The front matters: Reading the business side of a novel

Kathryn Cushman’s Novel Set for July Release

In an interview for Darla Writes, Kathryn Cushman — or Katie, as she likes to be called — answered a number of questions that we have about the writing life.

She has a contract with Bethany House and her sixth novel will be released in July. From what I’ve read so far, I can tell that Almost Amish will be a perfect summer novel. The book is about an exhausted wife and mother whose “sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series about trying to live like the Amish and needs another family to join her. It’s just the break Julie needs.” Or is it?

Read the first three chapters of the novel here. Congratulations, Katie!

You might want to keep your writer’s cap on as you read the novel’s front matter. Since the book has not yet been released, you will even find publisher’s marks on the pages. I loved seeing the marks. With these included, you get the full picture of how a book is born: the writer’s words and the publisher’s machine; the creative dream becoming a tangible reality.

Following are questions and thoughts I had as I read the front matter of Katie’s novel and looked at it from the business side of writing. As you read these pages, maybe you’ll come up with a few thoughts of your own.

The Cover

  • Who chooses the artist? I know the artist I want for my books, but I wonder if I’d have any input on the choice.
  • Can the author give ideas, suggestions, opinions about the artwork, fonts?
  • Who has the final say on the cover — the author or the publisher?

Author’s Name

  • The name on the cover is a graphic in itself. It’s her logo, really, and pleasing to the eye. Look at the way the “K” hugs the “A” and the “Y” hangs so nicely over the “M.”
  • She likes to call herself Katie. I wonder if the publishers insisted on Kathryn, or if a formal name is the standard for authors.
  • How will my name look like on a cover? Do I want to include my maiden name or middle initial?

Title Page

  • How often does the publisher ask to change the title?
  • Crop marks and file information — a glimpse of the book’s production.
  • The marks show that pages were laid out in Adobe InDesign (.indd), my favorite software for page layout and design. Adobe must be the standard in the book publishing world. What else is comparable to that great product?
  • The title page honors the publisher in a nice, unassuming way. Katie’s parent publisher (Baker Publishing) has been in business since 1939. The division that publishes her books (Bethany House) is 50 years old. Those are solid companies to have handling your book.

Copyright Page

  • Reading this page gave me the chills. Seeing Katie’s name on the copyright page, with the ISBN in all its glory; the publisher legal rights; cataloging data; the agency that represents her; the cover designer — wow. Writing friends, your dream can come true.
  • Have you ever wondered about that string of numbers at the bottom of the page? They are years (left) and editions (right). Instead of making a new plate each time the book is printed, the printer will instead scratch out the old year and edition number. (I had never taken time to find the answer until now.)

Dedications Page

  • This page is not business, but it’s also not story. It reads like a bridge between the two.
  • It may be the hardest page of them all to write, only because (if you’re like me) you’ll be writing through tears.
  • Melanie is Katie’s daughter who was very ill while Katie worked on her first novel.

The next page begins the story. So, off with the writing cap and on with the reading. I’m putting Almost Amish in my cart and on my summer reading list.

[Note: Katie Cushman is a friend of mine, but she doesn’t know I’m writing this post nor is she a subscriber. I am not affiliated with her publisher or agent, but, oh, wouldn’t that be nice. I just want to spread the news about my friend’s new book. Please see my Disclosure Policy for more information about payments for writing.

What thoughts came to mind as you read through the front matter of this novel?


8 thoughts on “The front matters: Reading the business side of a novel

  1. Actually, my main concern with this cover is that it looks too much like a true Amish novel, which it is not. They did try to do something to show the reality show aspect, but those covers gave the impression of a comedy, which it is not. It always amazes me how much time they spend getting just the right font, the right colors, etc. True professionals. I trust their judgement.


    1. It’s great to hear how happy you are with Bethany House and Baker Publishing. I loved reading Herman Baker’s history and how the Dutch immigrants were leaders in the religious publishing field. The things you learn on a publisher’s website!


  2. Hi Darla,
    I’ve been traveling so I’m just now seeing this.
    Most publishers have their own art department, so I don’t chose the artist, but they do ask for input on all my covers. Usually I’ll get a “Do you have anything particular you’d like to see on this cover?” kind of question when they are first getting started. After they’ve chosen a cover, they send me an early copy and ask for feedback. Sometimes they take my suggestions and sometimes they don’t. Still, I think Bethany House does a terrific job with cover design and I couldn’t be happier 🙂


    1. Hi, Katie — Thanks for stopping by and for the inside scoop on cover art. The artwork is lovely, but I’m still wondering why we don’t see her face. I have your book in my cart at Amazon — can’t wait to read it.


  3. This is exciting for your friend. For some reason, I didn’t see the publishing marks you mentioned. Maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough.

    As I hear it, writers don’t get to choose their artist unless they’re self-publishing. But, like with the rest of the publishing industry, this too could change.


    1. Hi, Kate: Interesting that you don’t see the publisher marks. Could it be PC vs. Mac?

      Artist: It makes sense that publishers would have their own artists on staff. But if I had the opportunity, then I’d direct them to my friend’s site. When I look at her work, I feel like picking up a book.


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