What Is an Afterword in a Book? Answered

You’ve written your final chapter, but there is still so much you want to tell your reader. Understanding what is an afterword in a book can give you the tools to create a satisfying concluding section.

An afterword is a section at the end of a book that addresses topics like the origin of the book and how it came to be. It can also clarify anything that was not clear in the book or provide updated information. 

Typically, a book will have either a foreword or an afterword, but not both. While some authors write their afterwords, it is more common for the afterword to be written by someone else.

What an Afterword Should Do

What is an afterword in a book?

Afterwords can be used to enhance the reader’s experience by providing many different things.

It can explain a book’s backstory. Many books have complex, fascinating histories behind them. The author of the book or someone else acquainted with the story can share this context.

An afterword can comment on the content of the book. This is very common in reprintings of classic novels. Contemporary writers offer modern interpretations and historical context that affect how the reception of the book has changed since the time it was written.

They can also be used to share alternative perspectives on a book. Sometimes, particularly in academic settings, this section can provide rebuttals of the arguments in the book itself. 

Afterword, Foreword, Epilogue, or Postscript?

When your book is finished, you may find that you have additional information to give the reader but that it doesn’t fit well into the main body of your book. Which device should you use to finish?

An afterword can be a better choice than a foreword if you want to get straight to the action. However, a foreword can be better if readers will have a better experience with more information in advance. An epilogue is more often used in fiction to add closure to a story. Postscript is, in this context, largely synonymous. Either word can be used to describe the same part of the book. You might also be interested in our guide on how to determine the reading level of a book.

Top Afterword Examples

What is an afterword?
An afterword can be a better choice than a foreword if you want to get straight to the action

The best afterwords add something that gives additional context to the subject matter in the other parts of the book. Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation has a great example. The afterword addresses mad cow disease, which had not been widely publicized at the time of the book’s completion. Later additions were updated to address criticism of political bias. 

Stephen King is an example of a writer who typically writes his own. While front matter often includes notes from other authors, King saves space at the end of the book to pen story notes and writing guides. Aspiring writers who want to make their mark in fiction can learn a lot about the craft through this generously shared back-matter.

Norman Mailer also wrote his own for The Executioner’s Song. The book is written like a novel; however, Mailer makes clear in his afterword that he kept as close to historical events as he was able to.

How to Write an Afterword

How you will write one will depend largely on whether you are writing one for your book or for someone else’s.

If you are writing one for your book, consider what questions your reader will have at the end. These can include new events since your book was published or interesting stories about how the book came into being.

If you are writing one for someone else, make sure that you are familiar with the author’s work. You have a great deal of leeway in what you include in your part of the book. The question of what is an afterword in a book has few definitive answers. You can address the writer’s creative process, your reaction to the book, or other insights that would be helpful to the reader.

What Is an Afterword in a Book? Answered

An afterword in a book is a place to bring together all the loose ends and give the reader a sense of closure.

This section of the book is sometimes written by the author. It is more common for another person to write it.

While it is not necessary, it can add depth and richness that can help a reader appreciate the book even more. Before adding one, decide what value it would provide to the reader.


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FAQ About What Is an Afterword in a Book?

What is the difference between an epilogue and an afterword?

Epilogues tie up loose ends. They are part of the story. Afterwords are separate parts of a book. You can tell the difference because a book can typically stand alone without its afterword, but not an epilogue.

Does a book need an afterword?

While they are not required, they can be valuable additions that give additional context to the main body of the book.