back matterThe End.

A great pair of words to write, huh? An even greater pair of words when  your readers reach them. If they stuck with your book right through to that point, then you succeeded in your goal of creating an engaging story. Pat yourself on the back.

But a book does not end with those two words. It might appear to, but it would be foolish not to take advantage of your reader’s commitment to your book. I’m talking about back matter — the most important tool for not only building your author platform, but boosting sales.

Significantly.

Meet B. Matter and N.B. Matter

Let’s use two hypothetical and originally named people as an example: B. Matter and N.B. Matter. First of all, give them a congratulations for publishing their books. Finished? Okay. I hope you had fun there.

So, you read N.B. Matter’s book and really enjoyed it? Great! Only, slight problem: N.B. Matter’s book ends with the acknowledgements. There are no options or embedded links to lead the reader towards his website. There are no mentions of where to be notified of new releases. N.B. Matter is hoping you’ll remember his book and Google his name every day on the off-chance that he’s put a new book out.

On the other hand, B. Matter (N.B. Matter’s wiser brother) has included a link to his website right at the end of the book. He’s got social media links, as well as a nice shiny mailing list sign-up option. On top of that, B. Matter put a short story out last year, so he’s got a sample of that in there — as well as purchase and review links. Enjoy B. Matter’s book? Then ‘like’ his Facebook page. You can then forget about him for a year whilst he works on his next book and announces it via Facebook as soon as it’s released.

Which of the pair do you think will sell the most copies of their follow-up release?

A book without back matter is a maze with no way out.

When a reader finishes your book, you want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in your back matter, leading them to your website and other purchase links. The back matter has two purposes:

1. To build your author platform

2. To help you sell more books

A book with back matter will pick up the occasional ‘like’ or two. It’ll even sell a few more books via the purchase links. More importantly though, it’ll help you sell loads more copies of your follow-up book simply because you’ve found a way (or a few ways) to remind readers of your existence.

Newsflash: people read a lot of books, more so than ever before in this digital age. Do you really think someone will enjoy your book so much that your name will be imprinted on their brains a year from now? You’d certainly hope so, but things don’t work like that. They’ll forget about you. I forget the names of great authors all the time. And guess what? Most of those great authors don’t make adequate use of their back matter. They don’t lead me towards their new release mailing list. They don’t tell me where to drop by at their blog or send them my praise via Twitter.

They write ‘The End’ and they really mean it.

What should back matter include?

Because I’m not a complete arsehole and actually want to help fellow authors, here’s a list of pretty much everything you need in the back matter of your book. Remember: back matter is an advertising space. The key to all good advertising is dressing it up so it doesn’t even feel like advertising. Be chatty. Stay in voice. Hell — stay in character if you want. Meta-back matter. Wow, that’s got quite a ring to it.

Most importantly, give your readers a choice.

1. A mailing list

David Gaughran loves them. Joanna Penn loves them. Edward Robertson loves them. See a pattern forming here?

Having a mailing list is the best way to let readers who enjoyed your book know about new releases. Grabbing someone’s email address is worth five sales in itself — it’s a form of contact that you have forever. That does sound a little sinister, I know. I’m not condoning spam, or anything like that.

It’s just a nice friendly way of reminding that person when you put something new out.

I rarely use my mailing list to send emails. In fact, I only use it to share info of new releases or promotions that I think my most loyal subscribers deserve to know about before anyone else. A few emails per year is enough. Nobody has a problem with an email every once in a while. Send an email every few days though, and you’ll likely irritate your readers.

You want every single damn email you send to be an event. Sure, I have a separate mailing list for my blog subscribers, but that’s the choice of those subscribers. It’s not something I moderate — it’s automated, and I make that pretty clear in the description. I keep the two separate because I generally blog for writers and write for readers (hence the website slogan). Some authors prefer to combine the two. I don’t, but that’s just a taste thing.

Head over to Mailchimp and set up your mailing list. It’s free, and it’ll sell you more books in the future. Simple as that.

2. Links to other releases

I always include purchase links to my other releases in the back matter of my books. A brief description of the release followed by, ‘You can purchase X below…’ is absolutely all you need. You might never sell any copies of your other books this way, but why not just throw it in there anyway? It’s better than simply ending your book or, even worse, expecting your readers to remember to check you out later.

Give your readers somewhere to go. We live in a digital age where ease of access is valued above anything: make use of that.

3. Website and social media links

Social media links are becoming the new mailing lists. Yes, I know I just sang the praises of the mailing list, but sometimes filling in forms and signing up to have stuff dumped in your inbox is just too much hassle.

‘Follow on Twitter’ and ‘Like on Facebook’, on the other hand, are simple ways of breaking the defences of your readers. People enjoy social media. They like to connect with authors, actors, and hashtag abusers. I’ve had a lot of success with putting ‘like’ buttons in the back matter of my eBooks. It’s a great accompaniment to the mailing list. It’s also a great chance to throw in ‘Subscribe by Email’ again, just to further convince/trick people into signing up.

And that’s about it. Three links are all you need to create successful back matter. It could be the difference between anonymity and visibility.

What can I guarantee? I like guaranteeing things. Okay: I guarantee that you’ll thank yourself for doing this now rather than two or three years down the line. A sad fact: every book sold without any of these links in the back matter is a book sold in a vacuum. It’s a book sold in a maze with no route out (I knew I had to revisit that metaphor at some stage). People might reach the end, but they’ll be stuck there, until they… get a helicopter out and move onto the, um, next maze.

Maybe mazes weren’t the best metaphor after all. Note to self — stay away from the mazes.

***

Just a little writing update because I don’t blog as regularly these days and like to keep you all in the loop: I’m still rewriting Killing Freedom at the moment, and reaching the conclusion of my UNTITLED CRIME NOVEL 1!!! first draft. Both books will be out in 2013. To be the first to be notified when the books are available, click here to sign up to my new release mailing list (see what I did there?).

Otherwise, all is well. I ate too many pancakes yesterday, and will be spending my Valentine’s Day with a horror movie or two and a beer or twenty-two. I hope you have a similarly romantic day.

Ryan

What do you include in your back matter? Are there any particularly interesting/original uses of back matter that you have encountered? When you finish a book, do you read the back matter? How likely are you to sign up to a mailing list?

Image courtesy of Simon Cocks via Flickr

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