Parts of a Book [From Cover to Cover]

By Dave Chesson
Last updated on July 19th, 2021

The parts of a book include the front matter, the body, and the back matter. The body is the most significant portion, containing the main narrative. The front matter and back matter are the non-story pages that come before and after the story is told.

Writing a book can be intimidating.

No matter what kind of book you're writing, you need to visualize the finished product to bring it to life. There are a lot of book parts we barely think about as readers. As the writer, you need to know where all of it goes.

Understanding the basic parts of a book helps you create a better book that contains everything readers (and publishers) expect.

As I detail each of these, I’ll let you know if it’s optional or required. I’ll also provide bonus resources for you to learn more about each part of the book.

Important: Most sources do not consider the front cover and back cover of your book (including the synopsis on the back) to be front matter or back matter. The terms “front matter” and “back matter” are usually reserved for the book’s pages, not the outside covers.

The front matter includes all the pages that come before the story. The body is the story: the beginning, middle, and end of your plot. The back matter is all the pages after the story.

Each area should (or should not) contain certain information. For example, you should place the Table of Contents before the body of the book but after the title page. Putting these in reverse order would lead to a very hectic reading experience.

Now, this is an extreme example, but many similar situations are less obvious.

What is structure in a book? The structure of the book is how information is presented to the reader. Not to be confused with the plot (story, characters, settings, etc.), the structure (form) is how the book is physically organized.

So let's take a look at the three focus areas and explore what parts of a book go in what section.

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Chapter 1

The Front Matter

What comes first in a book? The front matter comes first in any book, after the front cover. It consists of the first pages of your book before the story ever begins.

This area focuses on the author and publisher side of your writing. It gives you a dedicated space to credit your publishing team, anyone who inspired you, and yourself.

This part also helps you protect the intellectual property contained inside your book.

The front matter pages are often numbered with lowercase roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.) instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

Below is a closer look at what makes up the front matter:

1. Title Page

No book would be complete without a book title page. The title page should contain the author’s name (or pen name) and title of the book (including subtitles) just as it appears on your book cover. The publisher’s name may also appear on a full title page. Let's not forget that the title and cover act as the book poster for your manuscript, so it's important to get these parts right.

A half title page (also known as a bastard title page) contains only the title of the book — not the author or publisher. It may also omit the book's subtitle. The half-title typeface often differs from the typography of the title on the cover.

A second half title page may be useful if your front matter is particularly lengthy. To indicate the separation between the front matter and body of your book, an author or their designer may place a second half-title page, as if to officially announce, “Here’s where the story starts!”

A frontispiece is an illustration on the verso (left-hand page) facing the title page on the recto (right-hand page). This is optional but can be a nice touch, especially for children’s books, sci-fi, fantasy, or memoirs/biographies

Your book must have a copyright page. Whether you’re traditionally publishing, self-publishing, or just putting out an ebook, paperback, or hardcover book on Amazon, a copyright page helps protect your writing from plagiarism.

Sometimes known as a colophon or an edition notice, the copyright page contains information that helps legally register your book and protect the intellectual property you so painstakingly generated.

The copyright page may contain:

  • Copyright notices
  • Legal notices
  • Book edition, with dates and versions
  • Publisher information
  • Library of Congress catalog number
  • Disclaimers
  • Typefaces
  • Printer’s key
  • Printing history
  • ISBN

3. Table of Contents

A table of contents (TOC) is a helpful tool for your readers. They are the standard for most books.

However, a TOC is optional. Not every book has one, especially a fiction book.

Some might disagree that having the TOC is optional. But when you write a Table of Contents, you may set up reader expectations to anticipate your book’s milestones. An author may not want to imply where the story is headed.

For a nonfiction book, a TOC is essential.

But for some mysteries, thrillers, sequels, and other fiction genres, a TOC may give away unintended hints about upcoming twists, pacing, and character revelations.

If you're aiming for a fast-paced read — one your reader just can't put down — maybe you should skip the TOC. Engage your readers' minds with full throttle suspense and keep them turning pages. Then they won’t need a TOC… just a bookmark.

