Front Matter and Back Matter Fun: Disclaimers and Author Notes

front matter funPart of the work that comes with independent publishing is writing your own front matter. That is, a disclaimer at the front of the book, and for historical fiction, an author note at the end. I’ll admit I’ve kinda of always thought of the front matter as boring and a part of due diligence. But thanks to reading a couple blog posts, my mind is changed forever!

Front Matter: Disclaimers

I read this blog post about writing creative disclaimers from The Book Designer. The point of a disclaimer is supposed to protect the author and publisher from being sued for defamation or libel… you know… “any resemblance to anyone living or dead is coincidental,” etc. However, guest blogger Helen Sedwick makes the claim:

Many authors assume the legal disclaimers at the front of their books are supposed to be boring. They presume some pricey lawyers devised standard legalese, and they dare not depart from the norm.

Not so. The law does not require a disclaimer to be boring. In fact, just the opposite is true. The more interesting the disclaimer, the more likely it will be read. From a lawyer’s point of view, a well-written, well-read disclaimer is best of all.

I loved this idea. I had to take a stab at it for my work-in-progress…

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to build a believable historical world. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, however, was very real. For story purposes, the author altered the timeline of historical events but attempted to stay as close to the truth as possible. Well, as truthful as a story about assassination conspiracy timelines can be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this disclaimer! I love the idea of beginning the story right from the front matter copy, rather than from chapter one.

Back Matter: Author Notes

This was one of my favorite parts of reading Ann Rinaldi books as a child. It’s one thing to read a thrilling story about girls do heroic things in long skirts, it’s another to read that the stories were inspired by real events that I could learn more about, if I wanted to. Ann Rinaldi began my love affair with historical fiction, and I want to continue the tradition along with authors like Amy Timberlake.

My author note has a number of sections, including the below “Ohio and the Civil War.” I also have sections titled Lincoln’s Assassination; Camp Chase, the Confederate prison that my main character escaped from; John Wilkes Booth; and a couple other sections which would be total spoilers if I shared them with you.

Here is a part of the draft author note I’m crafting for my yet-untitled work:

Ohio and the Civil War

Lincoln is often quoted as saying, “Ohio won the war,” and the reason for that is because Ohio volunteered the highest number of soldiers of any Union state. Without the help of Ohio’s men, it’s hard to say what would have happened. All we can say is that those huge numbers bolstered the Union Army so that its might was greater than the Confederate’s.

If you’re interested in learning more about Columbus in the Civil War, I encourage you to visit the Camp Chase cemetery in Hilltop, the Ohio Village sponsored by the Ohio History Connection, and Grove City’s Century Village.

Original 19th Century barns and cabins from all over Ohio have been collected to a single plot of land in Grove City to use for educational reenactments and school field trips. In fact, a couple of the characters in this novel were inspired by stories told to me by Grove City elders. Just remember though, that the personalities and actions of the characters in this novel are my own invention!

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Your time and imagination are precious.

I hope to share more teaser content as I get closer to finishing the first draft. I’m within 10,000 words of my goal, which is exciting! And a little scary, because that means I’m that much closer to brutal edit mode…

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