How to Write for the Front of a Book
Types and Formats Used in the First Section of a Magazine
Editors at magazines use slang terms, or industry terminology, to refer to different sections of a magazine. One such term is front of the book, which is also known as Front of Book, Front-of-the-Book, or FOB.
FOB: Slang for a Particular Section of a Magazine
The "book," first off, is another word editors use to refer to the magazine itself. Therefore, front of the book is used to refer to the front, or opening, section of a magazine.
Magazines are broken down into three sections by editors:
- the front of the book
- the feature, and
- the back of the book.
Now not every magazine follows the three part structure, but the majority do and the front of the book usually contains smaller, shorter stories than the feature well (where features usually run). When you read a magazine you'll notice that the first few pages are often dedicated to smaller stories and that the cover stories (and longer stories) are usually in the middle of the magazine. Those first few pages you read are part of the front of the book.
The term FOB may be slang, but it's serious business. Editors are very calculated about the types of stories, short articles and advertisements they choose to publish in this section. Some of the usual pieces that are found in the front of the book are:
The Table of Contents: Since advertisers usually prefer the right side of a magazine spread for better visibility, the table of contents ends up being the first page of pretty much any magazine.
Masthead: This master list of all the people that work in the magazine is usually on one of the first couple of pages. It may share the page with an advertisement or even letters and opinions from readers.
A Letter From The Editor: The editor's welcome letter explains the content of the issue and is always the first editorial page in a magazine.
This piece is instrumental in expressing the editor's journalism style while covering the main topics of the issue and introducing overlying themes.
One Page Topics: Generally magazines jump into content with short one page topics that contain news, reviews and highlights about arts, culture, upcoming events and more. Often short one page columns, interviews, and opinions are also placed here.
How to Write for the Front of Book
Many editors are regularly on the hunt for well written and interesting stories to fill one page topic pages. If you are interested in pitching a story or have been given an assignment for the FOB, it is best to start with the magazine's guidelines for writing. Usually articles meant for this section of the magazine range from 100-300 words and should focus on one small aspect of the subject you would like to write about.
Most magazines have a uniform, standardized design for their one page topics pages. The design is changed only slightly from issue to issue. To keep the interest of the reader, some common formats used in the FOB include:
- Images accompanied by short descriptions of key points. For example, Men's Health magazine features a Bulletin page that spells out 12 of the latest scientific studies released since the last issue was released. Each study snippet is accompanied by an illustration.
- A full-page photo with a brief story or description.
- Two short front of book articles that share a page with an ad image.
- Timelines created with dates, images and short descriptions to better describe the evolution of a certain idea, story or product.
- Comparison of products, trends, places or outfits. These short topics are usually very visual stories as well.
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways that the FOB can be presented. Though a magazine may stick to a certain way of telling their stories issue after issue, the possibilities out there for all the different types of formatting are endless. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the formatting used by the magazine you want to write and don't skip reading the magazine's writer's manual thoroughly before you start.