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back matter--last but not least!

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Can anyone share the names of some published titles that have great back matter, whatever that means to you? Even just ideas about some of the possible components would be helpful. What do you find most effective? What do you dislike? Teachers and librarians, what have you observed or found useful?

I am working on a science pb right now, but titles of biographies or any other pbs with noteworthy back matter would be helpful, too.

Thanks!
#1 - September 20, 2013, 09:59 AM
HIGH TIDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS (Charlesbridge, 2015)

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Lisa,

In science titles I normally see an index, glossary, short bibliography, a list for further reading or web exploration. You might include an author's note.

You could pull any titles by Melissa Stewart or Mary Kay Carson.

Good luck,

Kirsten Larson
#2 - September 21, 2013, 04:26 PM
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I love back matter, as do my kids, with all the interesting tidbits. You can have as little or as much as you need ...
Ex. Verla Kay's books have an author's note. I believe in Rough Tough Charley, she also had a timeline ...
Fiona Bayrock's Bubble Homes and Fish Farts is chock full of animal facts that are mentioned in the main text.
Many MG titles have historical notes, glossary, index, etc.
Kirsten gave a good overview of what is included ...

Vijaya
#3 - September 21, 2013, 05:49 PM
Little Thief! Max & Midnight, Bound, Ten Easter Eggs & 100+ bks/mags
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For nonfiction picture books, I usually include an author's note, bibliography (this includes websites as well as books), and an optional glossary only if there are technical words left undefined in the text.

The index is almost always complied by the publisher. At least that's true of the trade nonfiction I've published. If you have permissions, you might include those and/or acknowledgements.

I include acknowledgements if experts read the text for accuracy (which is almost always the case). Sometimes the experts' names aren't included until fairly late in the game because someone might be added at the last minute.

In THE SEVEN SEAS, back matter includes: What is a sea? A list of the largest oceans and seas, and Fun Facts about Seas and Oceans.

In some animal books, there's a list of the range of each animal mentioned in the book.

In my Teddy Roosevelt book, there's information about journal keeping and ideas to inspire children to write.

Actually, I like compiling back matter.
#4 - September 21, 2013, 06:01 PM
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 06:17 PM by Betsy »
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Thanks Kirsten, Vijaya, and Betsy.

I think I’m having a hard time culling, and also I’m just looking for interesting ways to shape the pile of information I’m working with. But I agree, Betsy—it is, overall, an enjoyable process!

In this particular case, I will have a diagram, a simple timeline, plus about 800 words of additional information about my subject. Bibliography and websites will be on a separate page, so I don’t have to worry about fitting that in.

Part of my concern is that the back matter will be considerably longer than the main text (which is quite brief). Some people have suggested that that can be problematic. I don’t want to load the main text any further, but I could consider keeping the back matter more in line with it.

In part I was wondering if people have noticed things that are effective but not necessarily typical. Or if teachers and librarians have things they wish authors would do, or find particularly useful. For example, I have seen several books that include keywords to search, rather than actual websites. Seems like that gives you less control over where you direct the reader, but it might avoids those annoying broken links. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting idea.
#5 - September 25, 2013, 12:27 PM
HIGH TIDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS (Charlesbridge, 2015)

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You haven't mentioned if this book is under contract or not. If this is something you hope to sell, don't worry too much. Just label the back matter as "optional" so the editors know you're willing to modify it according to their needs. And mention it again in your cover letter.

The back matter in my pb THE SEVEN SEAS is much longer than the text, and it hasn't been a problem. A couple of reviewers have singled it out as a special feature, in a good way.

But don't go too far overboard. If your main format isn't electronic, don't opt for the keyword feature--or, rather, let your editor suggest it.

If the back matter is three times as long as the text, that's probably not the best. But a few charts and extras is probably a good thing, considering the new standards for science books.
#6 - September 25, 2013, 12:36 PM
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Yes, the book is under contract (my first!).

I'm glad to hear that you've had a good experience with THE SEVEN SEAS. I've seen lots of books with back matter that is longer than the main text, and as long as the back matter isn't NECESSARY to understand the main text, it seems okay to me. Given that my main text is around 500 words or so, it sounds like 800 words for the back matter is fine. I think I'll put that particular worry to rest!

You mentioned the new standards, Betsy. I have nothing but good things to say about my editor, and I'm intrigued by the fact that she has not said a word about Common Core. I'm relieved that I have a lot of freedom, and that I'm not being asked to cater to the standards. At the same time, I wonder if I should at least give them a nod.



#7 - September 25, 2013, 08:10 PM
HIGH TIDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS (Charlesbridge, 2015)

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I'm not sure that most editors (or teachers) understand the Common Core standards yet.

I'd think that 800 words for the back matter would be fine.

Good luck!
#8 - September 25, 2013, 11:23 PM
www.ellenjackson.net
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TOOLING AROUND

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Lisa -- you may be finished with your book by now, but I'm bumping this topic up for others. Rosen's nonfiction books typically have back matter. I can't recall specific titles, but in the children's section of our library I just strolled down the stacks looking for ROSEN on the spine and found several. Also, something I've done in past books (and articles) is to put a few key information bits in little sidebar boxes. This works great when you have a piece of information or a factoid that ties in with what's on the page, but doesn't fit smoothly into the text.
#9 - December 30, 2013, 08:59 AM
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Thanks for bumping this up Bobi Martin.  I've been scrolling the boards for information on back matter and word count.  I was concerned because my ms is just under 800 words and that doesn't include the back matter. 

My question is:  I am writing a non-fiction picture book about a rare mammal and the story it is interspersed with actual facts about said mammal.  Since it is non-fiction would the word count still be okay.
#10 - January 14, 2014, 09:02 AM

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Should be, but I think it wouldn't hurt to check with your editor for the final say.
You may be rushing towards a looming deadline but, when you get time, I think it's always good to check out some children's non fiction books from your local library and study them for word count, back matter, etc. Recent books that you like are the go.
Best wishes!
#11 - January 14, 2014, 01:15 PM
Odd Bods: The World's Unusual Animals - Millbrook Press 2021
Tiny Possum and the Migrating Moths - CSIRO Pub. Nov. 2021

www.juliemurphybooks.com

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Thanks, Bobi. I'll see if I can find some Rosen books at our library. I'm not finished with this particular book I'm working on yet. Moving along, but not quite there!

Laura, in my (very limited) experience, the back matter changed a lot in terms of both depth and word count once I started working with the editor. I never expected it to get as long as it is now! Seems like there's a lot of variation out there, so maybe do what seems best to you at this point and be prepared for things to shift or develop once your ms finds a home.
#12 - January 16, 2014, 08:30 PM
HIGH TIDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS (Charlesbridge, 2015)

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You're welcome Laura and Lisa. With the new CC standards, I'm seeing more books with back matter. Glossaries, related reading suggestions and trivia or interesting facts related to the book's topic seem to be the most common.
#13 - January 16, 2014, 08:37 PM
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