down, Kylee and Heather, and prepare to kiss one of my royal butt cheeks.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Some authors get no respect. What about you?

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921 – 2004) built his comic persona on the phrase “I don’t get no respect!” Many self-published authors have the same problem but don’t make nearly as much money as Rodney did.

The requirements for acceptance by a self-publishing company (often derisively labeled a "vanity press") are not writing talent and an interesting subject. Usually, all you’ll need are blood pressure and a credit card. Except for books that appear to be obscene or libelous, a self-publishing company will probably publish anything.

Some of these companies will automatically send an author a letter of praise for a submitted manuscript even without reading the submission.

  • There have been experiments where intentionally horrible manuscripts were said to have high sales potential.
  • A book allegedly written by a dog was accepted.
Literary agents—who often function as gatekeepers on the road to traditional publishers—typically reject 99% of the book proposals and manuscripts they receive. Self-publishing companies, since they make most of their money by selling services and promotional trinkets to writers rather than by selling books to readers, probably accept 99% (or even 100%) of their submitted manuscripts.

The lack of selectivity is a major cause of self-publishing’s bad reputation. Even though traditional publishers make many bad guesses (they frequently reject books that become successful with other publishers and accept books that quickly become failures), their selectivity and financial commitment do provide a powerful endorsement for the writers and books they choose to accept.

Some publishers will produce books with little or no literary merit to cash in on a celebrity author or subject. A starlet’s name can sell tons of diet books. I Taught Kim Kardashian how to Kook Kale or I Was Lindsay Lohan’s Proctologist would likely be a bestseller.

Some books will never be acceptable to mainstream publishers merely because of limited appeal, regardless of their literary merit. A company that wants to sell tens of thousands of copies of each title will not be interested in a relative's biography or a family history, unless it’s a very famous family like Trump, Obama or Kennedy.

While the book publishing business is going through some radical changes, there is still some prejudice against self-published books. To rise above the prejudice, it is vital that your book be as good as it possibly can be. If you care about the reaction of the public and book reviewers, you must have a professional editor and cover designer.

  • If you are writing just for fun—or just for family—you can skip the experts.
  • The low potential profit from inexpensive ebooks leaves little or no budget for professional help, so do your very best.
Read the next paragraph at least twice:
If you are not knowledgeable and attentive to details, you may end up with an ugly, error-ridden book which will embarrass you and that few people will review or buy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Get qualified help. Beware of bargains and “free” services. In publishing—as with most things—you get what you pay for.

Who cares who published your book?
Zoe Winters is an author and blogger. She says, “The average reader doesn’t care how a book gets to market. If the book is good, it doesn't matter if your Chihuahua published it.” Author/blogger S.G. Royle wrote, “People don't buy books from publishers. They buy them from authors.” Edward Uhlan founded Exposition Press—an early and important pay-to-publish company—in 1936. He said, “Most people can’t tell the difference between a vanity book and a trade book anyway. A book is a book.”

On the other hand, many booksellers and book reviewers can tell the difference and do care—and may reject a book solely because of its publishing company. If you hope for respect, profit and decent books, DO NOT do business with Xlibris (or other Author Solutions brands) or Outskirts Press.

America Star Books, formerly PublishAmerica, was probably the worst of the worst. It has apparently closed, but may resurface with a new name. 

From my How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company.

[Kardashian photo from Thanks]

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Don't be discouraged if gatekeepers say "no"—but don't self-publish lousy books

Many writers turn to self-publishing companies or independent self-publishing or even stop writing after being rejected by literary agents or traditional publishers.

(Some writers—like me—have not been rejected but prefer the control, speed and income of independent publishing.)

While rejection can be depressing and discouraging, the failure to be approved by the media gatekeepers is not necessarily an indication of bad writing or an uninteresting idea.
  • Books are rejected for many reasons (not only bad quality)
  • Books are usually accepted for one reason: because someone thinks they will make money.
Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and the endless stream of celebrities' addiction/abuse/confession/recipes/weight-loss books are not published in anticipation of glorifying the publisher by winning Pulitzer prizes. They are published in anticipation of making money.

