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Anatomy of a Book Layout

What’s the difference between an Introduction, a Prologue, a Preface, and a Foreword? Can I put my Acknowledgments at the end? Where do I put my Prologue? Where do I put my copyright page? Do I have to have a glossary?

All valid questions. And ones that, when organized properly and professionally, will give your book the professional look and feel that will make readers, reviewers, and book buyers take it seriously.

Please note that all books are different and this is meant to be a guide, not law. I’ve seen copyright pages in the back, many books don’t have a half-title page, and I’m personally not a fan of the Table of Contents outside a nonfiction book. But you should not deviate from this order for no reason, as it will not help your book to challenge a book buyer or reviewer.

The three main sections of a book

The anatomy of a book layout is generally broken into three sections: The frontmatter, the main body of the book, and the backmatter. Each section has specific elements in a specific order. So let’s start with the…


Frontmatter is defined as the elements at the beginning of a book before the story starts. If you choose to number these pages they’re typically numbered with lowercase roman numerals. Alternatively, you can choose to have no page numbers in the frontmatter.

Half title page

This is typically the very first page you see when you open the cover. It contains only the title of the book – preferably in the same font as the cover design. Often publishers omit this page in an attempt to control the page count of a book (Due to offset printer 16-page signature” runs they want to get their page counts as close to a 16-page dividend as possible) With print on demand books the 16-page signature is not an issue.


You don’t see this often but if you choose to add this it should be small and unobtrusive. A frontispiece is a small illustration on the back side of the Half title page (called the “verso” page) which will face the title page.

Title page

The title page should be located on the recto side (right hand side facing the “verso” side). IF you choose to eliminate the half-title page this would be the first page you see when you open the cover. The title page announces the title, subtitle, author, publishing company, the logo of the publishing company and their city of registration. The title is often printed in the same font as the cover title font. Illustrations are also commonly found on the title page.

Copyright page

The copyright page is usually placed on the verso side of the title page. The copyright page lists details of the author’s copyright legal notice, date of publishing copyright, ISBN number, Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN). Other information you can add would be credits for cover design, cover photography, editing and
illustration, even font details.


The dedication faces the copyright page. Not every book has one but if you choose to add it you can make it to either a group of people or just one person – or a person you don’t know for that matter. It can be a one-liner, i.e. “To Dad, who urged me to write” or a paragraph. It can be serious, or even silly, i.e. Shannon Hale who wrote Austenland left this dedication, “To Colin Firth, You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.”


An epigraph is a quotation toward the front of the book. Many times authors use epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, but they can also appear facing the first page of text – or facing the Table of Contents if you are including that.

Table of Contents

This is best used in nonfiction books of reference, history, or any theme that will make it easier for the reader to navigate the books great level of detail easier. A Table of Contents should start on the verso side.


A foreword is a short piece written by someone other than the author. It’s typically written by a well-known name in the industry that will help lure readers to your book. If it’s a big enough name you might even put that on your cover. i.e. “Foreword by Oprah.” The foreword is usually signed by its author, and dated. It usually
starts on a recto side of your layout. Please note the spelling of “foreword”. This is one of the most common mistakes of a self-published book. Not to be confused
with the relative direction of “forward” or the misspelled “foreward”


A preface is written by the author and typically explains how the book came to be. It’s a good tool to lure the reader in and hook them by providing the framework for what they’re about to read: Why now? Why this author? How did the author get this information? Why is it different from other books on the topic?


This is the author’s opportunity to spread their gratitude to those who have helped in the creation of the book. The acknowledgments are placed either in the front or back matter of the book. As a rule of thumb, first-time or relatively unknown authors are advised to put their acknowledgments in the back matter of their book, allowing the reader to jump right in and not be distracted by what the reader might consider “superfluous” material. The word “acknowledgments” is also commonly “misspelled” with a middle “e,” which is the preferred spelling outside NorthAmerica. U.S. and Canadian English do not include the middle “e.”


The fancier name for a book introduction is a prolegomenon. It’s the section at the beginning that states the purpose and goals of their writing. The objective of the introduction is to offer the reader an idea about the content before they even start reading. The main body of the book should follow immediately after the introduction.


In lieu of an introduction, a fiction writer can use the prologue to set the scene of the story. A prologue should be written in the character’s voice, not the author’s voice. A nonfiction narrative writer can also use a prologue to set a scene. Like an introduction, if you use a prologue, it should be immediately
followed by the main body of writing.

This, as it states, is the main story of the book. But there are still elements other than just the main story.

Part Opening page

Books are often broken up into parts as well as chapters, in both fiction and nonfiction. It helps break up the structure of the story. Whether conceptual, structural, or even historical, these divisions help keep the reader organized. Part breaks are typically marked with their own page and are on the recto side (right side).

Chapter Opening page

If a book is broken into parts then you want its verso side to be blank and start the chapter on the recto side. The rule of thumb used to be to start a new chapter on the recto side whether or not you then left the verso side blank. But these days, rules have become very flexible. Nonfiction books still generally follow that
guideline, but with fiction or nonfiction narrative (such as memoirs) more and more mainstream publishers are simply starting chapters where they land—whether verso or recto.


An epilogue is meant to bring closure to the work. It could either be in the voice of the author or the book’s main character.

Main Body


An afterword is usually written by the author and could be used to either cover how the story came into being, or alternatively, if the edition of the book is being reissued many years after its original publication, it can be written by someone other than the author who can comment on the book’s historical and cultural impact, or even address why this is book being reissued.


A conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject, a synopsis of your thoughts, or a demonstration of the importance of your ideas. It’s an opportunity to make a good final impression and bring a completeness to your work.

Simply put, the back matter is what you find at the end of the central story. These pieces can be used to inform the reader about certain features of the book. Elements of back matter vary widely, depending on the needs of each particular book.

Appendix or Addendum:

These are supplements to the main work, source documents, or materials that came after the book was written.


In some books—primarily history or memoir—it’s helpful to the reader if they can see a chronological list of events. The chronology can be placed in either the back matter or the front matter.


Endnotes are easier for the reader to navigate if they are divided by chapter. This section should be placed between the appendices and the bibliography.


A glossary is a list defining unusual, uncommon, or specialized words used in the book.

Back Matter


A bibliography is a list of articles, periodicals, books, and all the other sources that you’ve used or cited in your book.


An index will inform the reader at a glance where to find the topics in the book. Typically an index includes names of people, places, events, and concepts that would be deemed as new or of interest to the reader.


Ad for services

One of the last pages of your book could be used as an advertisement for your services as a coach, speaker, consultant, etc. You could also pitch the fact that you would be happy to visit book clubs, whether by Skype or in person.

Author bio

Many times the author will put a brief bio as the very last page before the back cover. It should be no more than a brief 150 words, be light on resume, but enough that it explains why the author is qualified to write on this topic.

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Polly Letofsky

Founder, Self-Publishing Consultant

After frustrating experiences with dodgy publishers, Polly Letofsky launched herself into learning every aspect of the publishing industry.

Years later, when she started to draft her plan for a new model of self-publishing, Polly wanted to set up a system that guided authors through the publishing of their own book seamlessly, swiftly, and affordably. A place where the author upholds all creative control, maintains all distribution rights, and all the profits end up in their hands.

Learn more about Polly!