Writing a book can be intimidating.
No matter what kind of book you're writing, you need to be able to visualize the finished product in order to bring it to life. Plus, there are so many sections we barely think about as readers — the title page, copyright pages, dedications, tables of content. As the writer, you need to know where all that goes!
Understanding the different parts of a book helps you check all those boxes and create a better finished product in the process.
In this article, you will learn about the 3 Major Section of a Book and what lies within them:
- The Front Matter
- Back Matter
The Three Main Focus Areas of a Book
A good book is made up of three major chunks.
The Beginning. The Middle. The End.
This might seem rather elementary, but there's more to it than meets the eye.
Each area should (or should not) contain particular information. For example, it would be wise to place your Table of Contents before the actual 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 situations are less obvious.
I. The Front Matter
The front matter (aka The Beginning) is one of the “Big Three” sections. This area primarily focuses on the authorship and publisher side of your writing. Title page, copyright page, and so on. It gives you a dedicated space to credit your publishing team (if applicable), any inspirations, and most importantly…Yourself.
But the front matter isn't only for pats on the back. Some parts also help you to protect your intellectual property contained inside the book.
This section also helps to set up the rest of the book. What goes on a title page? Will you utilize a TOC (Table of Contents) or no? What about a forward or preface? And what's the difference between the two? These are important questions you need to ask yourself when considering the anatomy of your book.
a. Title Page
No book would be complete without a title page. The title page should contain your author name (whether your real or pen name) and book title — just as it appears on your book cover. Check out this resource for putting together an awesome book title!
List of Resources for Creating Title Pages:
b. Copyright Page
This is another mandatory section to have. And even if it were optional… You'd want to put it in there anyway. Known as a colophon for those in the industry, the copyright page contains a huge amount of information that helps to register your book in the community and protect the intellectual property you painstakingly generated. Often, on this page you will find:
- The Book Edition with Dates and Versions
- The Copyright Catalog Information
- Publisher Information
It's definitely well worth the time invested to learn how to create a good copyright page.
List of Resources for Creating Copyright Pages:
- How to write a Book Copyright Page
- Things to think about in your Copyright Page
- FAQ type questions
- Where to get professional legal advice
c. Table of Contents (Optional)
Many people might disagree with having the TOC as optional. But look back at some of the novels you've read before. Chances are they didn't all have a TOC. That's because, when you establish a Table of Contents, you intentionally set up milestones for your book. They often imply where you are in the story and what's happening at the time.
For Non-Fiction, TOCs can be labeled as essential (so make sure you create a proper TOC). But let's say you wrote this hair-raising mystery thriller… Could your Table Of Contents give clues to what's happening next? Or could a TOC with labeled chapters actually impede the pace at which the reader goes through your story?
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.
List of Resources for Table of Contents Pages:
d. Dedication Page (Optional)
This is where you give a shout-out to the special someones in your life who made this book possible. These 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.)”
List of Resources for Creating Dedication Pages:
- List of Creative Dedication Pages
- Writing a Dedication Page without Overthinking It
- How to Write a Dedication
e. Acknowledgement Page (Optional)
Often times, these go hand-in-hand with the dedication page. This is where you would acknowledge any special thanks for those who helped along the way. A good 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.
This is an optional page to insert. But… If somebody really helped you out, don't be stingy. Give them some proper respect. Acknowledgements can also be easily written into your book's preface as well (if you choose to have one).
List of Resources for Acknowledgement Pages:
- What is an Acknowledgement Page?
- How to Write an Acknowledgement Page
- 3 Ways to Write an Acknowledgement Page
f. Preface (Optional)
The Preface is an introduction that you, the author, write. (Don't get this confused with the Prologue, which we will discuss further down.) This can include an explanation of what led to the creation of your book. Or an account of what went down while writing it. This is your chance to speak to your reader outside of the author-reader arrangement.
List of Resources for your Preface:
g. Foreword (Optional)
The Foreword serves a similar purpose as the Preface, yet it comes from somebody other than the author. This can provide a unique perspective into the book which may have otherwise been unseen. When both a Foreword and Preface are used, the Foreword normally comes first.
List of Resources for Forewords:
h. Epigraph (Optional)
Sometimes, you don't need or want a lot of verbiage prior to getting into your book. Let's go back to that mystery thriller from earlier. The best approach may be to throw your readers headfirst into your story. The best way to do this could be a quick, little excerpt from your book. Or a quote that sums up the experience. These are known as Epigraphs. Often, they're the best way to tell your audience to buckle up because they're in for one heck of a ride.
List of Resources for Epigraphs:
II. The Body
The middle part of a book is often referred to as the Body.
a. Introduction / Prologue (Optional)
Sometimes, when writing your book, you need a little explanation prior to the real meat of the text. Like a short story before the story. This is known as the prologue or introduction.
Introductions are commonly reserved for non-fiction works. They introduce your readers to the subject matter at hand, so they can have a better grasp on what will be presented.
Prologues, on the other hand, are more appropriate for novels. We'll use our thriller as an example again. If the main villain of your novel is a menacing serial killer, a prologue could introduce you to the maniacal ways of the antagonist. This allows your reader to be catapulted into the drama without wasting any time.
List of Resources for Intros and Prologues:
- Whens, wheres, and hows of Prologues
- Prologues, Intros, Prefaces, and Forewords: Which is right for you?
- How to write a Prologue
b. Parts and Chapters
These are the main divisions in your body text.
Parts are the larger of the two. Think of them as acts in a play. They give you a full hunk of a story with a clear beginning and end. Ending a part doesn't necessarily mean that the book is finished. It just means the story is transitioning to a new act.
