Print Book Formatting: Prelims & Back Matter

Front Matter/Preliminaries (Prelims)

Books don’t just jump in at the first chapter. Instead they have an assortment of copyright notices, dedications, reviews, author’s notes, contents and title pages to wade through before you get to the book itself. There are many different combinations of these, depending on which genre you’re writing in and what information want to display. Below are a couple of examples:

For a novel:

Pg. 1                    Testimonials/endorsements
Pg. 2                    Lists of author’s other published works
Pg. 3                    Title Page: containing title, subtitle, author & publisher
Pg. 4                    Copyright Page
Pg. 5                    Dedication/Author’s note/Acknowledgments
Pg. 6                    Blank
Pg. 7                    Half Title: containing book title only
Pg. 8                    Blank
Pg. 9                    Chapter 1

For Nonfiction:

Pg. 1                    Testimonials
Pg. 2                    About the author
Pg. 3                    Title Page: containing title, subtitle author & publisher
Pg. 4                    Copyright Page
Pg. 5 – 7              Contents
Pg. 8                    Blank
Pg. 9 – 12            Introduction
Pg. 13                   Chapter 1

Look at the order of these. You’ll notice that testimonials and information on the author’s other works usually come first so as to catch the reader’s attention when they first open the book. These are generally followed by title and copyright pages. Any introduction immediately precedes the first chapter, with contents pages just before that.

The other point to note is whether these fall on odd or even numbered pages. More items start on a right-hand (odd-numbered) page than a left-hand (even) one. The only thing that invariably seems to fall on the left is the copyright page. Inevitably this leads to one or two blank even pages. If you flick through any book on your shelves, you’ll see this is standard.

The above examples aren’t set in stone, just rough guidelines to follow. Again, look at books in your genre to get an idea of what’s usually included in their prelims. Also, don’t feel you have to include testimonials. If you have some from relevant sources that you want to include, then that’s great. Making them up or including ones from Joe Blogs looks a bit naff and it’s perfectly possible to produce a professional-looking book without them.

Whatever genre you’re writing in, though, you’re going to need a title and a copyright page. If you’re writing nonfiction, you should also include contents pages so readers can easily navigate through your book. Aside from that, there are no rules. Just think about what you want your readers to know before they start reading but bear in mind they’re likely to ignore whatever you write here in their rush to start the book proper.