Parts of a Book Explained: Front Matter, Body, and Back Matter
Beyond just polishing the story or contents of your nonfiction book itself, getting ready for publication involves preparing several different parts of a book — including the front matter and back matter. If you haven’t come across the terms before, don’t be intimidated! They simply refer to the first and last sections of your book: the bits that make it an “official” book, and not just chapters printed on bound paper.
In this post, we’ll pull out our microscopes and zero in on this anatomy of a book — covering what vital components should be included in the front, body, and back matter, and how you can create them all using our free formatting tool.
What makes up the different parts of a book?
For a visual aid, we suggest you pull a random book down from the shelf and open it up. You can follow along and see how front and back matter are always arranged the same way. The order of these pages does matter (pun intended), so these parts require a little extra attention.
1) The Front Matter
You know those first few pages that are typically numbered in lower-case Roman numerals? That’s called the front matter. Though many readers skip right over it, it includes some pretty important information on behalf of the author and publisher! Let’s take a look at what the front matter needs to include — and some of the optional sections you might find there as well.
Here’s what’s in the front matter:
- Frontispiece (optional): a decorative illustration printed on the side facing the title page.
- Title page: print the title and author name as it appears on the cover and the spine.
- Copyright page: also called a colophon among literary circles. It’s found on the reverse of the title page and contains technical information such as edition dates, copyrights, typefaces, ISBN, as well as your publisher and printer names.
- Dedication page (optional): a page where the author names the person or people for whom they have written the book.
- Epigraph (optional): a phrase, quotation, or excerpt from a poem. The epigraph often serves as a preface.
- Table of contents: a list of chapter headings (and subheadings, if you wish) along with their respective page numbers. The contents should include all sections that come after the Table of Contents (listed below), your chapters and parts, and any sections in the back matter.
- Foreword (optional): an introduction written by another person, usually coming before the preface.
- Preface (optional): an introduction written by the author. It can relate how the book came into being or provide context for its creation.
- Acknowledgment (optional, and sometimes part of the preface): acknowledgment of those who contributed to the creation of the book.
2) The Body
Next up in the anatomy of a book is something called the body. For readers and writers alike, this is where the magic happens.
Here’s what’s in the body of a book:
- Introduction or Prologue: introductions are specifically found in non-fiction, while novels may sometimes contain prologues before the actual story begins.
- Parts and chapters: a time-tested system for splitting books into manageable pieces. Curious to learn more? Check out this post on how long a chapter should be.
Sometimes the body matter will end with a conclusion, which commonly exists in a few forms:
- Conclusion: this is commonly found in non-fiction books, and is where the author(s) sum up the core ideas and concepts of the body.
- Epilogue: provides narrative closure in fiction books. Epilogues often serve as a final chapter, revealing the fate of your characters. You can also use it to hint at a sequel or tie up any loose ends.
- Afterword: an author’s note on how the book came into being — or the story of how they developed the idea. An afterword is often interchangeable with the preface.
- Postscript: adds new information about the story that occurs after the narrative has come to an end.
3) The Back Matter
Just like front matter is found at the start of a book, the back matter (also known as the “end matter”) is — you guessed it — found at the back of a book. Generally, authors use the back matter to offer readers further supplementary information about the book or story.
Here’s what’s in the back matter of a book:
- Appendix or Addendum: extra details or an update of information found in the body.
- Chronology: a list of events in sequential order, which may be helpful for the reader. Chronologies are sometimes presented in the appendix.
- Endnotes or Notes: these can be organized by chapter and should have been progressively created throughout the writing stage of the book.
- Copyright permissions: if you’ve sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended extracts from other books, you may be required to attribute credit in this section.
- Glossary: definitions of words that are of importance to the work, usually sorted in alphabetical order. The entries may include places and characters, which is common for longer works of fiction.
- Bibliography and Reference List: a comprehensive breakdown of sources cited in the work. The listed items should have already been attributed in the book. This is not a reading list on your subject. It should follow a Manual of Style, such as the one we mentioned above. There are many free tools, such as Easybib, which will help you create a suitable bibliography.
- List of Contributors: anyone who aided you in researching or writing the book should be acknowledged here.
- Index: a list of terms used in the book and the pages where they are used. Indices are standard to non-fiction books.
- About the Author: a good place to mention your backlist and any upcoming titles. Include a call to action visit your author website and social networks.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Many popular websites provide incorrect information on this topic, so do watch out! For more details, we would recommend referring to The Chicago Manual of Style — widely accepted as the publishing world’s main body of reference.
How to build the parts of a book using the Reedsy Book Editor
After presenting you with this long list of elements your book should or can include, we want to put your mind at ease: we have a (free) tool that will make creating the anatomy of a book a breeze. It’s the Reedsy Book Editor! And here’s how it works...
Front matter. Anytime someone creates a new book using the Editor, it automatically generates the following pages: title, copyright, dedication, and table of contents. You can configure these fields from the "Book Settings" page of your project at any time. If you forget to fill them in, the Editor will remind you again before you export your final books.
To insert a foreword, preface, or any additional front matter page, just create a new chapter in the Editor and drag it up to the Front Matter section of your project (just as in the image here).
Bonus resources to create the front matter:
- Blog post on copyright (or this handy copyright page template for some additional help!)
- Blog post getting an ISBN (in ten minutes or less!)
Back matter. When you start a new project, the Editor also automatically creates endnote pages where you can add any other back matter pages you require.
Bonus resources to create the back matter:
Hopefully, this provides enough information to get you started on building your book. If you’d like to learn more about how to turn you title into EPUB, MOBI, or a PDF file, check out our post on how to make a book.
Is there anything else you would like to know about the parts of the book or the logistics of self-publishing? Leave a comment in the box below and we'll do our best to answer your questions.