For those of you who are new to book writing, this is an important question. Here are some basics.
Most books may be viewed as having three major internal components (i.e., not counting the front and back covers): the front-matter, the body, and the back-matter. The body is the content of your book. It’s what you’re writing about.
Front-matter is everything that comes before the body of your book, from the title page up to the beginning of the first chapter. Front matter may include:
- Title—showing title, any subtitle, author, and publisher
- Copyright or Verso (literally the “reverse” side of the title page)—copyright notice, edition information, name and address of publisher, any legal information, book identification number (e.g., ISBN), etc
- Dedication—optional dedication of the book to some person, people, or entity
- Table of Contents or simply Contents—a list of divisions, parts, chapter headings, appropriate subheadings, all front-matter, and all back-matter, with their page numbers (not done for electronic books); some books may also show lists of figures or tables
- Foreword—a short piece of writing, written and signed by someone other than the author, which says something about the work and/or the author, and perhaps why the book was written
- Preface—author’s discussion of how the book, or the idea for the book, came about
- Acknowledgements—a usually-short page that recognizes anyone who played a role in the development of the book
- Introduction—words to the reader about why the book was written and/or what it hopes to accomplish
- Prologue—for fiction books; creates the setting and/or background of the story; may be told by a character in the book or a narrator, and is usually placed just before the first chapter
Back-matter is everything following the body of your book, from the end of your last chapter up to, but not including the back cover. It may include such pages as the
- Epilogue—for fiction books, creates the closure of the story; may be told by a character in the book or a narrator, and is usually placed just after the last chapter
- Conclusion or Postscript—the author’s final words or thoughts added to the body of the book
- Appendix or Addendum—supplements the content of the body; may include source documentation, and information added to or updating information in the main boy content (especially after the work is completed)
- Notes—Endnotes, referred to in the main text, are usually organized by chapter, which makes them easier to search for.
- Glossary—An alphabetical list of key words or terms, along with their definitions.
- Bibliography, Sources, Resources or References—usually for non-fiction books. These are lists of books or other information sources (e.g., articles) or for a list of references cited in the main body.
- Index—usually for non-fiction books. This is an alphabetical list of key words or terms (e.g., people, places, events) used in the main body, with their location in the text (e.g., their page numbers); usually used in non-fiction books
- About the Author—a brief relevant biography, including credentials and experience relevant to the subject being written; may also include interesting personal information
- Acknowledgements—if not already covered in the front-matter
Please note that there is some degree of flexibility in what goes in front and back. You can put in as much or as little as you feel will meet your needs and the needs of your audience.
These days, a lot of books use a detailed Table of Contents and skip the Index (especially true for self-published or electronic books). Some authors put the Acknowledgements, if applicable, up front, some in back.
What’s important is to focus on the overall or high-level structure of your book. Concentrate on the writing, and develop the front-matter and back-matter after you have the main thoughts written.
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