What front and back matter should I include in my book?
If you’re an indie author, especially a debut indie author, you might not be sure what to include before and after the story or main content in your manuscript. This blog outlines the most common front and back matter elements included in fiction and nonfiction books.
Here are the most common front and back matter elements used in fiction. The ones in bold are recommended and the rest are optional depending on your content and/or preferences.
- Half title page (just the title of the book and the author name usually appears here – this is the page that authors sign if it’s a signed copy!)
- Copyright page (this page states that the copyright of the work belongs to the author. It also includes the year of publication and the book’s ISBN. Sometimes, authors choose to list the editor, proofreader, formatter/typesetter, publisher and/or cover designer on this page too.)
- Dedication (the person, or persons, the book is dedicated to, sometimes with a brief personal message)
- Epigraph (a short quotation or saying at the beginning of the book or sometimes a chapter, or chapters, to suggest theme(s))
- Table of contents
- Preface (usually outlines the author’s experience of writing the book, and/or the inspiration behind it, and/or the purpose of the story, and/or the historical context of the book)
- Prologue (sometimes considered the equivalent of a first chapter, a prologue usually gives clues/context/specific details before the main story begins in a novel)
- Epilogue (sometimes considered the equivalent of a final chapter, an epilogue is a concluding act or event, or possibly a cliffhanger/hint at the next book)
- Afterword (a statement about the entire contents of the book, often told from a different perspective and/or period of time)
- Acknowledgements (usually one or two pages where authors publicly recognise and thank everyone who helped them with their book)
- About the Author (often written in third person and includes personal details, author platform links and sometimes a photo)
- First chapter of another book
- Also by page (links to other books available or preorders for books coming soon)
Tip: To help you decide what front and back matter to include in your self published book, look at some of your favourite books, or books of any authors (traditionally and self published) who write in the same genre/about the same subject, and see what pages those books feature, and in what order.
Here are the most common front and back matter elements used in nonfiction. Again, the recommended ones are in bold and the others are optional depending on your content and/or preferences.
- Half title page
- Copyright page
- Table of contents
- Foreword (not to be confused with ‘forward’, this is an introductory essay written by someone relevant to the book’s content and usually comes before the author’s preface)
- About the Author
- References (all authors must reference any other published works included in their book)
- Directory (depending on the book’s content, a directory may refer readers to goods and/or services mentioned in the book)
- Index (not to be confused with a table of contents, an effective index is accurate, concise, and lists all of the book’s content to help readers easily find information within – think recipe books and encyclopaedias!)
- Also by page
Of course, one of the joys of self publishing is being able to have full creative control over your book, so you are free to decide what goes where. However, be mindful about where readers will expect certain pages to be.
To make the process even easier, some of these elements can be added automatically at the formatting stage, for example copyright and table of contents. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about front and/or back matter choices for your self published book.
If you’ve found ‘What front and back matter should I include in my book?’ useful, click the links below to read these other blogs about formatting too:
What book styles does Vellum formatting offer?
Penning and Planning – The Formatting Process
What are the pros and cons of Vellum formatting?
5 Formatting Mistakes to Avoid in Your Manuscript
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