Front Matter Explained

The pages that appear before a book’s first chapter are called the front matter. There are traditional components to front matter—some required, some optional—and there’s a standard order to the components. A book’s designer will lay everything out in the industry standard order, but it’s important for authors to know what a front matter consists of so that they can compile one that meets their needs, and the needs of their book. A book without a properly organized front matter screams, “I self-published this and had no idea what I was doing.”

The front matter is often the last thing authors send to me, usually because they don’t know what it is. In this post, I’ll discuss the traditional components of a fiction book’s front matter. All of the pages are listed below in the order that they should appear in a  fiction paperback (I will be discussing e-book front matter in a separate post). An asterisk denotes a required component; all others are optional. So if you’re really dreading compiling your front matter, you can get away with just two pages! At the end of the list, you can download (for free!) my handy Fiction Paperback Front Matter Checklist.

Half-Title Page

A book’s half-title page is just what it sounds like—half the title. It contains only the main title of the book, no subtitle, no author name, and no publisher. The book’s designer will often match the font on this page with the font that was used on the cover.

Series Title or Previously Published Works

If the book is part of a series, the series title appears on this page, along with the titles of the previously published works in the series. If the book is not part of a series but the author has previously published works, they may be listed on this page instead. Alternatively, if the author wishes to include an illustration that pertains to the entire book, the illustration may appear on this page (this type of illustration is called a frontispiece).

Title Page*

Often, a book starts with a traditional (or full) title page, which includes the book’s full title and subtitle (if it has a subtitle), the author’s name (the word “by” is not included), the publisher’s name or imprint, the city where the publisher is located, and the publisher’s logo. As with the half-title page, the fonts used on this page typically match the fonts used on the cover. If the book has a subtitle, it usually appears in a different font or font size than the main title, on a separate line, and is not preceded by a colon.

Copyright Page*

The information that appears on the copyright page can vary, but it most always includes:

  • The copyright notice (e.g., “Copyright © 2013 Jennifer Zaczek”) followed by the statement “All rights reserved.”
  • A standard clause preventing unauthorized reproduction or reprinting (e.g., “No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.”)
  • A fiction disclaimer (e.g., “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to events or locales is completely coincidental.”)
  • The publisher’s name and address
  • The country of printing
  • Permissions and credits (e.g., “Cover design by Tom Story” and “Interior design by Cypress Editing”)
  • ISBN numbers for each version of the book (e.g., paperback, e-book)
  • Library of Congress (LOC) cataloging-in-publication data

Dedication Page

Can you guess what this page does not include? The word “dedication.” Just start with the word “to” or “for” and say whom you’ve dedicated the book to.

Epigraph

An epigraph is a quotation that appears at the beginning of a book, chapter, or part of a book. If an epigraph pertains to the entire text, it is placed in the front matter.

Table of Contents

A table of contents is usually absent in fiction unless the book is a collection of short stories or the book’s chapters have titles. If your book will have a table of contents, there’s no need to include page numbers when you are writing your book and preparing it for your editor because the page numbering will change after your book is designed. The table of contents is usually titled “Contents,” not “Table of Contents.”

Acknowledgments

This is where the author thanks everyone who had a role in the creation of the book. The acknowledgments page can appear in the front matter but is sometimes placed in the back matter instead. Note that the American spelling of “acknowledgments” does not include an e after the g.

Prologue

If you have decided to include a prologue, this is where it goes—after all the other front matter material and directly before the first chapter.

Fiction Paperback Front Matter Checklist

Congratulations! You made it to the end of this very long post :) Here’s your reward: a very handy checklist for compiling your book’s front matter. Just click below to download the PDF:

Download Checklist

Still have a question? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail, or leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

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