Professional judgment is imperfect!

Many books that are rejected by one publisher—or by many publishers—are later accepted by another publisher.

Joanne Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected by TWELVE publishing companies. More than 400 million Potter books have been sold, and the Potter movies have been seen by many millions.

I wonder if any of the publishing executives who rejected that first book were fired for bad judgment.

Most books published by traditional publishing companies with highly paid experts having years of experience, do not sell well. After a few months failed p-books are doomed to be sold on the buck-a-book tables or recycled into the raw materials for more books.

My taste in books apparently puts me in the minority of book buyers. Often I eagerly buy a new book as soon as it is released. As expected, I love the book. Alas, few others care about the subject, and the book is soon available for almost nothing at Barnes & Noble or Dollar Tree.

This has become a running joke in my family, and my wife would strongly prefer that I wait a while and pay just one dollar instead of $25 for a p-book or $15 for an ebook. But I won't wait.
  • There may be many people like me who are waiting for what you are writing. Find a way to reach us.
If you can't get a contract from a publisher, self-publish... on paper, online or in ebooks. Don't be stopped. Don't be silenced. Don't skip professional editing and design. Don't publish crap. Readers are ready. Get to work.

(gate photo from

Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Design Tips, including why a backward flag might be correct

Sometimes a flag is supposed to be “backwards.”

When the American flag is on the right side of an airplane (including Air Force One) or on the right sleeve of a uniform, the stars go on the right. This mimics the way the flag would fly in the breeze from a mast on a moving ship or when carried into battle.

A few years ago an irate reader of the New York Daily News complained about an allegedly reversed photo of a uniform-wearer. The ignorant letters editor did not know the proper response.

In designing books, ads, websites, packages and other graphic projects, it's common to do a left-right "flip" to make a picture or layout look better. Unfortunately, it is also common for photos to get accidentally flipped, and sometimes no one notices the flopped flip until publication—when it's too late. I often notice, so watch out!

If you flip a photo, watch out for a text reversal in such things as name tags, keyboards, initial jewelry, clocks, wristwatches or signs or license plates in the background. Watch for reversed flags or logos. Make sure wedding rings are on the correct hand (usually the left in the U. S.)

Some products, even if made by hundreds of different manufacturers, have standard formats. Don’t reverse a telephone and end up with the handset on the right side instead of on the left, as shown above.

On old televisions, knobs were almost always on the right.

Be careful if you flip a photo of a car or a truck. Remember which side the steering wheel is supposed to be on.

(above) It’s important not to have a person or a vehicle looking or traveling “off the page.” It’s natural for the reader to follow the eyes of the person (or the headlights of the car), so don’t direct a reader’s eyes away from the page. If you are using stock photos or clip art, you can easily flip the photo to keep the readers’ eyes focused inward. Be careful of the effects on your flipping if you change pages from recto (right) to verso (left).

If you use a photo of a well-known person where the flipping would be noticeable (such as moving a pimple, wart, pierced eyelid, missing tooth, eye patch, tattoo or nose ring from the left to the right), rearrange the page so the eyes lead into some text instead of off the page. 

I really wish that Cindy Crawford and Barack Obama would get rid of their zits. They are not "beauty marks."

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Authors, are you feeling listless? What about front list, back list, spring list, black list, no list?

Traditional publishers plan long in advance for books to become available at specific times. There's generally a “fall list” and “spring list” (or maybe a “fall/winter” and “spring/summer” list) of new books. Books may also debut for the winter holiday season, summer vacation, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Election Day, etc.

Although I have not been able to find any, I assume that at one time publishers’ book lists were simple one-page price lists that salesmen used when selling to bookstores. Now many “lists” are thick color catalogs, website pages or PDF downloads.

In addition to the seasonal lists, books are listed (i.e., classified) according to importance.

  • A “front list” book is new, expected to sell well and receives a lot of promotional effort. 
  • A “back list” book was probably published years ago. Sales are not so dismal that the book goes out-of-print, but it receives little or no promotional effort.
  • A “midlist” book, as you might assume, is between front and back. Most books are midlist. Midlist and backlist books are important in publishing because they bring in money year after year with little or no effort or expense. Some writers are referred to as “midlist authors.”
The front, mid and back designations relate to the position of a book in a publisher’s catalog—or state of mind. Being on the backlist is not necessarily an insult. Simon & Schuster’s backlisters include Pulitzer-Prize-winner David McCullough and Nobel-Prize-winner Ernest Hemingway.

A black list, on the other hand, is a list of things or people to avoid. Try not to be on one of those.

(From my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice

Monday, October 1, 2018

Size DOES matter: think beyond 6 x 9 book pages

The most common size for "trade" paperback books is 6 inches wide by 9 inches high. It's the size I've used for dozens of books.

It's not the only size available.

Many "mass market" paperbacks have smaller 5 x 8 pages.

Some "gift" books and photo books are 8 x 8.

I own a book about sports cars that measures about 30 x 40. If I added legs, it could be a desk or table.

Some reference books, including a famous copy of the U.S. Constitution, are small enough to fit into a pocket.

If your book is only text or mostly text, the size doesn't make much difference—as long as the combination of page size, typeface, type size, and margins provides an attractive and readable book.

However, if you are going to include photographs, illustrations or charts, bigger is usually better.

I had a rude awakening when I bought The Step-By-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit! by Christy Pinheiro and Nick Russell.

The book is aimed at writers who want to use Amazon's CreateSpace publishing service 
(now being absoirbed into KDP). The book is good-looking, well-written, accurate and useful.

But what most attracted me
and made me jealousis its 7 x 10 page size. That size is an inch bigger than my books in each direction, and provides 16 more square inches of page size.

The big pages have room for lots of "air" (white space) which makes the pages very appealing and accessible, and provide lots of room for computer screen shots and charts.

The popular "Complete Idiot's" and "For Dummies" books are about 7.2 by 9 inches.

If I was not such a complete idiot and a dummy, I might have used bigger pages in a couple of my books.

If you're still in the planning stage of a publishing project, consider going beyond 6 by 9. Keep in mind, however, that if you have bigger pages, you'll probably have fewer pages. When people read a book's description they are more likely to notice the page count than the page size, and a book with only 96 pages may seem skimpy.

Another thing to consider: page size may not affect what you pay for printing. A book with pages up to about 7.5 x 9.7 inches may not cost any more than a 5 x 8 book, and since you can get more on each bigger page, with fewer pages you'll pay less to print each book. You can charge less, or make more, or both.

On the other hand, a book with bigger pages won't fit into the convenient and free 9.25 x 6.25 x 2 Priority Mail "large video box" that can be mailed for as little as $5.05.

My newest book, What's Wrong With Trump, was originally planned to have 150-200 pages in the standard 6 x 9 size. I found so much to say that the book required 316 huge 7 x 10 pages.

Size isn't everything, but it's important. Think about it carefully.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Authors: launch your book with a book launch party

A book launch party can generate interest and publicity for a book. Invite friends, neighbors, business associates, politicians and reporters.

It can be at your home, a restaurant, a hotel, a club, a bookstore or a library. Serve refreshments, make a brief speech and read part of the book. Answer questions. To start the dialog, arrange for a couple of friends to ask questions.

