10 Important Parts of a Book for First-Time Authors

Parts of a book that's being opened by multiple hands

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

If you want your book to sell, you’ll need more than compelling content — you needs structure. Whether you write works of fiction or nonfiction, details matter. If your goal is to earn sales and grow readership, every aspect of your book needs to be executed professionally and purposefully.

Essential contents of a book

Even as a first-time author, you likely are aware of a brutal fact — this is a competitive industry. There are millions of books for readers to choose from, and it’s your responsibility to sell them on your content so you can compete in the marketplace. So, how do you do that?

Obviously, your writing needs to be strong. But you would be mistaken to think that a book sells only because of its subject matter. The potential reader can analyze every aspect before investing their money and time, so you cannot afford any of the basic parts of your book to look amateurish. Each component needs to be professional and enticing. So, what are the essential parts of a book?

Regardless of genre, most books can be broken down into 10 different parts:

  1. Title page
  2. Cover design
  3. Table of contents
  4. Introduction and preface
  5. Epilogue
  6. Chapters and sections
  7. Body text and paragraphs
  8. Back matter and back cover
  9. Images and Illustrations
  10. Typography and fonts

Before we cover these in detail, remember that failing to give any one of these the attention it deserves can derail your book launch.

Title and cover design

Unless you are an established, best-selling author like Nora Roberts or Stephen King, it is challenging to overcome a bad first impression. Now, think about what a reader sees before anything else: your title and book cover.

1. Title

A good title sells. There is an art to writing a book title that lures readers and inspires them to learn more about the book’s content. A title needs to be distinct, memorable, and relevant to the subject matter.

For inspirational purposes, here are some of my favorite book titles:

  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Each of my favorite titles does three things:

  1. Creatively captures attention
  2. Hints at what the book is about
  3. Makes readers want to know more

Your title makes a lasting first impression and quite literally defines the work for its entire lifespan. Don’t rush this process or make it an afterthought.

2. Cover design

Readers really do judge books by their covers… all the time. If your goal is to sell books, professional cover design is non-negotiable.

If your book has an amateur-looking, poorly designed cover, it stands no chance. I know how much effort is required to write a book, so give it the chance it deserves by making your book cover design expertly sell the content within.

3. Table of contents

A table of contents is a necessary component of a well-designed book. A table of contents clarifies the book’s different chapters and sections and demonstrates where a reader can find them. In other words, it’s a formatted list.

Free guide offer for Promote Then PublishA table of contents makes your book look professional and tidy and serves as a guide to your reader. It is particularly necessary for a nonfiction book. Nonfiction books like cookbooks, textbooks, and others don’t necessarily need to be read in chronological order. With a table of contents, a reader can identify where the necessary information lives in the book.

If you create an eBook version of your book, a table of contents also can be useful to allow readers to click on the exact chapter/section they want to read.

4. Introduction and preface

An introduction and a preface are two very important elements that occur in the front matter of a book. Both serve similar, important functions.

Introduction

In a nutshell, a book introduction is an hors d’oeuvre. It’s a bite-size sample of the book’s big picture, introduces the core concepts, and gets readers in the right mindset to proceed.

After reading your introduction, a reader should be fully equipped to dive headfirst into the coming content. What does this mean? It means that you need to be clear about the book’s premise and any background information that is necessary to understand its major themes.

Be aware that if you are writing a fiction novel, the introduction is called a prologue. Similarly, a prologue establishes core themes that will be fleshed out throughout the story.

Preface

This is your time to shine. The preface is a space where the author should be sharing who they are and why they were compelled to write their book. You can use the preface to establish yourself as an authority figure and subject-matter expert in your respective field. An author can brag in the preface — in an endearing way, of course.

5. Epilogue

The end… what now?

Readers ask themselves this question all the time. The epilogue is where you can wrap up a storyline and grant readers the satisfaction of knowing some answers to their lingering questions.

The two lovers finally reunite! But where are they in 10 years?
The hero finally reaches his end goal! What happens now?

