Pondering Front Matter

So, the other day writing productivity went to crap. I had to wait for the plumber, wait for a friend to show up to pick up an old dresser I didn’t need, pack the car with dance props I’d made for Sara’s dance studio and… well, you know… stuff.

With a day like this, I tend to throw the creative writing in the trash about 10 minutes after I wake up. By the time I get to sit down and WORK on getting the creative juices flowing and get into the groove of the scene, the nuances, the little moments in which I sow the seeds of fore-*ding-dong*


Okay. So that’s done. Where was I? Ah, yes sowing the seeds of-*ring, ring*

*Deep breath, take care of that school situation – no, Daniel is NOT allergic to bees so he should be fine with just some ice on his hand*

*Look at the clock* I have 2 hours left.

*#$%&@^*^&^&!!!!!!!  My productivity has been stymied. Where is the choc-

We’re out of chocolate. Someone must die. Oh, wait. That someone is me because I do all the grocery shopping and I didn’t buy any chocolate because I’m trying to be GOOD and LOSE WEIGHT.

Hmmmph. Snort.

Well, let’s go through the writing to-do list. Maybe there’s something smallish I can- Oooo! Here’s one:

Front Matter.

Front matter is where authors and publishing houses tell you the author has other books out there and this book is a work of fiction (or not) and that you can’t sue because of X, Y & Z, and all rights are reserved and here’s my library of congress number and I’ve registered my company logo and here’s the list of other works I’ve done along with my official contact information and blahblahblah.

You wouldn’t think that’s important. Until you sit there and think about it. I don’t think it’s really there for Joe Average. I have never heard of Joe Average reading a WORK OF FICTION STATEMENT and pondering that bit of legalese in a fashion that is at all noteworthy. I think most folks just skip right past it and move on to the dedication page or the second title page or the maps or perhaps even the VERY FIRST PAGE OF THE STORY.

It’s a little distressing that lawyers feel we need this junk in the front of every book. The trick here is, if you don’t have it, you’ve opened yourself to lawsuits (according to a few minor legal folk I know). Let’s say you’ve written a murder story in which Jon Bon Jovi’s first ever guitar owned by a collector was used as a murder weapon by a jealous rival collector.

Let’s say the collector who ACTUALLY OWNS said guitar wasn’t terribly amused by that piece of whimsy, especially since he and all his friends know about that particularly prized piece in his collection, even if you did get the names all wrong because it’s hard to find out who, exactly, owns said instrument and let’s not get bogged down in that detail because then it technically dates the piece and let’s just make up a name like John F. Giegermeister and move on with the story. Let’s say Jon Bon Jovi also did not enjoy being mentioned in your murder story. You didn’t write out his lyrics or anything – you just mentioned his name a few times. Let’s say there really is a John F. Giegermeister and he despises all rock and roll and is particularly offended that someone would dare insinuate he would own such a piece of… memorabilia. Let’s say some half-wit boosted your work and is passing that pirated copy around.

Apparently, if one does not have front matter declaring that this is a work of fiction that is not intended to portray blahblahblah, and declaring this in such a way as to cover most, if not all bases, one is opening oneself up for a lawsuit, and also making it almost impossible to go after the half-wit pirate in a legal sense.

I suppose the half-wit has the ability to say it’s my fault I didn’t tell them at the beginning that pirating my stuff is illegal (although how they DON’T know this, I’m not sure, but it does apparently stand up in a court of law on occasion), while the actual people/items mentioned in the stuff have now had their delicate feelings damaged because I didn’t make it clear that this is a work of fiction and not to be taken seriously.

And here I thought that FBI message before all the movies I have at home was just so the Fibbies can feel recognized for their achievements or something.

Anyway… This subject does come up from time to time in the dark places where I lurk and copy and paste from other people’s postings to save in my “Writing Business” file. This subject is sometimes touchy – no one reads it anyway vs. the C.Y.A. crowd in the self-publishing world.

I trend towards the CYA side of the house. Shocking, I know – people would never guess that about me.

But the general consensus from the “better safe than sorry” crowd is to gather up a bunch of books and study their Front Matter pages. And while it doesn’t make for thrilling reading, it does make for reading just interesting enough for me to sit up and think “Well, why did Penguin word it this way when Tor did it that way for the same genre?” or “I kinda like this layout over here;” “Why does this book have 4 title pages? Seriously? You need a title page in between every page of Front Matter?” I’ve even whistled in admiration at the WORK OF FICTION notification in the Front Matter of Harry Turtledove’s stuff (I don’t think even direct descendants could come after him for a libel lawsuit with that in the Front Matter).

I tooled around on a few DIY articles and books that also mention it (Sadly, I can’t really quote them and give credit where it is due, because a lot of the time I will copy and paste something into a word document if I find it electronically, because I hate bookmarks and 90% of the time when I want to go back to that exact page, it’s been taken down – but I do have my notes, so that’s something.)

The DIY articles give out lists with handy-dandy page ordering and examples, although most have stated you need it because it “adds to the look and feel of a professionally made piece.” In other words, Readers have grown accustomed to flipping through pages of stuff they don’t care about to get to the story, so for the love of all the gods put something there that their eyes will recognize even if they never read it.

Once again, I’m more of a CYA person, which is why I would put it there.

And apparently this isn’t a new thing – the Medieval era also had it’s share of book piracy, theft and other such. The nerd in me totally squealed when I ran across this site. Which means that I now must get the book.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m Pondering Front Matter because it’s on my To-Do list for days in which I need to feel productive, but am unable to produce something creative. Therefore, while working on Front Matter doesn’t contribute noticeably to my grand self-publishing plot, it does still propel me an itsy step forward, so there. It counts as writing.



About kattywampusbooks

A SAHM with delusions of literacy.
This entry was posted in Random, research, self-publish, Writer, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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