Some authors sell books at launches. I think it’s tacky to make friends feel obligated to spend money. A few years ago, a neigh­bor gave a book launch party. My wife felt obligated to support her and spent $25 to buy a book that neither of us would ever read. It went to Goodwill.
  • Give books away if you can afford to. They’ll probably cost you only a few bucks each and will help create buzz.
  • If you can't afford to give away a lot of books, have a raffle for about three books (either with free tickets or tickets sold to benefit a charity).
  • You may get extra publicity (and sales) if you tie your launch to a holiday or the start of season, or have it honor someone or raise money for a charity.
  • You can produce inexpensive abridged samples of your book to give away.
  • Maybe provide coupons for free downloads of an ebook.
  • You can even give away imperfect proofs that are readable, but not saleable.
  • Be sure to give out bookmarks or business cards, too. I get my cards from VistaPrint. (Always have some cards with you. You never know when you'll encounter a potential customer.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Authors: don't make stupid mistakes when you should be impressing readers

Errors in online text are the electronic equivalent of a piece of lettuce stuck between two front teeth, an open zipper, upside-down wristwatch, or toilet paper trailing from your ass. They are evidence of carelessness that distracts people from your message. Textual errors are especially bad for authors who want to sell their words.

On an online forum for writers, editors and publishers, someone was trying to attract attention to a new book and get advice for promoting it. He wrote, "My first novel . . . will soon be relaesed
to Amazon, B&N and e-books."

That typing error is not a big deal, but it stands out like a sore thumb and could have been easily fixed before the world saw it. Also, a novel is not released "to" e-books.

Sadly, these errors are part of a pattern of carelessness limiting the effectiveness of this new novelist who is trying to sell books in a very crowded field.
  • Some of the errors in one short blog post include "bias" instead of "biased," "wonderous" instead of "wondrous," "existance" instead of "existence," "Capitalism" instead of "capitalism," "was" instead of "were," "socio-economic" instead of "socioeconomic" and "hell bent" instead of "hell-bent."
  • In just a few paragraphs of his online book sample, he wrote "marines" instead of "Marines," "cake walk" instead of "cakewalk," "whaopping" instead of "whopping," "coffee-table" instead of "coffee table," "main-room" instead of "main room," "oak, dining table" instead of "oak dining table" and "table-lamp" instead of "table lamp." There is also improper punctuation.
The author is a good storyteller, but he's a careless author. Based on the online sample, the book—like the cast of Saturday Night Live—was "not ready for prime time."

Every word an author writes is part of an audition. An author is never "off-duty." No author (and no non-author) is perfect, but perfection must be your goal. Bad spelling, improper grammar, missing punctuation or wrong choice of words are intolerable in books and everywhere else. NEVER rush through a sentence or paragraph and excuse your errors by saying "it's only a blog post," "it's only a tweet," or "it's only a comment on Facebook."

image from Thanks.

Monday, September 24, 2018

What if Stormy Daniels refuses to write a blurb for your book? Also, beware of blurb whores and blurb swappers.

Every author dreams of having cover blurbs (endorsements) from famous people who'll say nice things which may entice other people to buy books.

Often, especially for a new author with a new book, it's just not possible to get the attention of a celebrity or expert who will add authority to yours.

That doesn't mean your book has to be blurbless.

There's nothing wrong with asking for and using blurbs from friends and family if what they say will be appropriate to your book. Later on, if the President, Stormy Daniels or Oprah Whinfrey falls in love with your words, you can revise the cover to incorporate the new comments.

The first book from my tiny publishing company, Silver Sands Books, was I Only Flunk My Brightest Students: stories from school and real life (2008). It deals with my life. It made perfect sense to use blurbs from people who know me, rather than some distant Nobel Prize winner or bestselling novelist or historian.

The book is funny.

Identifying Howard Krosnick, the source of my front cover blurb, as "author's classmate since first grade" is almost a parody of the traditional stuffy IDs ("professor of Indo-Eurasion folk medicine at the University of Guatemala), and reinforces the mood of the book. Howie said, "I couldn't stop reading. I couldn't stop laughing." Blurbs don't get better than that.

Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) is an updated replacement for the 'flunk' book. It has a fantastic cover blurb which says, "This book is so funny that I nearly peed in my pants. My girlfriend didn't think it was funny, so I got a new girlfriend."

The blurber, Nicholas Santiago, is someone I know through business. His words are sufficient. I see no need to explain who he is, and I doubt that Lindsay Lohan, Ivanka Trump, Paris Hilton or Perez Hilton  could have written a better recommendation. I received "five stars" and some nice words from the Midwest Book Review—but those words are not as funny as Nick's words.

Most blurbs I've seen are written by authors, and many of them are not well-known authors. Apparently "Author A" thinks she or he will gain some useful publicity by having a quote printed on the cover of a book written by "Author B."

(above) Barbara Barth wrote a wonderful book, The Unfaithful Widow: Fragmented Memoirs Of My First Year Alone. The back cover shows great reviews from authors Philip Nutman and Patrice Dickey. I never heard of them. The reviews on Amazon from 'ordinary' readers may be more persuasive. 
  • Try to avoid obvious blurb swaps (“I’ll kiss your ass if you kiss mine.”) Tit-for-tat is tacky.  
  • Some authors are apparently so desperate for publicity that they become 'blurb whores.' I know of one author whose name seems to be on many more book covers as a blurber than an author. When someone writes a huge number of blurbs—particularly for books in the same field—the blurbs (and the blurber) lose credibility. 
  • Avoid blurbs (and reviews) from people who are connected with your book. I know of one book that carries a blurb from an employee of its publisher, and another with an Amazon review from the book's editor. 
There's nothing wrong with your acting as a writing coach for your blurbers. You can even write a complete blurb and ask someone to "adopt" it.

If you’ve written a how-to book, the best blurbs will come from people who have actually been helped by it.

A good way to find “amateur” blurbers who might write sincere comments about actually benefiting from your book is to observe online communities that are concerned with your subject. If you find articulate people with problems your book solves, offer to send them free advance copies (even PDFs or word-processing files if bound copies are not yet available or if you will not be publishing on paper) in exchange for their comments. You can say that you’d like to know if the book was helpful and how it can be improved. Mention that you might like to quote their comments, but don’t guarantee it.

James & Geoff. Which one did I sit next to on a plane?

Don’t be too timid to approach famous authors, politicians, business leaders and celebrities, especially if you have something in common which can create a bond. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Write a good letter and explain how you think the book relates to the prospective blurber. Find a reason to compliment the candidate. If possible, refer to a time when you were in the same place, perhaps during a speech or a book signing or on an airplane. (I once sat next to James Earl Jones. Hmm. Actually, it may have been Geoffrey Holder.)

Short blurbs are usually better than long blurbs. Humorous blurbs (if appropriate) are often better than serious blurbs.

Request blurbs as long in advance as possible—as soon as you have a draft of your book that is good enough to show. The book does not have to be complete. You can probably get by with an introduction, a table of contents, and a few chapters sent as a PDF. If you want a blurb from someone famous, it’s probably better to send an ARC (advance reading [or "review"] copy) than a PDF.

Incorporate good “early” blurbs into your back cover and first page as soon as possible. If other blurbers read them, they may be more likely to write similarly positive comments.

Mike Duran discusses blurb etiquette.

The Stormy Daniels photo came from NBC News. Thanks.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Authors: Whistle while you work—or have a device that whistles, hums or sings to you

Music can make life—even work—more pleasant.

I had thought that "Whistle While You Work" came from the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South, but it was actually part of the 1937 animated Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The song shows Snow White and a bunch of cute animals happily whistling while cleaning house.

This song even generated an anti-Nazi parody:

Whistle while you work.
Hitler was a jerk.
Mussolini kicked him in the peenie.
Now it doesn't work.

Snow White is the source of another popular work song. "Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go" is sung by the seven dwarfs.

When I was a kid, we sang this parody:

Hi-ho, hi-ho
It's off to school I go.
I heard the bell
And ran like hell.
Hi-ho, hi-ho.

