There are 3 main parts of a book:
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
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 sections we barely think about as readers. As the writer, you need to know where all of it goes.
Understanding the different parts of a book helps you create a better book that contains everything readers (and publishers) expect.
What are the parts of a book called?
3. Back Matter
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.
There are 3 main parts of a book:
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.
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:
No book would be complete without a 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.
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.
Check out this resource for choosing a bestselling book title!
Resources for creating Title Pages:
Your book must have a copyright page. Whether you’re traditionally publishing, self-publishing, or just putting out an ebook 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:
Resources for creating Copyright Pages:
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.
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 nonfiction, 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:
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(n):
Resources for creating Dedication Pages:
Often, 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.
An excellent example of this would be found in Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. Here, he acknowledges many people and groups ranging from personnel at the Louvre to members of certain secret societies.
If somebody helped you out along your journey, don't be stingy. Acknowledge them.
Acknowledgments can be included in your book's preface or on their own page, probably depending on how many acknowledgments you’re giving out.
Resources for Acknowledgement Pages:
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.
Resources for Forewords:
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.
Resources for your Preface:
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.
Resources for Epigraphs:
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:
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.
Resources for Prologues:
Introductions are reserved for nonfiction works. They are optional but can help usher the reader into the main subject of the book.
They introduce your readers to the subject matter at hand, so they can have a better grasp of what will be presented.
Resources for Introductions:
Every book has chapters — though they can be called something else, like parts or sections of a book. Chapters divide the body text 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.
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.
Good examples of long/short chapters:
No, chapters do not have to be uniform in length. Trying to extend or limit word count can actually impede your storytelling potential.
Sometimes, keeping things short and sweet is best. Sometimes, suspenseful and climactic scenes can benefit from a longer length.
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.
Resources for Chapters:
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 screenplay, “The Cursed Child.”
If you're looking to set up a sequel or series, the epilogue is a perfect place to pique their interest.
Resources for Epilogues:
A conclusion is the nonfiction equivalent of an epilogue.
Conclusions neatly sum up the subject material’s core ideas and leave the reader with a sense of fulfillment.
Nowadays, conclusions are seldom explicitly labeled. Instead, authors may offer “final thoughts” at the end of the final chapter. This is basically the same thing.
Resources for Conclusions:
Just like the P.S. at the end of a letter, a postscript provides one last bit of extra info after the main story arc has been laid to rest.
Postscripts are not meant to be long, drawn-out swaths of text. Often, they are one or two sentences.
A postscript is a super short alternative to an epilogue. However, the body of your book could contain both.
Resources for Postscripts:
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:
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:
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.
Resources for Appendices and Addenda:
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:
A glossary is an in-book dictionary. It defines words that have been used in the body text in alphabetical order.
When dealing with technical terms or subjects of an unfamiliar nature, a glossary is a useful way to keep your audience on track with your writing. This applies to both nonfiction and fiction.
You can allude to the glossary by using sub or superscript numbers and footnotes within the main body text.
I’ve also known fantasy and sci-fi authors to use a glossary to define the plethora of invented words they come up with in their stories.
Resources for Glossaries:
An index is 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.
Indexes are excellent tools for authors to give their readers, particularly when it comes to nonfiction and educational material.
Resources for Indexes:
A chronology is a timeline of events that have happened throughout your book or series or in the real world pertinent to your nonfiction.
This is an absolute must for certain books.
In science fiction time travel series, for instance, chronologies can eliminate potential confusion.
Historical accounts will often add a chronology in the back matter to give readers information on what was happening in the world during the events discussed in the body.
Resources for Chronologies:
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.
Resources for Bibliographies:
If you used any copyrighted material in your book, the copyright permissions page is where you show that you obtained permission to use them.
This should be next to the bibliography page if you are using both. However, you can also place this copyright information in the front matter.
Copyrighted material includes but is not limited to:
Resources for Copyright Permissions:
If your book (or just parts of the book) were authored by multiple writers, a list of contributors’ names should be listed in the back matter.
This is uncommon in fiction but may appear more often in nonfiction.
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:
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.
Resources for Author Bios:
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.
Some authors include a first chapter from an upcoming book in the back matter — just another way to whet readers’ appetites.
If you don’t have anything in the works, you can replace this with a “Read More” page that tells readers what you’ve written in the past that they may want to buy.
This page may appear in the front matter, but I think it fits better in the back matter (once readers know if they want more from this author).
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.
Scrivener is a word processor that emphasizes organization and provides writers with a robust suite of powerful tools. It is the best book writing software, bar none.
I love the medium-specific and genre-specific templates, as well as the distraction-free Composition Mode. The Binder and Split Screen are also great.
If you want an in-depth look into the true power of Scrivener, check out my full-length review.
For those of you who don't know about my deep love of Scrivener, where have you been? Back in college, I used Scrivener to write my Master's thesis and haven't looked back.
You can get this awesome writing app on multiple devices:
And don’t forget to use my 20% off coupon code: KINDLEPRENEUR.
Scrivener makes your writing life so much easier. It has a bunch of cool features and templates that allow you to organize and build every piece of your book from scratch.
Designed by writers for writers, Scrivener users include writing superstars Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, and Michael Hyatt!
Vellum is another tool that makes the writing process a whole heck of a lot easier. It's a formatting tool you can use to really make your work look professional and ready-to-publish.
This includes formatting the front matter, the main text in the body, and the back matter.
Vellum utilizes pre-established templates. All you need to do is plug in your information, and it does the rest.
The biggest downside to Vellum is that it is only available to Mac users. (Sorry, PC folks.) The price ($249.99 for print and ebook) may also be a little steep for first-time authors.
But if you’re a Mac user and/or an author looking to up their game, Vellum is a fantastic tool for not only writing but professional-level formatting.
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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