Formatting a book for publication can feel complicated, especially when it comes to front matter (the pages before your story starts). What do you need to include? What goes where? What about digital vs. print? I know I had to spend a lot of time looking up the "rules." When those didn't quite agree, I also compared the options in books on my shelves, especially in my genre & in the format I was choosing (in my case, trade paperback). So here's my understanding after all those hours of research, which will hopefully make it easier on any other independent authors out there.
Please keep in mind:
- Though I will touch on traditions for collections, anthologies, and nonfiction, most of my language will default to discussing novels.
- There are some complicated options out there, including frontispieces (special illustrations), additional materials such as maps (especially for fantasy), forewords, prefaces, and more. These always go after the copyright page and before the first page of the main text. However for the sake of simplicity, I will not go into every single one of these options.
- If you have questions about a specific one, feel free to ask!
| Mending Heartstrings|
- The Title Page
- This is the page with the title, author name, and publisher information. Usually formatted with the same fonts as the cover, but the title always goes first, author second (specific placement varies), publisher down at the bottom of the page.
- This is usually the page that authors sign, though occasionally that will be the half title (see below).
- The Copyright Page
- This is the page with all the legal information. Your ISBN, your copyright claim, your reminder to people not to steal your work, edition information if necessary, etc.
That's it, but most books nowadays will have at least some of the optional pieces in the front matter. These include:
- The Dedication
- A little note from the author, usually naming a person or group for whom the book was written. If included, this goes in both print and digital.
- Often, it will be placed after the title page, with a blank verso (next page).
- In print, the title page, dedication, and half title all traditionally go on right-hand pages.
- Of all the optional pieces, the dedication is the most common.
- A Half Title (or two)
- This page has only the title. Unlike the title page, the author's name and publisher information are excluded. However, nowadays, this is also done in the same font as on the cover.
- Sometimes included as the last piece of front matter before the main text/story.
- Occasionally, a half title will also be the very first page of the book.
- Praise for the Author and/or Book
- These are review quotes or other quotable material talking about how awesome a specific book, series, or author is.
- List of Books by the Author
- Pretty self explanatory. For fiction, these will often break titles up according to series, or list books in a series in (ascending or descending) order.
- Some publishers do not list books by the author which were published by another house (though this of course won't affect indie authors).
- A quotation, saying, or poem/song.
- In SFF, this is occasionally made up by the author but presented as a quotation in the context of the book's world.
- Like the dedication, if included, this goes in both digital and print.
- A list of people who helped the author in creating or publishing the book. Almost always, this now goes in the back matter, however I have seen it in the front matter.
- There is a difference between the dedication ("To so-and-so") and the acknowledgements ("Thank you, so-and-so, for..."). Rarely, a combination of the two will appear. Personally I think that looks strange and like the author is confused about what goes where.
- Table of Contents
- In print novels, these are traditionally omitted.
- In digital novels, these were often relegated to the back matter, but Amazon recently decided that this was against their rules. It is recommended that you include a table of contents for easier navigation of your digital book, but double check your distributor's rules for placement (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. may all have different requirements). It was usually recommended for novels that the Table of Contents come in the back matter, so as not to waste the preview space.
- For nonfiction, anthologies, and collections, the table of contents almost always comes in the front matter to help situate the reader within the scope of the book, digital or print. However, I have seen it placed in the back.
- Occasionally, the front will hold a condensed version, and a more detailed table of contents with sub-headings will be included in the back.
The Order of a Novel's Front Matter
Depending on the pieces you include, the order of your front matter will of course change. There are, however, some conventions. Some guidelines:
- Page 1 (or the first page once you open the cover) options:
- Praise for the author or book
- This can actually last many pages, depending on the author's success.
- Half Title
- Title Page
- Page 2 (verso of page 1, or first left-hand page) options:
- Copyright Page (only if pg.1 was the title page)
- Books by the Author
- Rarely this is moved to somewhere else in the front matter.
- No blank pages in digital books!
- Often nowadays, in print, page 1 will not be the title page, and page 2 therefore will not be the copyright page. This is because sometimes the first page flips open with the cover and is missed by readers. So for the purposes of the remainder of this list, assume those pieces haven't yet been included. You do not include two full title pages or copyright pages.
Page "numbers" are included to help keep things clear, but adjust as needed, depending on the pieces you include.
- Page 3: Title Page
- Page 4: Copyright Page
- Page 5: Dedication
- Page 6 options:
- Additional front matter pieces discussed above, especially if those are two-page spreads such as maps. Otherwise, this page is blank and those additional pieces follow it.
- Page 7 options:
- Half Title
- Especially if there is a lot of content between the title page & the start of the story.
- Main Text (the story)
- If including the half title and/or the epigraph, each is followed by a blank verso (next left-hand page).
- So the order with both would be: Epigraph (7), Blank (8), Half Title (9), Blank (10), Main Text (11).
So there you go, the possible pieces and order for your book's front matter. Hopefully that helps you navigate the publication of your own work. Remember, it can be as simple as the pieces in blue, i.e.: Title Page, Copyright, Dedication (let's face it, most of us add one), and a blank page (only in print), followed by your story.
For digital versions, it is still recommended to keep your front matter as pared down as possible, so that the free previews readers can access have more of the story itself. In print books, it becomes more of a matter of style (and page count).
Questions? Ask in the comments!
Questions? Ask in the comments!