What you include in the front matter of your book depends on the information you want to impart to your reader to help enhance, explain, or set things up.
The front matter of a book is everything between the front cover and page one, where your story begins. All the information before that — the title pages, copyright page, prologue, etc. — make up the front matter. After that comes the body text, then the back matter.
I say front matter is everything “before page one” because if you’re going to include page numbers for your front matter (it’s not necessary to do so), it’s good practice to paginate with roman numerals for indexing purposes — so page 212 of your book is always page 212, no matter the edition. After all, in subsequent printings (let’s plan for multiple editions!) the front matter might change. Maybe the next iteration of your book will include a foreword written by a famous author who fell in love with your work or you’ve decided to add a preface. If you use Roman numerals to paginate the front matter, that can change without altering the body of the book.
What’s included in the front matter?
It’s unlikely you’ll need to include all of the following, but here’s an explanation of the elements that might make up the front matter of your book. I just grabbed three books off my shelf and none of the front matter looks alike, so don’t get too caught up trying to find the perfect formula. That said, these are listed in a vaguely typical order as they may appear in a book.
Half title. The half title page contains just the title of the book and is typically the first recto page you see after the front cover. Recto is the right page in an English-language book, verso is the left. (On a loose sheet, recto is the front and verso the back).
“Other Books” page. This page lists other titles by the author. It may also list other titles by the publisher.
Frontispiece. This includes an illustration or image, sometimes spread across both pages. If your work includes a map, fiction or nonfiction, this could be the place for it.
Title page. The title page includes the title, subtitle, author, and publisher. This can also list the year of publication; some short, descriptive text; small illustrations; and for larger publishing houses, the publisher’s address or location (city).
Let’s get one thing out of the way, you do not need to register your book for copyright to include a copyright page. Once you’ve fixed your content in a permanent format, you own the copyright and have all the rights and protections of the law. Now, if your work isn’t registered and there is a dispute and you end up in court, you might have a more difficult time proving when the work was created and not enjoy the full weight of the law, but that’s a topic for another post. But you can, and should, include a copyright page in your book, registered or not.
The copyright page is usually the verso of the title page and has the copyright notice (e.g. © 2019 Andre Calilhanna, Copyright 2019 Faber), the ISBN, and any of the following as relevant: edition information, publication information, printing history, and cataloging data. Design, production, editing, and illustration credits might also be listed here.
Traditionally, the copyright page content is centered, starting half-way down the page, or justified on the left margin.
You can also add:
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.
Fiction might include:
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
If the book is published by a large publisher, the copyright page might also include ordering information — including info for quantity sales, textbooks, and orders by trade bookstores or wholesalers. Trademark notices for names and logos of the publishing company or its imprint and statements touting the environmental consciousness of the product (printed on 80% recycled paper with non-toxic soy ink) can also appear here.
Dedication. The dedication page is where the author will list the people (or animals, cities, et. al.) to whom the book is dedicated.
Epigraph. An epigraph, or quotation, will often precede the start of the story.
Table of Contents (or Contents page). The TOC lists chapters and/or other major divisions of the book. This is essential for works of nonfiction, including books, guides, textbooks, collections, and anthologies.
List of Figures and/or Tables. In books with multiple illustrations, graphs, or figures, it can be helpful to include a list, including the titles and page numbers on which they appear.
Foreword. Written by someone other than the author, the foreword usually features someone notable or a respected voice on the topic covered in the book. The foreword is most often signed by the person who wrote it and provides a date or time period (e.g. Summer 2018) and sometimes the place it was written.
Preface. Written by the author, the preface might explain the inspiration for the book, when and how the book was written, or some other detail about the creation of the work. This is also usually signed by the author and provides the date and place it was written.
Acknowledgments. This page is where the author expresses his/her gratitude for help in the creation, editing, research, etc. of the book. The author might also mention the support of friends and family or even other works that may have played a role in support of the book.
Introduction. Different than a preface, the introduction allows an author to explain the goal of the book as well as the organization and scope of the work.
Prologue. A prologue sets the scene for a story, told in the voice and point of view of a character from the book.
Second half title. In a book where the front matter is long, a second half title page (with just the title of the book) can serve to mark the end of the front matter and mark the start of the story. Though, sometimes a second half title page will be followed by an epitaph or illustration.
Try pulling books off your shelf, fiction and nonfiction, and pay attention to how the front matter is handled to get an idea of how you’d like the introductory pages of your book to read. Then get to it!
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