In 1957, The Bridge on the River Kwai, showed Allied POWs whistling the "Colonel Bogey March" to maintain morale and dignity while building a bridge for their Japanese captors under horrid conditions. That song was written in 1914, but it, too, was the source of an anti-Nazi parody in the Second World War.

Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels [mispronounced "go-balls"] has no balls at all

Slaves may have sung since ancient times to mitigate their misery. In the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles, Lyle (played by Burton Gilliam) taunted the mostly black railroad workers: "When you was slaves, you sang like birds. Come on! Let's hear a good, old nigger work song!"

Around 1980, I was writing about 20 hours a day to complete a book with a very tight deadline. I discovered an NPR radio show hosted by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes. Ed played great jazz after midnight, and the music kept me awake enough to keep writing.

Although I enjoy many kinds of music, and my home is filled with radios, plus recordings and the equipment to play them, I somehow got out of the habit of playing music while I write. I recently rearranged my home office, and rediscovered the great Tivoli radio that had been on my desk for over a decade. While I'm in the car, I love talk radio, but when I'm writing I find that voiceless music is less distracting, very comforting, and sometimes even stimulating.

So, turn on some music—or whistle while you work. It was good for Snow White and the prisoners.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I shouldn't need a mortgage to buy a book (updated from 2015)

I love words. I love etymology. I love learning about languages. I love English. This book seems to be written for me.

The description on Amazon says: "This outstanding book is for everyone interested in English etymology and in loanwords more generally. It will appeal to a wide general public." [emphasis added]

The description doesn't indicate that the book contains hundreds of beautiful color pictures printed on expensive glossy paper. It apparently has lots of words about words.

I'd love to own this book—but various versions of the book are priced from $33.78 to $64.99. I don't have $64.99 worth of love. The book is priced for libraries, not the "general public." The $42.24 DISCOUNTED! Kindle edition is absurdly overpriced.

The publisher is arrogant, ignorant and short-sighted. Maybe in a few months I'll find the book in a dollar store.

I've previously complained about what I call ego-driven book pricing, but the other books I mentioned were not books I cared about. This complaint is about a book I do care about. This complaint is PERSONAL. I feel deprived, and I am pissed off.
  • When pricing a book, remember that if the book is priced too high, especially if it's much higher than competitive books, or if it seems to offer poor value, few people will buy it.
  • If your book contains some vital new discovery needed for business or government, you can charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
  • If your book provides entertainment for the general public (and especially if you are an unknown author with well-known competitors), keep the price below $25 for the hardcover pbook, under $15 for the paperback and under $10 for the ebook.
UPDATE: The book is now available for less than $11. Did he publisher read my previous complaint?

Monday, September 17, 2018

What goes between the pages of your book? (updated from 2009)

The main parts of a pbook (printed book) book are the spine, front cover, front matter, body (or body matter), back matter and back cover. There’s no anti-matter unless you’re writing sci-fi. Ebooks have images of front covers (and sometimes even back covers).

The front matter may seem utilitarian and as boring as a real estate lease, but it can be very important. Potential buyers, both in bookstores and online, often read or skim these pages as part of a buying decision, so pay careful attention to them. They should be written as well as your main text, and should help to sell the book.

What follows is a typical sequence for front matter. Sometimes pages and sections are skipped, or sections are combined or switched around.


Pages in the front matter traditionally have no page numbers printed on them, or have Roman Numerals. Since I publish my own books, I make my own rules, and I like numbers on almost every page and I avoid Roman Numerals. When you publish your book, do what you prefer—but prepare to be criticized if you vary from tradition.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of the growing importance of online sales, there is a trend to move some items that traditionally were in the front matter into the back matter, or to eliminate some items entirely. This way, people who are glancing through your online sample quickly get into the "meat" of the book and are not delayed by uninteresting pages.