Resources for creating a Table of Contents:

4. Dedication/Acknowledgement Pages

Who do you dedicate your book to?

The dedication page is where you give a shout-out to the special someone in your life who made this book possible. This can be creative and lend to the author's quirks.

For instance, I could dedicate my next book, “To the simple coffee bean, for none of this could have been accomplished without you. (I got you, my small, delicately roasted friend.)

An author can dedicate the book to a friend, family member, and literally anyone they want.

The acknowledgment page goes hand-in-hand with the dedication page. This is where you would acknowledge any special thanks for those who helped along the way.

This is an optional page in the front matter. You may also put it in the back matter.

Resources for creating Dedication Pages:

5. Foreword

The foreword is written by somebody other than the author. This can provide a unique perspective into the book, which may have otherwise gone unseen.

Books that frequently contain forewords are non-fiction, particularly self-help or other kinds of uplifting books. A foreword may also be used if the book’s author passed away before publication.

Just remember — a foreword is optional.

When both a foreword and preface are used in the front matter, the foreword normally comes first.

6. Preface

The preface is an introduction that the author writes. It can orient the reader to view the forthcoming book in a way that the author intends. It can describe the writing process or the source of inspiration.

Don't get this confused with the prologue, which we will discuss later. The prologue is supposed to be part of your story. The preface, on the other hand, is part of the non-story front matter.

This is your chance to speak to your reader outside of the plot.

7. Epigraph

You see epigraphs at the beginning of some books, movies, and even video games. It’s a quote from the author or someone else that segues from the front matter to the body of the book.

Sometimes, you don't want a lot of verbiage right before getting into your book. The best approach may be to throw your readers headfirst into your story.

The best way to do this could be a quick excerpt from your book or any book, really. Or a famous quote from a celebrity. Or a poem. Or some random thing you once heard a stranger say. Whatever feels right for your book. These are all epigraphs.

Often, they're the best way to tell your audience to buckle up because they're in for one heck of a ride.

Chapter 2

The Body

Between the front matter and the back matter is the body. The body contains the plot of fiction or the valuable information for nonfiction.

Although your book’s body makes up most of the whole, it contains fewer components than the front or back matter.

Here's what makes up the Body of your work:

1. Prologue

A prologue is the first taste of storytelling your reader gets. It is optional but may be useful for your plot. (This is for fiction. The nonfiction version of a prologue is the introduction, discussed below.)

A prologue may introduce you to the maniacal ways of the antagonist or the impending threat that most people in the world don’t know is headed their way. Many authors use their prologue to tell a tale from a unique perspective or during a different time period than the main story.

The prologue allows your reader to be catapulted into the drama without wasting any time.

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2. Chapters

Every book has chapters — though they can be called something else, like parts or sections of a book. Chapters divide the body text block into more consumable bits.

You can even subdivide your story. Some books contain 2-4 parts and several chapters in each part. Think of acts and scenes in a play.

There are a lot of creative ways to name and divide your chapters. But readers will not be happy if your book does not split up your story into smaller sections.

How long should a chapter be? A chapter can be really long or super short. It should be long enough to fully address the scene you’re writing, yet short enough that you don't lose the reader’s interest.

Should chapters be uniform in length? No, chapters do not have to be uniform in length. Trying to extend or limit word count can actually impede your storytelling potential.

Should chapters be uniform in format? It's a good idea to keep a consistent format throughout your book, so you don’t disorient the reader — unless disorienting/reorienting the reader is the specific goal of your book.

3. Epilogue

An epilogue is the final chapter in a book or series. Whereas the prologue comes before the main body text, the epilogue comes directly after.

Some may argue whether an epilogue is a chapter, but I have never understood why.

Epilogues are for fiction. They provide a little story after the main story. Like prologues, they may be told from a unique point of view or a different time. Epilogues are useful for plugging up a plot hole or answering a question you know your readers will have.

One of the most famous epilogues of modern fiction is the final part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Set 17 years after the close of the last chapter, the epilogue both offers a resolution to the original series and sets the stage for author J.K. Rowling’s stageplay, “The Cursed Child.”

If you're looking to set up a sequel or series, the epilogue is a perfect place to pique their interest.