Chapters are akin to individual scenes in a play. They are segments of a part that move the story along. Just like with parts, chapters should have a defined beginning and end. (Now, this doesn't mean you can have a few cliffhangers.) When writing parts and chapters, keep a few things in mind.
How long should your Part/Chapter be?
Long enough to fully address the scene or arc, but short enough so you don't lose the reader in a tidal flood of detail.
Should parts/chapters be uniform in length and info?
Not necessarily. Although having a completion window of X amount of pages may seem like a good idea, it can really limit your storytelling potential. Remember, sometimes keeping things short and sweet is best.
Should my parts/chapters be uniform in format?
It's a good idea to keep a consistent format throughout your book so as not to disorient the reader, unless reorienting the reader is the goal of a particular part/chapter.
List of Resources for Chapters:
- How to Write an Academic Book Chapter
- Writing Book Chapters and Books
- How to Create Chapters in Your Novel
c. Conclusions and Epilogues
These two are the direct counterparts to introductions and prologues. Whereas intros and prologues come before the main body text, these follow directly after.
Conclusions are for the non-fiction side of things. They tend to neatly sum up the reading material and leave the reader with sense of fulfillment.
Epilogues are for fiction. They provide a little story after the story. These are just awesome for plugging any last minute plot holes or providing the answers to questions that you know your readers will have. And if you're looking to set up a sequel or series… The epilogue is a perfect place to start doing so.
List of Resources for Conclusions and Epilogues:
- What is an Epilogue — and How To Write One Readers Won't Forget
- Writing Conclusions for Non Fiction Books
- Six Ways to use an Epilogue
Just like the PS at the end of a letter, Postscripts provide just that last bit of extra info after the main arc has been laid to rest. These are not meant to be long, drawn-out swathes of text. When using Postscripts, remember to KISS (Keep It Short and Simple).
List of Resources for Postscripts:
This is where the author reaches out, once again, to the reader–often explaining more of the process of creating the book. It is not part of your main or post narrative but another chance to breakdown the author-reader wall.
A Resource for Afterwords:
III. Back Matter
a. Appendices and Addenda
These are parts of a book that provide extra details and information about the material or information that was covered in the body. Appendices and addenda often contain figures, tables, and even photos or illustrations. They can be a really neat addition to your book–one that may even entice potential readers to buy a copy.
List of Resources for Appendices and Addenda:
A glossary is your in-book dictionary. It defines words that have been used in the body text. When dealing with subjects of a more difficult nature or technical terms, a glossary is an amazing way to keep your audience on track with your writing. You can allude to the glossary by using sub or superscript numbers and footnotes within the main body text.
List of Resources for Glossaries:
Indexes are amazing tools, particularly when it comes to non-fiction or educational material. These are lists of subject matter or keywords used within your writing with corresponding page numbers. If your reader needs to find info on a particular interest, a quick flip through the index is all he or she needs.
List of Resources for Indexes:
This is an absolute must for some books. A chronology is a timeline of events that has happened throughout your book or series. In science fiction time travel series, chronologies are pivotal for eliminating confusion. They are often found in non fiction as well–particularly in historical accounts.
List of Resources for Chronologies:
The bibliography is one of the most important parts of not just your Back Matter but of your whole book. If you use external sources to create your book, you must include a bibliography. This makes sure those you cited get their proper credit. Creating a bibliography is easier said than done. Thankfully, there are free third-party tools available to help you more easily build a professional bibliography page. EasyBib is just one example.
List of Resources for Bibliographies:
- How to Write a Bibliography
- APA and MLA Bibliography Samples
- Tips to Writing a Great Bibliography
- 12 Best FREE Online Bibliography Writing Tools
f. Copyright Permissions
This can be done alongside the Bibliography page. If you used any copyrighted material in your book, this is where you would want to cite it. Copyrighted material includes but is not limited to:
- Song Lyrics
- Other Book Excerpts
List of Resources for Copyright Permissions:
g. About the Author
The About the Author page is all about you! Who are you? What do you do for fun? Where are you from? It's a chance for you to further connect with your reader and to help grow your own personal author brand. Doing so can greatly help you sell more books for future releases. Looking for more ways to grow your author brand? CLICK HERE AND FIND OUT HOW!
List of Resources for About the Author Pages:
- How to Write an Amazing Author Bio
- How to Write Your About the Author Page and Make Readers Adore You
Helpful Tools for Creating Parts of a Book
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into creating a book. It's not all sunshine and rainbows.
However, life's made easier with the help of formatting and template platforms.
For those of you who don't quite know of my deep love of Scrivener… Here it is.
If I ever have a major piece I need to write, Scrivener is my go-to. Heck, it's always been my ride or die! Back in college, I actually used it to write my Master's thesis and haven't looked back.
Scrivener just makes your writing life easy. It has so many 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 such as Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn, and Michael Hyatt!
Developed for long-form writing, this software takes you from the planning stages all the way to eBook formatting and submission. If you want an in-depth look into the true power of Scrivener, check out my full length review. And if you determine that Scrivener is right for you, use my special promo code in that review to get 20% off your Scrivener purchase.
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 its best.
Vellum utilizes pre-established templates. So 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.) But if you're on a Mac like me, Vellum may be a tool worth looking into.
Parts of a Book Assembled
Writing a complete book is no easy task. From title page to appendices… there's a lot to consider. Be sure to bookmark this article as a resource, and it can guide you through the steps. This list might not include everything you could possibly want to include in a book, but there are resources available to help guide you the rest of the way. And if you're looking for an online resource (or style guide), look no further than the The Chicago Manual of Style.
Now that you understand the anatomy of a book, you'll be much better off when creating a great one.