The half title (or bastard title) page is the first right-hand (“recto”) page and has nothing other than the title of the book. Half titles are often added to create an additional page with something on it as opposed to a blank page. The half title page is not necessary, is somewhat archaic, and its use seems to be declining, particularly in less formal books. It’s a pompous waste of paper. Why the heck should anyone have to read your title THREE TIMES (four if you count the spine) before starting to read the book? If you have a half title page, the back of it (the first left-hand or “verso” page) is usually blank.

Sometimes the first recto page will have comments from readers or reviewers to help sell the book. Some books have several pages of comments. I think one is enough. Three pages of glowing and gushing endorsements may help to make a sale if someone is browsing in a physical store or online, but they are wasted on a reader who has bought the book wants to skip the “commercials” and start reading. One page may help reassure customers that they made a good choice, but don’t waste any more trees or electrons.

Sometimes the first verso page will have a list of the author’s other books, blogs, etc. I put this up-front in my early books, but the list has grown and is in the back matter of my recent books.

The title page may be the second recto page if you have a half title before it, or it may be the first recto page. It may even be farther back if you have a comments page. It has the title, subtitle, author’s name and publisher’s name. It may also have names of other people involved in the production of the book, such as a co-author, editor or illustrator. The address of the publisher can go on this page or the next page.

The back of the title page is usually called the copyright page. It has the copyright notice, the ISBN to identify your book, Library of Congress catalog information (if any), and the printing history or revision or version. It may also contain disclaimers or legal notices, and contact information. Tip: If your book is published after September, use a copyright date for the next year. This way your book will always seem to be one year fresher as it ages.

The next recto page is often a dedication, where you get to thank or kiss the butts of some important people in your life, whether or not they were involved in making the book possible. I often push this page a bit farther back, after the table of contents, because it’s usually less interesting to potential purchasers. Traditionally the page will not say “dedicated to,” but just “to” or “for.” Don’t forget to thank your parents.

The table of contents can be an important sales medium, so make it complete, clear, informative and well-written. If chapter titles don’t explain what the chapters are about, put in some explanation. For a fiction book, you can skip the table of contents, unless the book is a collection of short stories. The sequence of chapters and the numbers of their starting pages will frequently change as the book evolves, so make sure the final version is accurate. I once left two chapters out of a table.

Note: most ebook formats are "flowable" and the books have no fixed page numbers, just a sequence of chapters.

It’s frequently recommended that you call the table simply “contents” and leave out “table of.” However, James Felici, author of The Complete Manual of Typography, one of the best-looking and most informative books about the publishing business, has a full-fledged “Table of Contents.” I would never criticize him, and if you put out a book as good as his, I won’t criticize your table of contents either, no matter what you decide to call it. James came up with a nice innovation that you may want to emulate. Ahead of his complete ten-page table of contents he has a one-page “contents at a glance” to make it easier to find the major sections. If you have a large complex book, try it.

If you have charts, tables or illustrations, you can put a list of them and their pages after the table of contents. If you don’t think people will be impressed by the list, or will look for specific items, it’s probably a waste of space. As with the table of contents, make sure the page numbers (if any) are accurate.

The foreword (not “forward”) is an introduction, but it’s not written by the author. It’s often written by someone who knows the author, or—even better—by someone famous. If the writer of the foreword is famous enough to possibly increase sales, the name can go on the book’s cover and title page. The foreword generally includes a reference to some interaction between the foreworder and the author (“The first time I met Pete I was arresting him for smoking crack. I had no idea he’d become a brilliant business consultant.”) The foreword should explain why the book is important, innovative, well-written and tastes good.

Unlike the foreword, the preface (pronounced “preffis”) is written by the author. It’s an introduction to the book (but some books contain both a preface and an introduction). This is your first opportunity to talk to your readers. You can say a bit about yourself, why you wrote the book, what you went through to write it, and what you hope it will accomplish. The preface is usually signed by the author (in type) and the date it was completed and the city (but not the state) where it was written. The date and city seem a bit fuddy-duddyish to me so I don’t include them.