In the epilogue, you can take readers on a brief journey into the future to offer more perspective on the story.

6. Chapters and sections

Chapters and sections are how an author can segment and organize a book. So, what are the differences between the two?

Chapters

In most cases, a book is divided up into chapters. Each chapter reflects a pivotal moment in the story. Chapters can be structured in chronological order or bounce around to different times in the characters’ lives.

Sections

Chapters can be bundled into various sections that further encapsulate the book’s main themes. Each theme comes together to tell the bigger picture.

7. Body text and paragraphs

If the introduction is the hors d’oeuvre, the body text and paragraphs make up the main course of your book. Variations in the body text come down to writing styles and points of view. However, there are a few things to be mindful of when writing.

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchFirst, avoid the mega paragraph. I’m not here to be the creativity police, but hefty paragraphs — especially one after another — can be hard on the eyes and mind. You want to challenge your readers, not lose them. Arrange the meat and potatoes of your content in a way that offers a pleasant reading experience.

Second, using headers and subheaders within your chapter can also be a way of organizing and segmenting your content for easy navigation. While this may be more prevalent in nonfiction works, some novels may lend themselves to this formatting choice.

8. Back matter and back cover

Some of the information included in the front matter can sometimes appear after the body of the story is completed, and this is where your epilogue and about the author section will appear.

In addition to that, having a beautiful, enticing front cover goes to waste if the book’s back cover doesn’t deliver as well. A great book needs a great back cover, typically with a strong book description, that hooks readers and convinces them to buy it.

Here’s how George Orwell’s 1984 lures readers in with suspense and intrigue in its back-cover synopsis:

1984 is the year in which it happens. The world is divided into three great powers, Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, each perpetually at war with the other. Throughout Oceania, “The Party” rules by the agency of four ministries, whose power is absolute — the Ministry of Peace which deals with war, the Ministry of Love (headquarters of the dreaded Thought Police) which deals with law and order, the Ministry of Plenty which deals in scarcities, and the Ministry of Truth which deals with propaganda. The authorities keep a check on every action, word, gesture, or thought.

Through this synopsis, a reader can read the back cover and envision the world they are about to explore while maintaining their fascination about where the journey is headed. A back cover needs to make the book’s fundamental themes clear and entice readers to want more.

Visual elements in a book

Visual elements are not reserved exclusively for art books and cookbooks. In fact, almost every book can benefit in some way from added visual elements to supplement the text.

9. Images and Illustrations

Images and illustrations can help you bring a story to life. Obviously, this is most apparent in children’s books that are filled with vibrant, color pages. But uses of illustrations can be included at the beginnings of chapters and headers, as well as a frontispiece, that typically precedes the narrative and may be a two-page spread.

You can see examples of this in one of the bestselling books of all time, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Scattered throughout the book are rather simple illustrations reflecting occurrences in the story. The illustrations help the reader connect further with the timeless tale and visualize what the hero stumbles upon throughout his journey.

It can be challenging to incorporate and format images and illustrations in a book. The best practice is to have a professional book designer do the interior formatting to ensure the book is professional and marketable.

10. Typography and fonts

You need to be mindful of format when selecting typography and fonts for your book. You want the font to be readable and timeless. It should flow and look good in both bold and italic forms. No reader thinks about a font… unless it’s bad. Avoid distracting typography and this part of a book will be the least of your worries.

Self-publish with BookBaby

If you are ready to put all these different parts together and create your book, you can start the process today with BookBaby. By working with our publishing specialists, you will have access to every necessary tool for a successful book launch and lasting publishing success.

Book Publishing Plan guide

Related Posts
Why Does My Book Need Interior Formatting?
Book Cover Design Ideas: Before And After
What to Know About Writing a Book Table of Contents
What Goes In The Front Matter Of Your Book?
Don’t Forget Your Book’s Back Cover

1 COMMENT

  1. Great info for the novice writer and the accomplished in need of a reminder. Thanks indeed. Practical info of great value.

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