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Formatting and Back Matter Questions

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Hi! I'm new to SBCWI and am working on a ~450-word rhyming picture book (fiction). I've read through several posts on the board about back matter, but still have a few questions:

1) My back matter section is ~500 words, which is longer than the story itself.  Is that going to be a huge turn-off to agents or publishers? Should I include the back matter in the word count of my query? (For that matter, should I even include the back matter in the submission at all, say that it is "available upon request," or wait to bring it up until I have an offer?)

2) I've seen advice to keep the back matter in the same tone as the story. However, this doesn't mean it should be in rhyme...right???  Overall, this means that my tone shifts to something far more straightforward, though obviously I'm still aiming for it to be engaging and fun.

3) Double-spacing: I see that double spacing is the standard formatting for queries. Does this hold true if you include the entire PB manuscript in the body of the email, rather than as an attachment? Since my story is in rhyming couplets, should I double space between every line, between couplets, or between longer sections (e.g. where I imagine page breaks could be)?
#1 - May 29, 2020, 02:56 PM

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Hi Callie,

1. Can you give some more context on what the back matter entails if the story is fiction? Does it talk about what the story is based on? Is it important to the story? If it is vital to the understanding of the story, I would put in my query that you also have "optional back matter of 500 words." If it is not essential, I'd leave it off the query.

2. No, your back matter shouldn't rhyme.

3. Don't worry too much about the formatting in the body of the email. Keeping the rhyming couplets together and then spacing between each couplet is fine.

Good luck!
#2 - May 29, 2020, 03:55 PM
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Thanks! That's super helpful!

My story is about the musicians of a symphony orchestra. The back matter consists of one short fact about each of the instruments of the orchestra.
#3 - May 29, 2020, 04:36 PM

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My book, My Australia, is a rhyming text  with expository non-rhyming back matter text. Most of the books I've read like this follow the same style. It's common for back matter word count to be higher than the manuscript text's count. Mine certainly is, and it does not put off publishers. In fact, my understanding is that it is commonly expected in picture books. If you can, get your hands on a few picture books with the style you are using and study them. You may find some to view in Amazon.com . You could start with Play Like an Animal by Maria Gianferrari. Best of luck with it.
#4 - May 29, 2020, 05:01 PM
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You've gotten good advice. Just want to add that you probably don't want to paste the complete ms into the email. You'll want it at the end, after your closing. (I realize that may have been what you meant, but just in case...)
 :goodluck
#5 - May 29, 2020, 05:23 PM
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In emails, it is okay not to double space. Instead use a blank line between paragraphs. Formatting often doesn't transmit well.  It's best to convert your document to plain text and then copy it into the email and fix any formatting issued that appear within the email. Try mailing it to a friend (or your own second address) first. What looks fine to you may render as gobbledygook in a different email program.

Good luck.
#6 - May 29, 2020, 09:05 PM
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Another example to look at it Let's Dance by Valerie Bolling, which just came out. The back matter has a two-line explanation about each kind of dance portrayed in the rhyming text.
#7 - May 30, 2020, 05:15 AM
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Just to chime in, my debut PB is rhyming, and though it's NF, the text is under 300 words and my back matter is about 1400 words! So yes, in PBs, the back matter is often longer than the story itself.

Let's Dance is an excellent book to take a look at!
#8 - May 31, 2020, 05:33 PM
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