Sometimes the preface is followed by an introduction if the book needs a more formal explanation of what comes ahead.

The acknowledgment (or “acknowledgement”) is the section where you thank the people who helped you to research, write and complete the book. You can just have a list of names, but it’s more common to have at least a sentence to explain what each person did. I sometimes combine the dedication, thank you and acknowledgement into one section. I've even thanked the people who buy my books. This is a good place to flatter your seventh-grade English teacher if she was not listed earlier on the dedication page—especially if you think she’ll show off the book and help to sell more copies.

The prologue goes only into a fiction book. It usually introduces a character, or provides a "back story" that’s important for understanding the book. Prologues are a bit old-fashioned, and often what is put into a prologue could function as your first chapter.

Now, at last, the front matter is finished and you get to the part of the book that matters most—the body matter, or just “body.” It’s usually divided into chapters, but the chapters may be included within several sections or parts. The body typically takes up 90% or more of the book.

Next comes the back matter, usually starting with the epilogue in a serious literary work (not a book on motorcycle maintenance). It may relate the fates of characters after the end of the main story, tie up some loose ends, or even prepare readers for a sequel. The tone of writing is usually the same as the body of the book.

An alternative or additional way of wrapping up is an afterword. This is a section where the author addresses the readers, as in the foreword many pages previously.

An addendum seldom appears in a Print On Demand book or ebook. It’s a section where the author can provide additional material, explanations or corrections that couldn’t be in the body of the book because those pages were printed already. It may be an actual printed page bound into the book, or a separate piece of paper, a CD-ROM, or even an online file.

Endnotes are pretty much like footnotes, but they’re gathered together at the back of the book. Endnotes may be numbered to correspond to reference numbers in the text, or just refer to specific pages. They can offer information or explanations or cite the sources for statements in the text.

The glossary is an alphabetical listing of terms used in the book or related to the subject of the book, with definitions. Don’t bother to include common words.

The bibliography is a list of books and other reference sources consulted while writing the book. It may also suggest further reading, even if the recommended books were not consulted by the author.

The index is an alphabetical list of words and phrases used in the book, with the pages they are found on. Indexes can be constructed by a PC, or manually by the author or a professional indexer. If you make any changes that could cause words to shift from one page to another, you'll have to redo the index. Ebooks are usually searchable and don't need an index.

The term “colophon” comes from Latin and Greek words for “finishing,” and usually explains why the book looks the way it does. It may include a list of typefaces used, and indicate who designed and printed the book, and possibly some technical details of the printing. A colophon is not mandatory nor common, but I sometimes use one because it gives me a chance to sound off about bookmaking.

It’s common for a book to have a paragraph or even a page or two “about the author.” It should be written in the third person, even if you write it yourself. Make it interesting and entertaining, and convince potential readers why they should trust you and your book. Include your photo if it's not on the book's cover.

If you have graphic images in your book, you should have a list of photographs and drawings, with the names of the photographers and artists who produced them. Try to list them in the same sequence they appear in the book, but page numbers are optional.

Finally, after all of the printed pages, most paper-based books have one or more blank pages. Books are printed from large sheets of paper called “signatures” that are cut to provide different quantities of different size pages. It’s unusual for a book to be designed with a number of printed pages that perfectly matches the number of pages provided by the signatures. Consult with your printer to find out the possible number of pages you can have. By slightly stretching or cutting your book, you can minimize the blanks at the back. It looks really stupid—and wastes trees—if you have half a dozen blanks. Some printers, and vanity presses such as Infinity Publishing, even put blanks in the front of the front matter. That’s unforgivable. Ebooks seldom have blank pages.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to reserve the last verso page for a bar code, an identification number and “Printed in the USA” or another country.

(Illustration from Thanks.)