Essential Parts of a Book Every Indie Author Should Know Before Self- Publishing

Essential Parts of a Book Every Indie Author Should Know Before Self- Publishing

As readers, we probably haven’t paid much attention to the different parts of a book. The publishing industry has named them all: from the title page that launches the front matter to the index or bibliography that completes the back matter. Each section serves a particular role in bringing the book together.

When self-publishing your first book, it pays to know how the parts of a book function as integral parts of the larger whole. Understanding not only each component’s purpose but also the exact placement of each within the body of the manuscript will keep you on track to align with the publishing industry standards.

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So, what are the parts of a book?

The main sections can be categorised as:

  • Front Matter
  • Body Matter
  • Back Matter

In this post, I’ll explain what’s included in each section.

Front Matter

The front matter is the first section of the book. These pages outline the various technical details and some input from the author about what inspired or drove the project.

The front matter includes:

1. Title page

The title page contains the book’s title, the subtitle, the author or authors, and the publisher.

The copyright page, or edition notice, contains the copyright notice, the ISBN, any legal statements, and credits for book design, illustration, photography credits, or to note production entities. The copyright page may contain contact information for individuals seeking to use any portions of the work to request permission.

3. Dedication

The dedication page allows the author to honour an individual or individuals. The dedication is usually a short sentence or two.

4. Table of contents

The table of contents outlines the book’s body of work by dividing it into chapters and sometimes sections or parts. Much thought goes into the titles of the chapters, as the titles can set the tone for the book. When someone quickly glances through the table of contents, they should be able to recognise the scope and central theme of the book.

5. Foreword

The foreword is a short section written by someone other than the author that summarises or sets up the book’s theme. The person who writes the preface is often an eminent colleague or associate, a professional who has personally interacted with the author.

6. Acknowledgments

This page allows the author to express thanks to individuals who may have inspired them, contributed research or data, or helped them during the writing process. Acknowledgements are a public thank you for the support and contributions of individuals involved in the project.

7. Preface or Introduction

The author explains the purpose behind writing the book, personal experiences that are pertinent to the book, and describes the book’s scope. An introduction can be deeply personal, seeking to draw the reader into the book on an emotional level, and usually explains why the book was written. For scholarly works, the preface or introduction helps erect a framework for the content that follows and illustrates the author’s point of view or thesis.

8. Prologue

In works of fiction, the prologue is written in the voice of a character from the story—it sets the scene before the first chapter. This section may describe the story’s setting or background details and helps launch the tale.

Body Matter

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The core content of the book is referred to as body matter. It’s the collection of chapters, sometimes divided into sections, in which the body of work is organised. In works of fiction, chapters drive the narrative, events, and locations in the story. In nonfiction, chapters might each consist of a particular area of study.

Back Matter

Once the story is completed, it is followed by back matter or end material, e.g. references about the core content and author biography in some cases.

Back matter includes:

1. Afterword or Epilogue

These are author comments that follow the end of the body matter. These thoughts may summarise the project or the writing experience that helps bring closure to the book. The epilogue can help soothe the reader after a particularly harrowing story. Alternatively, it can serve as a final chapter that helps to wrap up the loose ends of a story.

2. Appendix or Addendum

The addendum refers to documents added after the body of work that may not have fit in with the narrative or is additional information that reinforces the work.

3. Glossary

The glossary is an alphabetical list of terms and definitions found within the body matter. These terms may be standard or specialised terms that refer to a particular field of study.

4. Bibliography or Endnotes

The bibliography is the listing of books or literary sources that were cited within the body matter. These sources may be books, magazines, or online sources accessed during the research phase. In other words, endnotes resemble footnotes but they are found in the back matter instead of the page’s footer.

5. Index

A guide offers an alphabetical list of terms, people, concepts, or events with the associated page number. The index provides an easy way to locate critical items within the body.

6. Author biography

The biography page summarises the author’s professional background. The bio should be relevant to the publication and include a few personal facts about the author. Having said that, instead of a page at the end of the book, the author’s biography may be on the dust jacket or the back cover.

I hope you found this post informative. 

If you want to get your book published by a publisher, you’ll need to write a synopsis. Check out my post Top Tips for Writing an Amazing Book Synopsis which will help you with the basics.

For more helpful resources about the craft of writing, check out my Resource Library.

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