We all want our books to stand out, and we all go about it in a different way.
Some spend hundreds of dollars on a cover. Some spend hundreds of dollars on a developmental edit to make their story and characters the best they can be. Some authors do fancy formatting.
Some authors do all of that.
Some authors do all of that and invest hundreds, even thousands, in ads.
Experts in book marketing would say you need to do it all to help with discoverability.
Readers may say to make them happy, all that would be a given.
And I’m not disputing any of that.
What I’m talking about are the extras.
Some traditionally published books have them already.
Say you have a baker for a main character. Some authors will add their own baking recipes to the back matter of the book along with a short explanation of the family history behind it, or a funny story.
Maps are always popular–especially if you’re world-building like in Game of Thrones. I know that I looked over the family trees a lot when I was reading them to remember who everyone was, and who the members of the families were.
In some contemporary romances, I’ve seen maps of towns where a series takes place.
I’ve never tried a recipe I’ve found in the back of a book, but I could see the appeal of adding a few. You could encourage book clubs to have a baking/cooking night along with their book discussion. Hey, even suggest what kind of wine would make a good accompaniment.
Some writers will add discussion questions. I’ve seen this a lot in traditionally published books, even in “lighter” books where I didn’t think a discussion was necessary. I wanted to add discussion questions to All of Nothing, but I forgot. They may have been a nice addition to The Years Between Us, too, but again, being excited I was finished with the book, I forgot to write them and add them into the back matter.
Something I have seen added to books are playlists consisting of the songs authors listened to while writing the book. I found in one “look inside” of a Kindle book, the author included the actual YouTube links to songs she wanted you to listen to get you in the mood to read the following scenes.
I caution against this for one, you need to make sure the music is free of copyright, and two, you never know how long those links will remain active. If the links are ever broken, will the author know? Or care? Will she edit the book to take them out or replace them? I don’t like to go back and go back fixing things. It’s always the next book for me. I wouldn’t want to keep an eye on my backlist like that. It’s bad enough keeping my own front and back matter up to date.
I’ve also seen back matter that included an interview or question and answer session between an unknown interviewer and the author. I think it was in the last Twilight book Stephenie Meyer answered questions. This could be an interesting addition to back matter as well.
In The Years Between Us, Zia held a showing at a gallery. I created an invitation for the showing in Canva and included it in the front matter of the book. It shows up black and white in the paperback and simple e-readers, but it will show in color on a tablet.
In this vein, I think I’ll make Marnie and James’s wedding invitation and include that like I did Zia’s gallery showing invitation.
One of my characters, Autumn Bennett, who will be my female MC in book four of my series, is a writer for the town’s newspaper. She writes for the Lifestyles section, but also blogs for their website. During the course of four books, she’ll blog about the wedding, and interview the bride, groom, and guests as human interest pieces. I’m thinking about creating those blog posts and offering them as bonus content in some way. That would be no-brainer newsletter content, but I don’t have one and I don’t want to start one right now. So I’ll be thinking how I want to share that content.
The real question that comes from all this, is . . . is it worth it? Playlists, poems written by your characters, invitations, motivational quotes, even pretty chapter headings–are they all worth it?
They may not be, money-wise. The more photos a Kindle file has, the more Amazon charges you to deliver the file to someone’s Kindle. Those pennies add up. (Hat tip to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for doing some quick math in Killing it on Kobo, as Kobo does not charge that delivery fee.)
Also, if the photo is a spectacular array of color, only a fraction of your readers will be able to see it in color.
Indies are constantly fighting for discoverability and adding bonus content like that hasn’t taken off quite yet. I think mainly because formatting extra content is so time-consuming–especially for a newbie author. And adding extra content would make it more expensive if you hire out formatting services.
I was lucky, and I formatted The Years Between Us with Vellum. The software inserted the invitation with no problem, especially in the paperback. I didn’t have to worry about gutters or margins. All I had to do was make sure the invitation was 300 dpi for printing, and I did that in GIMP.
Vellum even allowed me to add the pretty chapter starts to Summer Secrets that I tried to do the first time around. I was too new and lacked the experience to insert them using Word and CreateSpace.
I also carry that image onto the back of my paperback books, and I’m really proud of that, too.
But when it comes down to it, should you take the time to offer more content? Could that time be used to make another editing sweep, or start a new book?
Readers may appreciate the extras, but only if they enjoy the story.
The book’s recipes won’t matter if your baker’s story falls flat (pun intended) and your reader doesn’t make to the end to see them.
What readers want is a good story that pulls them in, and characters they’ll grow to care about.
As a side note, while I was typing out this blog post, I came up with another reason why indies don’t want to offer bonus content to the backs of their books.
Indies focus on a CTA, Call To Action. Indies want their readers to leave a review, or sign up for a newsletter, or buy the next book. Back matter is valuable real estate, and I don’t think most indies format their books with a lot of gunky back matter to get in the way of their important call to action.
And for what it’s worth, you need to be careful how much extra “stuff” you put back there. We don’t hear much about the bookstuffers anymore, those pesky indies who would load up a Kindle file with 5-10 books to make a crap-ton of money with the KU page reads. But even if we’re not hearing about it much right now, it’s still happening. They know it takes a while for people to catch on to their new pen names.
Anyway, I wouldn’t want you think that offering bonus content was a fabulous idea and to get in trouble in any way for it. Offering a bonus novella in the back of your book, or offering the first half of a second book in a series, is too much. Put the novella for sale separately. Only add the first scene of the new book. It’s just a word of caution. Bonus content can be taken too far.
While adding character profiles and outlines of the book before it came to fruition can sound like a great idea, keep in mind that as the guidelines states, it should enrich the reader experience.
I think that’s sound advice, especially since the reader experience begins with the story.
If you can hook them with a fantastic story, then all that extra content will be exactly that . . .
And maybe they’ll leave a five star review, too. Who knows?