Parts of a Book Explained: Front Matter, Body, and Back Matter
Even if you've already polished your chapters to perfection, you still need to prepare various other parts of a book before publishing — namely, the front matter and back matter.
If you haven’t come across these terms before, don’t be intimidated! They simply refer to the first and last sections of your book: the bits that make it look put-together and “official,” rather than like randomly bound pages.
In this post, we’ll zero in on the anatomy of a book, covering which components you should include in the front, body, and back matter. We'll also demonstrate how to create them using our free formatting tool, the Reedsy Book Editor, so you can get all the parts of your book ready today!
What are the parts of a book?
Before you read on, we'd suggest pulling a book off your shelf and opening it up. That way, you can follow along and see firsthand how front matter and back matter are arranged! Now, let's get to the parts of your book and in what order they should appear — though of course, you don't have to include ALL of the elements listed, only the ones that are relevant to you.
1. The front matter
The front matter of a book consists of its very first pages: the title page, copyright page, table of contents, etc. There may also be a preface by the author, or a foreword by someone familiar with their work.
Though many readers skip right over it, the front matter contains some pretty important information about the book's author and publisher. And for those who DO read it, the front matter forms their first impression, so make sure you get it right!
The front matter includes the following:
Title page — the full title and author's name as they appear on the cover.
Frontispiece — a decorative illustration or photo that appears on the page next to the title page. Typically goes on the left, as seen here.
Accolades — quotes from esteemed reviewers and publications in praise of the book. This praise often appear on the back cover as well.
Copyright page — also called a “colophon,” this includes technical information about copyrights, edition dates, typefaces, ISBN, as well as your publisher and printer. Usually appears on the reverse of the title page.
Dedication page — a page where the author names the person or people to whom they dedicate their book, and why. This typically comes after the copyright page.
Table of contents — a list of chapter headings and the page numbers where they begin. The table of contents (abbreviated ToC) should list all major sections that follow it, both body and back matter.
Epigraph — a quote or excerpt that indicates the book's subject matter. This can be taken from another book, a poem, a song, or almost any source. It usually comes immediately before the first chapter.
Preface — an introduction written by the author that relates how the book came into being, or provides context for the current edition.
Foreword — an introduction written by another person, usually a friend, family member, or scholar of the author's work.
2. The body
The body of a book is pretty self-explanatory: the main text that goes between the front matter and back matter. For readers and writers alike, this is where the magic happens — but it's not just the content that's crucial, but also how you arrange it. Don't worry, we'll show you how!
The body includes the following:
Prologue (for fiction) — a section just before the main story begins that sets the stage and engages the reader. Indeed, many prologues contain intriguing events that only become contextualized later in the story.
Introduction (for nonfiction) — a few pages that usher the reader into the subject matter. The intro goes over early events or information related to the main narrative, so the reader has a solid footing before they begin.
What's the difference between a preface and an introduction? A preface is personal to the author, discussing why they wrote the book and what their process was. An introduction relates directly to the subject matter and really kicks things off — which is why it's part of the body, not the front matter.
Chapters — every single book has chapters, or at least sections, into which the narrative is divided. These chapters may not be designated by a chapter heading, or appear in a ToC; some authors start new chapters just by using page breaks. But if you don't use anything to break up your content, your readers will not be happy. (Also, if you're unsure how long your chapters should be, check out this post on the subject!)
Epilogue (for fiction) — a scene that wraps up the story in a satisfying manner, often taking place some time in the future. Alternately, if there are more books to come in the series, the epilogue may raise new questions or hint at what will happen in the next book.
Conclusion (for nonfiction) — an section that sums up the core ideas and concepts of the text. Separately labeled conclusions are becoming less common in nonfiction books, as most contain conclusions in the final chapter, but academic theses may still be formatted this way.
Afterword — any other final notes on the book; can be written by the author or by someone they know.
Postscript — a brief final comment after the narrative comes to an end, usually just a sentence or two (e.g. “Matthew died at sea in 1807, but his memory lives on”).
3. The back matter
The back matter (also known as the “end matter”) is — you guessed it — material found at the back of a book. Authors use their back matter to offer readers further context or information about the story, though back matter can also be extremely simple: sometimes just a quick mention of the author's website or a note from the publisher.
The back matter includes the following:
Acknowledgments — a section to acknowledge and thank all those who contributed to the book's creation. This may be the author's agent and editor(s), their close friends and family, and other sources of inspiration. The acknowledgements typically appear right after the last chapter.
About the author — this is where the author gives a brief summary of their previous work, education, and personal life (e.g. “She lives in New York with her husband and two Great Danes”). If you're currently figuring out what to put in your author bio, this thorough how-to might help!
Copyright permissions — if the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books, they should be attributed here (may also appear in the front matter).
Discussion questions — thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book, intended for use in an academic context or for book clubs.
Appendix or addendum (nonfiction) — additional details or updated information relevant to the book, especially if it's a newer edition.
Chronology or timeline (nonfiction) — list of events in sequential order, which may be helpful for the reader, especially if the narrative is presented out of order. A chronology is sometimes part of the appendix.
Endnotes — supplementary notes that relate to specific passages of the text, and denoted within the body by superscripts. Almost always used in nonfiction, but occasionally found in experimental/comedic fiction as well, such as Infinite Jest.
Glossary — definitions of words or other elements that appear in the text. In works of fiction, the glossary may contain entries about individual characters or settings. The glossary usually appears in alphabetical order.
Index — a list of specialty terms or phrases used in the book, along with the pages on which they appear, so the reader can find them easily. The index is also usually in alphabetical order.
Bibliography/reference list — a comprehensive breakdown of sources cited in the work. Your bibliography should follow a manual of style — luckily, it's easy to create one using free tools like Easybib. Note that this is a formal list of citations, not a bonus reading list on your subject; that would go in the afterword or appendix.
INFOGRAPHIC: parts of a book
Need an on-hand reference for putting your book together? Look no further: this infographic lists the most essential parts of a book in order, and elucidates the purpose of each section so you'll know exactly what to include! Simply right click and “save image” to download.
How to build parts of a book using the Reedsy Book Editor
After reading this very long list of elements your book can include, here's something to take the edge off: a FREE tool that will make it easy-peasy to assemble all the parts of your book. We're talking, of course, about the Reedsy Book Editor! 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 book.
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.
Back matter. When you start a new project, the Editor also automatically creates endnote pages where you can add any back matter pages you require. You'll be able to add a new heading for each page, of course, so you don't get your acknowledgements mixed up with your appendices!
Hopefully this provides you with plenty of information to help you build 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.