How to structure a book – Front Matter

Each book consists of numerous parts and a good book is an organized book. For centuries these have been the unwritten rules on how books should be organized. So here is the first part of our series on the sections of a standard book, be it a fiction or a non-fiction work.

While we’re a book cover design agency, primarily, we know your book consists of more than just the cover. Hence we’ve prepared a short manual that will allow you to structure your book correctly. While a book can be divided into various smaller sections, they all find their places under 3 main categories. The front matter (prelims), the body and the back matter (can also be called the end matter). Here is a table of the front matter of a book.

Half titlePublisherThe ancient purpose of this page was actually to give the front cover of the book a clean look. Texts can bleed over, especially if the thickness of the cover is thin. Hence this page was left blank. Over time a small title and author’s name were added. While it’s technically not a necessity today (due to the advancements in printing technologies) this tradition sticked.
FrontispieceAuthor / publisherWhile they aren’t as common as they used to be, frontispiece is especially important if your book has a retro feel or is a reprint of a classical text. It usually consists of a decorative illustration on the verso facing the title page. It may be an image related to the book’s subject or a portrait of the author.
Title pagePublisherGenerally this page consists of the title, the subtitle and the author’s name of the book as well as a publishers logo. If the book is a translation this is also where you put in the translators name. Lately it has been common practice to make this page a black and white duplicate of the front cover without any imagery. So basically the same text size as the front cover, the same placement but with black or shades of gray.
Copyright (edition) pagePublisher and printerThis is where the technical information for the book goes. It’s called a copyright page, but it’s not just about copyrights. The library catalogue number, the ISBN, the printing date and all sorts of legal notifications goes here. It happens that there is also an address, a phone number and an email address for the publisher on this page. For self published books, you can put in your own contact information as well. Finally you can also put a small icon of the publisher here, together with the name and Internet address.
DedicationAuthorBy no means a necessity, but if you plan on dedicating your book to someone, this comes next. Keep it plain and simple. A small text on an empty page can do wonders!
EpigraphAuthorCan be used both on fiction and non-fiction books. An epigraph serves as a symbolic introduction to the book. A phrase, quotation, or a poem can all be used.
Table of contents (TOC)Publisher, sometimes together with the authorCan be divided into levels, or can only list the main chapters. ıf there are many sub levels, you may need to stop at one point as it will get too long. In these cases the Index is more useful. If your book is fiction, this is generally not needed, but again, if you feel it works for your book, just use it. Many famous (especially classical) texts have Table of Contents.
ForewordAny other person other than the authorIt’s what the name implies. A foreword can come in handy, especially if it’s written by an authority in the field or some other established author. In case the author writes it, it’s not called a foreword but a preface.
PrefaceAuthorThis is generally the story of how the book came into being. While there are no absolute rules of what a preface should consist of, or how long it should be, it’s also well known that many readers just prefer to skip over this part to get into the book itself. It’s always a good idea to use a more personal, warm tone here and not keep it longer than what is absolutely necessary.
AcknowledgmentsAuthorThis page acknowledges those who contributed to the creation of the book. It can be added to the front of the book or the back of the book.
IntroductionAuthorDifferent from a preface, the introduction is all about introducing the content of the book. It gives the reader an overview of what he or she is to expect and lays the foundation for the story.
PrologueNarrator (or a character in the book)This is almost always used only in fiction works. The prologue works to establish the setting, give historical or background details for the story. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, because of this, the prologue is not considered an independent section of the book, but a part of the body. While it’s an overview, it’s still part of the overall story in the book.