Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Nightmare of Updating Backmatter - SOLVED

If you've indie published a book, you know this problem: your backmatter is almost instantly out of date.

This is especially difficult when you want to link to something not yet published... like the book itself. Or the next book in your serial. Add in that pre-orders have to have their final draft uploaded 10 days prior to publication and the problem reaches critical mass.

Solution #1: Throw up hands, point everything to a single page on your website, and be done with it.
This has the merit of simplicity. However, your backmatter is the single most strategic advertising space you will ever have: it grabs readers right when they've finished reading your stuff and pitches the next book to them, complete with links to make it one-click buying (vs. wading through your website to see what they want).
Latest version of the backmatter in Open Minds

Solution #2: Use the "funnel" method (get Write.Publish.Repeat for more about this)
Basically you set up one book to lead to another and so on... and never go back to update the backmatter, you just move forward with the next book.

I used for a long time, but once you make a link in you can't ever direct it somewhere new. This is very limiting! SMARTurls work much better because 1) you can change the destination of your link after you've created it, and 2) SMARTurls will redirect based on the user's location (which is great for spurring international sales).
How this works:
1) I'm publishing a new book. I want to put a link to review the book in the backmatter, but I haven't published yet (chicken-and-egg problem). So I create a link called and point it (temporarily) toward my author page on Amazon.
2) I publish the book
3) Once the book goes live, I redirect to point to the real book link on Amazon.
This works fabulous for preorders as well, since you have to upload those 10days ahead of publication, and there may be all kinds of links that will be live then but aren't live now. You can use this for other things too - blog posts, facebook posts, anything that will be live in the future, but for right now you need to hand out the link to people to get them started.
The best part: you never have to update the link in your backmatter.

Solution #3: Use modified "funnel" method with some "evergreen" material plus frequently update backmatter in high-selling books - THIS IS THE METHOD I USE

For the most part, I "funnel" readers of one book to the book they're most likely to read next. Then I introduce them to my other works (with a short or long pitch, depending), then I give them a blanket "evergreen" summary of all my works - although that will have to be updated over time as well. Most of my books, I do this once and let it go out of date, but for my highest-selling books, I will frequently update the backmatter. Why? Because that's my most valuable ad real estate, and I use it like I use any ad - keep it fresh and interesting.

Here's the extended version of my backmatter in Open Minds - that book is downloaded a lot (because it's free), so it's high-traffic ad space. I use it to the max! Does everyone read all of this? No... but I only update the version on Amazon and the traffic justifies the bother. My 80/20 rule says it's worth doing.


  1. Now I get it. Thank you. I have a series coming up, so you have told me something VERY valuable. -- Lindsay

  2. Susan, this is amazingly helpful and I really appreciate your generosity in sharing. THANK YOU!

  3. Thank you! I'm working on another book in a series, and while this is some months in the future, I was feeling the headache forming...

    This is very useful!

  4. This is an excellent post and I've already bookmarked it. I even listed it on my usual Friday writing links on my blog. Thanks.

  5. Bookmarked, Susan! Backmatter is my bane. I'd like to figure out how to keep the images and special fonts (I'm assuming they are images in the Debt Collector series backmatter) looking good. I'm just not there yet, but I keep trying!

  6. Yeah I LOOOOOOVE LOVELOVELOVE Write. Publish. Repeat. I seriously recommend it to everyone. I bought Pretty Links Pro for the self-publisher's website and use them to keep all the back matter up-to-date and see if people are clicking on links. I like your idea of evergreen content though! I think next year, when all the books in my series are out, I'll do the same thing. Thanks for this!


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers