Every book is unique. The book arrangement shouldn’t be. It’s important that the organization follows standard publishing industry practices. Parts of a book should appear in a standard location in every book. Organizing your book using these rules makes finding things easier for your reader. For example, every book has a front cover and a back cover. Prologues and table of contents are up front, indexes are in the back, etc.
Books are divided into three main parts: the front matter, the body matter, and the end matter. Beyond that, the included segments vary depending on the book genre. A fiction novel, for example, is less likely to have an index or a glossary.
Here are 25 basic parts of a book that every writer should know. Write the main copy first and worry about the other sections down the road. For non-fiction books, it’s helpful to craft your bibliography and glossary as you go.
The book cover includes the title and the author and/or editor’s name. It can include the publisher name. If the book is part of a series, the series title will be on the cover.
The front matter will include your title page, the author, and the publisher.
The first page is a half-title page. It includes the book title printed at the halfway point.
A frontispiece is an image or a picture on the left-hand side of the first spread (page 2) to draw visual interest.
The title page includes the title of the book, the author, and publisher details. It is usually on page 3, a right-hand page.
Copyright Page/Verso Page
A copyright page includes the dates of publication, publisher, and any copyright material. The copyright statement will include who has legal rights to the information in the book. It may be different people. For example, a photographer may own the copyright to the front cover photo. But an author may copyright the internal pages. If published in the United States, it might include the Library of Congress Catalog Number. Also included is the edition number; some readers like to know if it is the first edition or not. For the first editions, you might see “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1.” On the second printing, they would remove that 1 so that it becomes “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2.”
If an author wishes to honor an individual or group of individuals, they may insert a note on this page. The dedication often reads, “To [insert names.]”
An author may have this page to thank individuals who contributed their time, resources, and talent towards the effort of writing the book. This is separate from the colophon, which is at the back of the book. The people listed on the acknowledgments page are not usually directly involved in the production of the book.
Table of Contents (Optional)
The table of contents lists all the chapters and sections in a book with their title. The table of contents is less important in a printed fiction book. Yet, in a digital format of the book (Kindle or EPUB), it is important that you include chapters and sections, even if it is as simple as chapter 1, etc.
The foreword is typically written by someone other than the author. The writer might be an expert in the field or a popular writer of a similar book. Openings statements such as these can help to add credibility in pitching the book to bookstores and readers. It may also be used as a way of introducing the author as an expert on the subject.
Testimonials are written by people endorsing the author or the book. This often occurs if it is a second printing or if the people writing the testimonials have been given advanced copies. The back cover may also include testimonials.
Like the foreword, this brief section introduces the book but is generally written by the author. The author explains why they wrote the book. They also use this area to establish their credibility and to acknowledge those who inspired them to write the book. This is mostly used in non-fiction.
The body matter is the core content of the book. It includes parts, chapters, and body copy. Here are the typical elements included in this section.
The introduction is about the content of the book. It can be used to establish the theme, methodology, and provide useful definitions. It is also sometimes used to explain how the books should be used academically. In fiction genres, they may use it to explain the world they have set up and how it came to be.
A prologue acts as the introduction to the story and comes before chapter one. It should contain information that is vital to the rest of the story (think appetizer). Prologues are common in plays but are rare in nonfiction books.
An epigraph is a phrase, quote or poem used at the start of a chapter. In Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, he uses a poem from George Seferis to set off his prologue.
Half-title page (Optional)
An extra half-title page is useful if you had a long front matter. It brings the reader back to the story. Also, they can be used to divide up parts that include many chapters.
The main text includes your main body text, parts, and chapters. Chapters are sections of text with the chapter number placed on the first page of each chapter. Parts are not required but can come in handy. Stephen King has Salem’s Lot grouped into three parts and then puts his chapters within those parts.
An epilogue is a chapter or segment that comes after the main story and concludes it. The text must be relevant and have an impact on the story. Going back to Salem’s Lot, King’s epilogue shares newspapers clippings about what happened after the core story ends. It tells what took place when Ben (the lead character) and Mark come back to Salem’s Lot. It packs a strong punch as you imagine them going for broke. (Do books from 1975 need a spoiler alert?) Epilogues are generally used in fiction.
The afterword is another literary device that comes after the main story and discusses how the story came into existence. It may also address any questions that the author may have. It’s rare to have both a foreword and an afterword, so if you have one, that should suffice. Often after the initial publication, the author will use this section to discuss the reception of the book, the cultural significance, and the impact on readers. Pride and Prejudice has an afterword that discusses its impact.
An appendix gives additional or supplementary information on the topic explored in the main section of the book. These may include additional books on the subject, references, etc. Fiction books do not (usually) have appendices. Textbooks, biographies, autobiographies or memoirs, and research-based books use appendices.
A glossary gives definitions and sometimes pronunciations of alphanumeric words. These are also primarily used in non-fiction books, but some fantasy authors have used glossaries in their books.
A nonfiction book author needs to cite their sources to maintain their credibility and to avoid potential plagiarism issues. Some authors will also list resources that they feel would be valuable to the reader.
The index is in the back of the book and contains subjects and keywords used throughout your material. Used primarily in non-fiction books. [Although you could get creative with a fiction book. It might be funny to see something like — Killer (revealed), 289.]
A colophon is usually on the last page and credits the people directly involved with the production of the book. This can include writers, editors, photographers, and so forth. Photo credits go here. Used in non-fiction books.
A back cover gives a summarized overview of the book. Sometimes excerpts are provided to showcase the writing style. It also includes the barcode, publisher logo or mark, and a QR code. The authors’ or editors’ bio may go in the very back or on the back-flap copy.
A spine of the book joins the pages together so that they don’t fall out everywhere. It includes the title, the author, and (sometimes) the publisher logo.
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