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Should a writer include author's notes in their book that either express thanks to the reader or provides background information on the book itself? If so, should these be at the front of the book or the back of the book?

To expand on this, is there any specific type of information that should be included in an author's notes section of a book?

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This question is awfully general - could you try to give a more specific case, or explain what you're trying to achieve and what your concerns are? –  Standback Aug 4 '11 at 19:45
    
Wow, it's a really tough crowd today! I'm trying to get some questions started that will spark some discussion and/or involvement with the site in general. While I will concede that this question may not be up to a certain standard of excellence, I do feel it is relevant for the site. The idea was to ask a question that many writers do not generally think about when they have finished or are close to finishing their book. –  Steven Drennon Aug 4 '11 at 20:08
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Very much appreciated, I assure you :) And hammering out a sense of what questions work better is very much part of the beta's activity. My trouble is, this is less of an answerable question and more of a "Author's notes: discuss" invitation. Are you afraid of leaving something out? Are you afraid of offending people? Are you afraid of boring the reader? Is there something specific you want to say? There's no catch-all answer, and many specific cases will have self-evident answers. –  Standback Aug 4 '11 at 20:59
    
On another forum I saw a considerable amount of discussion on this topic, and so it made me wonder whether others saw this as important or not. Personally, I do not use author's notes, but I was given cause to wonder if I should in certain cases. I was hoping that other writers might provide me with examples of the type of information they might provide or would expect to see in author's notes to help me decide whether or not they would be justified in my own writing. –  Steven Drennon Aug 5 '11 at 2:38
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@StevenDrennon let us continue this discussion in chat –  Standback Aug 5 '11 at 6:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

There is only one question you need to ask when considering whether to include anything in a book: will the reader find some use for it? Is it entertaining and/or interesting? If so, put it in. If it's more a chance for you to show off how much research you did, but the reader will not care one whit, leave it out. Or at least leave it for later -- when the book is as popular as Harry Potter, and fans are clamoring for anything more you might have, at which point they will pay you for it.

If that doesn't happen, putting it on your Web site is a good idea for a few reasons:

  1. It allows you to write this material after your manuscript has been accepted and while it is in production, instead of being on the critical path.

  2. You can update it when you find mistakes.

  3. You can use it as a springboard for engaging your readers in conversation.

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Also, you can easily link to other sources (e.g., for background reading in historicals or science fiction). –  Elizabeth Oct 4 '11 at 14:53

I personally love it when an author takes the time to put an "author's note" into the book. it makes it feel so much more like they're writing it for you. if you are going to put a writer's note in the book, it should always be at the back. Why, you ask? Because if you put it in the front, you may ruin the ending for the reader. (Always beware of spoilers in the synopsis as well.)

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Sure, why not?

I think thanks should be in front and information should be at the back. Gratitude should be expressed early on, and homework should only be offered if the reader is still interested. Otherwise the frontspiece turns into tl;dr.

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Short thanks and dedications (about a page's worth, tops) can go at the front of the book, any lengthy "author's note" should, in my opinion, go towards the back, as "bonus material" 9as it were).

If it's needing to be in front to make the book readable, there's more work to be done on the book.

Sometimes, more lengthy introductions work, but the few times I've seen that, it's either been a case of "early manuscript finished by new author" or "collection of stories" and that is not your typical book.

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A book series I very much enjoy has the bad habit of putting notes in the front. I don't particularly care what music "inspired" the book; if I was going to listen along, I'd be able to find the information just as easily in the back, and it delays me getting to the actual story. –  Yamikuronue Oct 12 '11 at 12:38

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