Front matter matters. It matters a lot, but sometimes authors get confused about what goes where, when, and why. It’s really not all that complicated, but it is important to get it right if you want to end up with a top quality, professional-looking book. Here’s how it works.
Books are divided into three parts—front matter, body text with or without illustrations, and back matter. The back matter is where you’ll find components such as an index, a glossary, an appendix or two, endnotes (unless you prefer to have footnotes at the bottom of each page or the end of each chapter), a bibliography, a suggested reading list, and perhaps questions for book clubs.
The front matter is where you’ll find the following items. Most authors won’t need to include all of these, but here is a list of what goes where, when, and why, along with a brief description of each.
- Half title: Only the title appears here. This is usually the first page the reader sees when opening the book. The verso or back of this page can be used to list other books by the author. Sometimes this page is eliminated to help reduce the overall page count. Incidentally, recto means front side and verso means back side of a piece of paper in a bound book. The recto is the right hand page and the verso is the left hand page of an open book.
- Frontispiece: This is an illustration on the verso that faces the title page.
- Title page: Here you will find the title, subtitle, author, and publisher of the book. You can also include here the publisher’s location, the book's year of publication, perhaps some short, descriptive text about the book, and even illustrations.
- Copyright page: This is almost always on the verso of the title page. It should either be centered half way down the page or justified on the left margin and should include the copyright notice: Copyright © 2014 by YOUR NAME (or NAME OF PUBLISHER). Then add: "All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law." For fiction you might want to add: "This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." Permissions to reprint material in the text also go here, along with ISBN and e-book ISBN; the book's edition (e.g. First Edition); and credits for design, production, editing, and illustration.
- Dedication: If you want to include a dedication, it should follow the copyright page.
- Epigraph: A quotation for the front of the book comes next. It could also appear facing the Table of Contents or facing the first page of text. Sometimes epigraphs are used at the beginning of each chapter.
- Table of Contents: The contents page lists all the major divisions of the book, including parts, if you use them, and chapters. This is an essential in non-fiction books, textbooks, collections, and anthologies -- but not necessary for novels.
- Lists: Include lists of illustrations, figures, and/or tables here.
- Foreword: This is usually not written by the author, but by someone known and respected in the field the author is writing about. It is signed and dated by the person who wrote it.
- Preface: The author writes this and often explains what inspired the book, and when, where, and how she went about writing it.
- Acknowledgements: The author thanks those who helped with the writing of the book and often mentions friends and family.
- Introduction: The author explains the book’s goals, background, and organization.
- Prologue: This is used in fiction to set the scene for the story, and is often told in the voice of a character.
- Second Half Title: If you end up with lots of front matter you might want to include a second half title page to let the reader know that the text is about to begin. The following page could be blank or could include an illustration or epigraph.
There you have it. Of course you probably won’t need to include all of this material in your front matter, but as you can see, creating professional looking front matter does not have to be intimidating -- and it can make so much difference in the look, feel, and quality of your book.
Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.com.