As a relative newbie to journalism, I’m still wrapping my head around some of the lingo. I had to learn my features from my columns, that “books” are magazines (except when they’re books), and that the opener of a story is a “lede” and not a “lead” (though sometimes it can be a lead. Still not super clear on that one.)
One such goodie is the front of book section (or front-of-book, or my fave, FOB) that appears in each magazine. What is it? Why is it?
In short, you can’t just start throwing 3,000-word features at readers on page 1. You need to sort of ease people into things. Warm them up before the big race, you know? The FOB is a batch of much shorter stories that do just that.
So the FOB in various mags (that’s magazines, see me using the lingo? Jk I don’t know if anyone says “mags” except me) is typically a series of super-short columns and other fun things like photos, art, or product reviews. It’s lighter in content density, and often in overall feel. It’s the pages you want to flip through when you’re in the doctor’s office waiting room.
Since it’s a series of shorter items, it’s also a lot more flexible. At least at my publication, the length of the section is never the same — it shrinks and expands depending on how many advertisements we sell. It’s also the place where we might stick in a last-minute story if current events demand it (so: all of our in-print COVID coverage). When that happens, a different FOB story might get pulled and saved for a future issue.
From my editor’s view, my goal for the FOB is just to have a good mix of content. Since we’re a science magazine that covers lots of different topics, I’d want to see that range of topics represented within the FOB just like it is throughout the whole book. They can’t all be awesome animal biology stories (which is what most people pitch me,) no matter how much I love awesome animal stories.
Musings on writing and science, from a scientist turned writer. No affiliation the writer's current employer.