E-book Adventures: Front Matter

I'll post on the e-book conversion process as I go along. Hopefully some of this information will be helpful to others out there.

If I learned one thing from publishing a print book, it was "act now, research later" isn't necessarily the best way to go about things. I'm naturally a doer, one of those people who rushes into things with 100% enthusiasm, often times without pausing to take a breath and do the necessary research. So as I delve into this e-book process, I promised myself I would slow down (even though I want to go-go-go!) and do my research.

The first thing I delved into was front matter. For those of you who don't know what front matter is, it's all the stuff that's printed in a book BEFORE the story starts. Such as: title page, copyright page, dedication, preface, etc. I wanted to know the the proper way to format the front matter of an e-book.

The best place to go when you have a formatting question about books is the Chicago Manual of Style. I own the 15th edition (though I'm a little annoyed to see they just came out of the 16th edition -- guess I'll have to plunk down another $40 when I just bought the 15th edition about a year ago). Here's what CMS 15 has to say about e-book formatting: "...Although there is no "right way" to organize an electronic book, its organization must be logical; when in doubt, make an analogy to print." (Section 1.118.)

Next, I jumped onto my friend's Kindle and started browsing. As there is apparently no "right way" to format an e-book, I found all sorts of variations. But among all the variety, I did find a pattern emerging. Here's what I found to be the most common arrangement of e-books:

1) Cover Image and/or Title Page

2) Table of Contents (complete with hyperlinks to all other sections of the book, including the cover and title page)

3) The Actual Book

4) All Other Stuff (Author Bio, Copyright, Dedication, Reviews, etc. -- much of which makes up the "front matter" of traditional print books)

According to Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer, there's a good reason to put much of the traditional front matter at the back of an e-book: Amazon Kindle users can download the first 10% of any book for free; it makes sense to get to the story right away (after all, stories, not copyright pages, sell books).

Whatever you decide, the one thing I do recommend is a Table of Contents. In my opinion, it made navigating the e-book much easier. It also provides a quick of overview of book's content without taking up too much space.

This will be the format I use on my e-books. I'd be interested to know what other formats those of you out there are using, and why.