Meaning of the Term Front of Book
Front of Book (or what is commonly referred to as "FOB") is a publishing industry (slang) term that refers to the front section of a magazine. You may see it written as FOB, Front of Book, or Front-of-Book. All three terms are accurate and interchangeable. The word "Book" in this case refers to the magazine and has been publishing terminology since Readers Digest first hit the marketplace.
Front of Book and Freelance Writers
It's best for freelance writers to aim for the Front of Book sections of a magazine when trying to establish a working relationship with a magazine editor if they're sending out queries and article pitches. The front of the magazine is often the place that editors like to run those smaller, one-page articles as well as feature stories with a reduced word count. That's because it's an easy way to pull in the reader and not bog them down with a wordy article that takes a lot of time to read. This is why you'll always see magazines in the waiting rooms of doctor's offices with a lot of Front of Book material.
Writers should first aim for the Front of Book if this is specifically mentioned in the writer's guidelines. Additionally, some writers develop a specialty in Front of Book writing because they're good at short copy. Once a writer has established himself or herself as reliable and timely, it becomes easier to start pitching the "well" section of the publication. The "well" section is what the industry calls the middle section of a magazine where you'll find the lengthy feature stories and cover stories. It's called the "well" because it's deeper within the book. As you can see, all the terminology that is slang and may sound off-putting actually makes sense logically.
Common Front of Book Articles
Many Front of Book sections includes the typical masthead of who works at the magazine and table of contents, followed by a letter from the Editor. After that, the content often consists of shorter, more succinct articles focused on specific topics that are uniform from one issue to the next. Examples may include news about the topic, a profile piece on someone in the news, a Q&A interview, or a regular column penned by a staff writer. These Front of Book pieces are often visually consistent from issue to issue, and often arranged by "Departments."
One of the most understandable examples of Front of Book content and arrangement is Working Mother magazine. The publication (which has been around for decades and can be picked up at a newsstand or check-out counter) has a layout arranged according to the age of the child. The Front of Book goes from preschool to grade school to high school and so on. Each section is consistent from month to month and only covers topics germane to children of that age.
Front of Book Versus Front Matter
As a freelance writer, it's important not to confuse the Front of Book term with the term "front matter." This is not a mistake. It is a book publishing and editorial term referring to the front portions of a book, such as the table of contents and foreword.