Me on Indie Publishing

The Back Matter Swap

You know that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child?”  The same can be said for launching a book.  This is never more true than in the indie publishing world because we don’t have big promo budgets or the reputations of solid and well-known publishing houses behind us.  I’ve talked ad nauseum about the assorted things I’ve done to promo my books and build my platform, but today I’m thinking about the very first thing I did: excerpt swaps.

This is exactly what it sounds like.  Two or more authors who swap excerpts from their work for placement in the back of their compatriot’s book.  The idea, of course, is cross-pollination of readership.  If you read my paranormal romance, here are some others you might enjoy–followed by a sample that is (or should be) designed to give readers enough of a taste to decide whether they are interested or not.  This seems like a win-win thing.  It’s essentially free promo (always a nice thing).  And as a reader, I myself like such things because I’ve often discovered new authors that way.

But there is a pitfall to this method, depending on how you choose to do it.  It may seem like a value-add to place an entire first chapter of something else at the end of your work.  It’s a long sample, something that’s certain to give the reader enough to make a decision about whether or not to check out your fellow author.  But many readers don’t see it this way.

Take my first novella, Forsaken By Shadow.  I’ve got 3 chapters of other material at the end.  One is the first chapter of my follow up Devil’s Eye, and the other two are opening chapters from a couple other indie author friends.  I just read a review this morning that stated that my book actually ended at the 80% mark on her Kindle and she felt cheated.  Now there’s always some blowback on novellas because invariably there’s a segment of the reading population who always wants a novel and feels shortchanged by anything else–no matter how well you mark it in the description and everywhere else THIS IS A NOVELLA.  But I think even with novel length stuff, having such long segments of matter at the end of your book that is something other than your book can be a detriment.

Now do I think that back matter swaps are bad business?  Nope.  I still think it’s an excellent way to cross-pollinate readers.  But I do think we need to put a cap on how long that back matter actually IS.  Something that’s short, like one of those scenes you sometimes see at the front of a book that’s an excerpt of the book you’re about to read.  You know the kind…something that’s a suspenseful moment.  Maybe 1k in length, a single scene at the most.  Because I do think that having 20% of material that isn’t my book is probably a mistake.  So it’s on my To Do list to trim the back matter down to something shorter.

8 thoughts on “The Back Matter Swap

  1. I’ve often felt surprised when a book ends at somewhere around 80% to 85%. I’ve never felt really cheated, but that’s probably because I understand the reason for back matter. (You know, that term just sounds gross, LOL.) Some of the books I’ve read have lots and lots of suggestions, excerpts, etc. I think you’re right about just needing to limit that a little. There have been times when I think the author has just gone overboard with extras in the back of the book.

  2. Until I was a writer I didn’t really get the different formats & I’m guessing most the populace just looks at novella and thinks “fancy way to say novel.” Do not blame yourself entirely.

    1. I’m much more inclined to think they just don’t read the description in the same way my students don’t actually read the instructions and screw up and assume it’s somehow my fault. Thankfully with THEM I control their grades… 😀

  3. Honestly, I never even notice the precentage mark on my Kindle. And if the book is well written and ends great, and then there’s BONUS material from other similar books that I can get a “taste” of before I go and spend the $$$, GRAVY! I love it!
    Now. Yes. Maybe having 20% and 3 full chapter samples is a bit much but…I don’t think it’d have bothered me enough to say anything in the review and I would definitely not have felt “cheated” but hey – takes all kinds to make the world go around, right?!
    I say follow your gut and do what YOU think is best and what YOU would want from a great book you are reading. Those are usually pretty good standards to follow and stand by.
    I mean, you can’t please everyone so you might as well please YOU! Or as Amber West posted last week, not everyone will like you (I KNOW…I was shocked too??!?! But that is only HER opinion anyway so maybe we can just disciount her as diliusional??!!?) 🙂
    Anyway, all that to say, do what feels right to you…

  4. I love the idea of back matter especially the idea of swapping with another author and it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing (or attempting to do with some other authors) BUT I’d never really given it much thought before as to how much is too much. Great post, it definitely gives me something to think about.

  5. Hmmm…That’s something I’ve never considered. I’ve always thought of it as a bonus. I’m still new to ebooks though. That whole “percentage” thing probably makes people think differently about content. It’s a shame though.

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