Anatomy of a Book: Front Matter, Body and Back Matter
Last updated: 07/12/2017
As you put the finishing touches on your book and prepare it for publication, you’ll quickly come across the need for front matter and back matter. These terms may seem confusing at first, but they’re simply 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 summarize what sections should be including in your front, body and back matter, and how you can create them all using our free formatting tool.
As a visual aid, we suggest you pull a few books down from the shelf and open them 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 take extra care when you’re working on these parts of your book.
The Front Matter
When you open up almost any book, you’ll see that the first few pages are numbered in lower-case Roman numerals. That indicates that you’re looking at the front matter, or first section, of a book.
The front matter contains (in the following order):
- 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.
This list is by no means exhaustive. For more details, we would suggest referring to The Chicago Manual of Style – widely accepted as the publishing world’s main body of reference. Many popular websites provide incorrect information on this topic, so do watch out!
Front Matter in the Reedsy Book Editor
For each book, the Editor 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):
Now that the front of your book is in order, let’s move on to the next part of your book. In short, your body matter can consist of:
- Introduction: specifically in non-fiction.
- Parts and chapters: a time-tested system for splitting books into manageable pieces.
Sometimes the body matter will end with a conclusion, which commonly exist in a few forms:
- Conclusion: most often found in non-fiction books.
- Epilogue: providing narrative closure. 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: adding new information about the story that occurs after the narrative has come to an end.
The Back Matter
Also called end matter, this is –you guessed it– the section at the end of your book.
The back matter may contain (in the following order):
- 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 part 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 already 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 to visit you
Back Matter in the Reedsy Book Editor
The Editor will automatically create endnotes pages, leaving you to create any other back matter pages you require.
Hopefully, this provides enough information to get you started on building your book. If you’d like to learn more about how to make an EPUB or a PDF file for your book, check out our post on How to Make a Book.
Is there anything else you would like to know about formatting books or the logistics of self-publishing? Leave a comment in the box below and we'll do our best to answer your questions.