You’ve probably stumbled upon lots of author’s notes before while flipping through pages of books. And now, as an author, it’s your turn to write one for your book. But, how should you write; what should you include? Are there writing guidelines? Where do even you begin? This article intends to address all these questions.
What is an Author's Note?
The author's note is a statement from the author to the readers about the book. It is a channel for you to communicate directly to your readers, telling them the story behind writing the book. An author’s note provides insights into the making of the book and much more.
You’ve probably come across books that don’t have A/Ns, and that might make you question if you should include one in yours. Ask yourself if you have anything more relevant to say besides what’s in the main text and front matter of the book. If you do, then you need to write a note.
Think of it as a letter to your audience in which you can address the following components;
- The Book
In the author’s note, you can explain more about the book's content with the purpose of adding meaning to it. You can state the intention behind writing, giving clarity to any element that might cause confusion or conflict in the reader. Also, you can include a notice about any explicit or graphics content and a disclaimer on the names of people, places or events.
You might also notify them if the book is a sequel and how it connects to the other books. And if you had intentionally pruned some information from the story for whatever reasons, this is the place to explain and expand the details. Tell your readers what happens next after the story ends.
- The Writing Process
You can explain how you wrote the book; the source of ideas. For non-fiction, you can describe the research procedure, the sources you used, methods of experiments, the challenges you underwent, the significant events along the way, the discoveries you made, the lessons learnt etc.
- The Writing Sources
The author's note can be used to acknowledge the book's contributors other than the author and give credit to other people's work included in the book. You can also list all the references and other materials you used to create the book.
- The Audience
You can acknowledge your readers, thanking them for their support and time spent with your imagination. Or engage them in a dialogue by answering the frequently asked questions.
- The Author
You can use this place to explain more about yourself, your background and what made you decide to write the book. The part of the story you love most. Talk of your credentials; why you feel you're the right person to tell the story. Justify yourself for the choices made, and how the story relates to your real-life experience. In short, share anything you feel they should know about you.
The purpose of an Author's Note
It can be so gratifying to let your hair down and be yourself after telling a story in hundreds of pages. An author’s note allows you to retell the story and the story behind it but in your voice. It provides a space in your book to be yourself. Besides that, an author’s note;
- Creates a relationship between you and your readers as you engage.
- Validates you as the author and your craft.
- Enhances the book by providing more profound meaning to it.
- Makes readers value the process of creating the book.
- Gives credits where it’s due. It acknowledges the stakeholders and resources used in the writing process.
- Provides awareness to the readers about you. It makes the readers know more about the author.
- Provides an opportunity for you to make an impression on your readers.
- Offers a space to include the interesting tidbits that couldn’t make it to the main text.
How to Write an Author's Note: General Guidelines
Keep it short: Author’s notes should be short and straightforward. You should not write it as another chapter of the book or be longer than the actual story. An ideal length should be a page and a half, not more than two pages.
Write in the first person: As much as an author’s note should be professional, you shouldn’t sound too formal. Writing in the first-person point of view makes the statement more personal. When addressing your readers, use the “I” and “you” pronouns. You should speak to your audience directly.
Make your author’s note stand out: You should make your author’s note stand out so as not to be confused with the main text, especially if you also wrote in the first-person point of view. There are various ways you can differentiate it from the rest of the text, including; adding an “Author’s Note” heading, putting a space between the note and the text in the story chapter, using a different font or adding a separator like ***** or ~*~*~*
Avoid repetitions: You shouldn’t repeat what you already wrote in the book's other elements, like the preface and prologue. If you should write an author’s note, include only the essential things that bring value to the readers.
Avoid ranting: An author’s note shouldn’t be a place to rant or argue. I understand that the economy may be tough, the government may fail you, and there may be injustices everywhere that can take a toll on us, but you shouldn’t rant in your book. That will scare and discourage your readers from reviewing your book. Even worse, you’ll risk getting negative reviews.
Avoid going off-topic: stick only to that which is relevant to the book. Do not include information such as your personal opinion, life, hobbies and interests. You can, however, have this in the “About Author” segment of your book.
Author’s Note Template
Here’s a guideline you can use when writing your author’s note;
Segment 1: Give the Backstory
- Describe your story and explain the reason you chose it.
- Talk about the people, events or things that inspired you to write it.
- Explain the value of the work; what it means to you.
Segment 2: Explain the writing process
- State the features you used and their importance to your work.
- Describe the highlights and setbacks you faced during writing.
- Explain how you revised the project
Segment 3: Acknowledgments
- Acknowledge the support you got during the writing journey.
- Name the people who contributed to the success of your book.
- List references and resources used.
Segment 4: Talk about Yourself
- Explain the story's impact on your life, how you’ve grown as an author, the essential learning points, etc.
- Add anything else you feel is vital for readers to know.
Author’s Note Sample
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a sample of an author’s note from Samantha Lopez in her book “My Side of Things.”
“I decided, as my Independent Writing Project, to write a story. But you see, the story I was envisioning in my mind wasn’t just any old fairy tale or love story. No, it was much more than that. Because many of the events, places and characters were inspired by real people, places and events. For example, I based the character aspects of Alex on myself. From the edgy clothing to her witty attitude, it resembled me alot. Alex reminded me so much of myself that sometimes I would replace Alex’s name with my own by accident. For the mother (Rose), I based it solely on my mother and her spunky personality. The father was utterly fiction - my dad’s awesome and would never go after a 22-year-old barbie. Then there’s Rachel and Jess. I didn’t pick any two of my friends and assign them characters. I kind of mixed together a few people. For Rachel, I missed the bubbly side of Raffia and the serious side of my other friend Meigah. For Jess, I use my personality, but from a few years ago - when I was more of a tomboy and gave a little bit more of an attitude.
Now, for the one character everyone is asking about, andy. Well, you see, Andy was one of the most difficult characters to write, if not the most difficult to make. He has two sides that have bold appearances in the book. There was his more nerdy kind of bookworm/intelligent side, and then there’s his funny, smooth and flirty side. And, it was hard to show both sides of his personality at appropriate times.
This project - I believe, is one of the pieces I’m most proud of. It’s sensual, realistic, heartwarming, and it touches you right at heart. Some of the strategies I used to revise my project were to share my story with as many people as possible and get their honest opinions on it, editing my story as it seemed fit. I would sit and read my story aloud for final revisions to see if I could make any last-minute revisions to make it better. The revisions made my story more meaningful and more inspiring to read, in my opinion.
How I’ve I grown as a writer? Hmm, now that’s difficult to say. I love writing; next to reading, it’s one of my greatest passions; therefore, my perception of writing hasn’t dramatically changed. However, I've learned from writing “My Side of Things” how to separate and space dialogue so it’s easy for the reader to read and understand. And that if the dialogue’s in one paragraph all mushed together, it’s hard to comprehend. I enjoyed writing this story and loved it so much that I even dedicated it to mom. When I showed her the dedication page, she smiled so wide. I’m known for using big words and tried to use everyday vocabulary, but people still came to me saying, “ Sam look at all these big words I had to look up on google.” so I decided to make a glossary for all the “hard/big” words I used. I would like to thank my humanities teachers, Christina and Jackie, for giving us this opportunity. – Samantha Lopez”