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Organizing your book’s front matter

There’s a standard way in the U.S. to organize front matter in printed books, and readers are accustomed to this organization. Don’t irritate your readers! It’s best to stick with this order, which is pretty flexible, unless you have a compelling reason not to.

Front matter

  • Half title (the very first page, which contains only the title)
  • Blank (or a list of other books by author or a frontispiece)
  • Title page (title, subtitle, author, series, publisher, publisher city)
  • Copyright page (copyright date, rights statement, publisher contact information, and any disclaimers)
  • Dedication (untitled paragraph or lines written by the author; may also be placed at top of copyright page if the number of pages is an issue)
  • Epigraph (a verse or other quotation that establishes the theme)
  • Table of contents
  • List of illustrations
  • List of tables
  • Foreword (written by someone other than the author)
  • Preface (written by the author)
  • Acknowledgments (may be merged with preface or placed in back matter)
  • Introduction (may be included with main text instead of front matter)
  • Abbreviations (or may be placed in back matter)
  • Chronology (or may be placed in back matter)
  • Map (or may be placed in back matter)

Of all these pages/sections, only the title page and copyright page are required. Most of these sections will begin on a right-hand odd-numbered page. The exceptions are the lists of illustrations and tables, the abbreviations, and the map, all of which can be either recto or verso*; and the copyright page, which is always title page verso (the back of the title page).

The front matter normally uses lowercase roman numerals. Numbering with arabic numbers, starting with 1, begins with the first page of the text. The first page of the text may be a prologue, introduction, chapter 1, second half title, or part title page.

Back matter will be covered here:
Organizing your book’s back matter

*Recto is the right-hand page; verso is the left-hand page.

About Sandra K. Williams

Sandra K. Williams loves books, both printed and digital. Since 1996 she has worked with authors and independent publishers, editing and designing books for print. Since 1999 she has built easy-to-use, accessible websites, and she uses her HTML and CSS skills to design reader-friendly e-books.

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