Chapter 3

The Back Matter

Also called end matter, the back matter is placed at the end of the book, containing non-story elements, such as a glossary, an author bio, or a coming soon page. (Marketing tip: always have a coming soon page or something similar to tease your audience for your next work.)

We've made it to the end of the story, but that doesn't mean the book is over.

The back matter includes:

1. Afterword

Like the foreword or preface, an afterword is where the author (or another entity) reaches out to the reader — often explaining more of the process of creating the book.

It is not part of your central or post narrative but another chance to break down the author-reader wall. Even though it is not a part of the story, some sources include the afterword in the body of the text. It doesn’t really matter how you classify it, though.

Resources for Afterwords:

2. Appendix or Addendum

The appendix provides extra details and information about the story or information that was covered in the body. The addendum adds new material after the first printing or first edition, such as the author correcting something from the original.

Sometimes, appendix and addendum are used interchangeably. Alternatively, an appendix is used more often in fiction, whereas an addendum is more often found in nonfiction.

Appendices and addenda (the fancy-sounding plurals) often contain figures, tables, and even photos or illustrations. They can be an elegant addition to your book — one that may even entice potential readers to buy a copy.

Appendices can also include several other parts of a book, including but not limited to:

  • Glossary: an in-book dictionary. It defines words that have been used in the body text in alphabetical order.
  • Index: a list of terms and keywords (in alphabetical order) used in the book and page numbers telling readers where to find them in the body text.
  • Chronology: a timeline of events that have happened throughout your book or series or in the real world pertinent to your nonfiction.

Resources for Appendices and Addenda:

3. Endnotes

Unlike footnotes, which appear at the bottom of pages where they are important, endnotes appear after the body. Endnotes are essentially footnotes that appear in the back matter.

These are typically supplementary notes about specific excerpts from the body. Endnotes are more common in nonfiction.

Resources for Endnotes:

4. Bibliography

Also called a reference list, the bibliography is one of the most (legally) important parts of the back matter.

If you use external sources to create your book, you must include a bibliography. Cite your sources properly and give credit where credit is due. Otherwise, you may face accusations of plagiarism.

Next to your Bibliography, you may also find copyright permissions. If you used any copyrighted material in your book, the copyright permissions page is where you show that you obtained permission to use them.

Resources for Bibliographies:

5. Author Bio

Also called the “About the Author,” an author bio is all about you!

This can appear in the back matter or on the dust jacket flap of the back cover.

Questions you can answer in the author bio:

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Who is your mentor/inspiration?
  • How did you get started as a writer?
  • What do you care about?

This is a great opportunity to include a coming soon page or excerpt from your book. A coming soon page tells readers what they can look forward to from the author. This is a simple marketing tool that lets happy readers know there is more they can buy from you.

This is your chance to connect with your reader on a personal level and a great way to build your all-important author brand. Nailing your author bio can help you sell more books in the future.

Dave Chesson teaching the Writer's of the Future Award Winners on Author Branding
Dave Chesson teaching the Writer's of the Future Award Winners on Author Branding
Chapter 4

Resources for Creating Parts of a Book

I use Scrivener to write my books, and Vellum is a valuable resource to format books for publishing. Consider using these resources when creating the various parts of your book.

Writing Tools

Scrivener is currently the best writing software for writing books, and includes tools that cover each of the parts of a book that we covered here.

Vellum is another tool that makes the writing process a whole heck of a lot easier. From adding the page number to each page, to creating a table of contents, it's a formatting tool you can use to really make your work look professional and ready-to-publish.

Want to learn more?

Writing a professional-looking book is no easy task. I hope I’ve helped you along the process.

For more opportunities to learn more about writing a book, read these next:

Bookmark this article as a resource, and it can guide you through the steps.

Now that you understand the parts of a book, you'll be much better off as an author.



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2 thoughts on “Parts of a Book [From Cover to Cover]

Comments
  1. Aldrich

    Is it possible to put my Copyright. All rights reseved notice, in the back?? Or does it have to go in the front?
    Thank you!

    1. Dave Chesson

      It’s possible and there isn’t something that would stop you, but it’s not customary.

Comments are closed.