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Things that matter - ten details you should include in the front your book

It takes more than a great looking cover and some solid editing to make your book as good as the professionals, there’s something that self-publishers often miss, the front matter. Here are some things to consider before you publish your book, and reasons why front matter matters.

Front matter, or preliminaries (‘prelims’, for short), is all the content that appears before your actual story. Most writers who are self-publishing only do the bare minimum, but there’s so much more and it all adds to the reader experience.

As a reader, when getting a new book, you might be forgiven for skipping over all the gumpf at the beginning of the book just to dive straight in to the story, we all do it, but the fact that it’s there gives a certain impression.

The basics:

  • Copyright page
  • Title page
  • Table of contents (required for most ebooks)

These are the things that all books should have at the very least, but what else could be included?

1Half title page

Whereas the main title page would normally have it displayed the same as the cover, and include the publisher details, author name, etc, the half title (or bastard title) is simply the title of the book, written in caps, with no other information. In a printed book the reverse of the page (or verso) will be blank.

2Colophon

This is the copyright page, but what a lot of self-pubbers don’t realise is that this could include a lot more information. Details like edition dates, and name and address of the printer for a hard copy would also be included here, as well as the ISBN, credits for images and design, and any other legal notices like the disclaimer. It’s normally on the verso of the title page in a printed book.

3Dedication

A simple sentence from the author, dedicating the book to a certain person, normally a friend, family member, or spouse.

4Frontispiece

An elaborate illustration, either of something related to the story, like a map, or an image of the author.

5Epigraph

A phrase, quotation, or piece of poetry, which could summarise the story, link the book to wider literary works, or invite a comparison. Stephen King frequently uses song lyrics.

6Foreword

Written by someone other than the author but associated with them, the foreword (note the O not an A) is a brief text covering the background of the story, normally explaining the relationship between he foreword writer and the author.

7Preface

This is written by the author, explaining how they came up with the story and hoe the idea was developed.

8Acknowledgments

Does what it says on the tin. The acknowledgements recognise everyone who was involved with the creation of the book, be it the editors, supportive family members, or muses. More often than note they’re included with the prefaces rather than a standalone page.

9Introduction

Another section that needs no real explanation. Much like an introduction between people, your book’s intro serves the same purpose.

10Prologue

This is finally when the book starts. The prologue gives a bit of background before the story begins proper. This could be a separate little story that comes into the main narrative later, a flashback, or some other piece that establishes the setting.

1Half title (again)

If your front matter starts getting a bit extensive, then it might be a good idea to include a second half title, which will clearly delineate between all the details and signal the start of the book.

These extras aren’t set in stone, you can use some or none, or all, and not even strictly in this order. Have a play with what you feel works for your book, and look at your bookshelf for inspiration.

Let us know what front matter you include below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including book layout and formatting.

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