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CRAFTY TIP: When Does Back Matter Make Sense?

By Mary Boone

Back matter – extra tidbits of information that come after the story is concluded – has become exceedingly popular in recent years. And it makes sense. Back matter allows the author to share information that might bog down the main text of the story, but which readers and their adults would like to know.

Back matter might include timelines, recipes, photos, scientific diagrams, or an explanation of technical or historical information that helps put the book’s topic in context. Oftentimes, back matter is written for the young reader. Other times, it’s written at a higher level and is designed for use by adults who might be sharing the book with a child.

Thoughtful, well-written back matter can help sell a book – to an editor and eventually to a consumer. But that’s the thing, it has to be thoughtful. For a biography of an inventor, for instance, could your back matter help readers better understand how this invention impacted society? For a story about a family tradition, could your back matter include a recipe for a favorite family food? For a picture book about a specific biosphere, could your back matter include information about the other biospheres?

While back matter has traditionally been included with nonfiction stories, it’s becoming increasingly common for informational fiction and fiction manuscripts to also include it. Awesome. But again, remember, it has to make sense.

If you’ve written a humorous story about talking chickens who build their own space ship, it does not make sense to include back matter packed with egg recipes. If you’ve written a story about a beloved library cat, it’s not logical to include back matter about the history of the Dewey Decimal system.

Back matter should never be essential to a reader’s understanding of your story. It should be nice-to-know “extra” information that augments but doesn’t detract. Above all, it should only be included when it truly makes sense!

Rate Your Story judge Mary Boone specializes in nonfiction for kids. She’s the author of Bugs for Breakfast (Chicago Review Press) and has two picture books releasing in 2024: Pedal Pusher (Henry Holt & Co.) and School of Fish (Albert Whitman). Visit her website to lean more.

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