Your manuscript is only part of the book—the most important part to be sure, but there are more. Inevitably, you will be ready to submit your book to the typesetter, and your editor or proofreader will say, “What about ______________ (fill in the blank with the missing piece)?”
We’d like to help you avoid that issue. Here’s a list of the various book parts in the order that readers expect them to appear. We’ve also provided you with a handy Parts of a Book Checklist that you can use to keep track of the pieces as they are completed.
This is the exterior of the book. The front cover usually contains the main title, subtitle, author name, and an appealing photo or graphic. Some authors include a short endorsement from someone well-known, if available. The back cover contains a short synopsis of the book plus a brief author bio. You may also include endorsements on the back cover. Readers base their decision to explore your book further on how much the book cover speaks to them, so pay attention and make sure your book cover stacks up to the best sellers. Here’s a blog post that explains how.
(Optional—typically only found in paperbacks) If you have endorsements from well-known and respected experts in your field or genre, the first few pages can be used to profile these.
(Optional, although hardcover books tend to include one) Usually, the half-title page lists the book title only and is the first printed right-hand page that you see. Some paperback books will have a half-title page AFTER the full title. A half-title page can be used to fill pages that would otherwise be left blank due to the printing process. Your designer will advise if you need it or not and will discuss placement with you. The back of this page is usually left blank.
Full Title page:
This page, which is the next right-hand page readers will see, contains the book title, subtitle and author name, along with the publisher’s imprint. The title page should be beautifully designed to fit in with the theme set by your book cover. The back of this page contains copyright information.
The copyright page contains important information about your book, including the ISBN. It is printed on the back of the full title page. Advance work is required for this page to be ready in plenty of time for publishing. For a complete list of the copyright page content, plus a copyright page template, click here.
(Optional) The dedication page is the first right-hand page after the copyright page. Usually the dedication is quite short, text only, and is beautifully designed to honor those to whom your book is dedicated. The back of the dedication page is left blank.
Table of Contents:
(Nonfiction books only, optional for fiction) Self-explanatory. Consult with a book designer, who will ensure that the Table of Contents is laid out so that it can be navigated easily by readers. As part of the proofing process, cross-reference the chapter and section headings, and the page numbers, to the actual chapters, sections and page numbers in the book. Do this after the book is typeset. Nothing like sending your readers to the wrong pages!
List of Tables/Illustrations:
(Optional) As the title indicates, a list of all tables or illustrations (figures) in your book. Tables and illustrations should be listed separately. Tables are usually labelled as “Table x.x,” where “x.x” represents the chapter and table number. Illustrations are usually labelled as “Figure x.x.” Consult with your editor or book designer on proper numbering and labeling.
Timeline / List of Characters:
(Optional) Some fiction books with complicated plots that span generations include a list of characters. Works of historical fiction or nonfiction history books can include a timeline of events.
(Optional, although most books contain them) Some authors like to acknowledge the people who have assisted in the production of the book and/or contributed to the book, right up front. However, if your acknowledgements are longer than a page, it’s best to leave them until the end. Your acknowledgements start on a right-hand page.
(Optional) Do you have a foreword written by someone well-known and respected in your field? Put it here, beginning on a right-hand page.
(Optional) This is the beginning of your book’s content. Introductions start on a right-hand page.
New chapters usually begin on a right-hand page, but this is a discussion to have with your book designer. The first page of a chapter is set apart through the use of design, graphics and fonts to indicate to the reader that a new chapter is beginning. Note that the first page of a new chapter does not contain a header.
Part or Section Title Pages:
(Optional) Some books—nonfiction or fiction—are divided into parts or sections. Title pages for each part are placed between chapters to indicate the break. The back side of the part title page is left blank. Chapter numbering continues from the previous part. The title page, placed on a right-hand page, should stand out and be designed to match your book title page. If your book is divided into parts or sections, the part titles should be listed in the Table of Contents as well.
About the Author:
(Optional but a good idea) Your longer author bio can be placed toward the end of the book. It’s a good idea to include a bio (and a photo) in case the back cover—along with your short bio—is torn off or the dust cover goes missing.
(Optional) An alphabetical list of terms used, along with definitions of each.
(Optional) Any extra resources, readings, information or case studies can be placed in the Appendices to avoid information overload in your chapters. Your designer can advise you how best to format the Appendices.
Bibliography or References:
The sources (books, magazines, journal articles, newspapers, websites, etc.) that you referred to in writing your book. Look to the Chicago Manual of Style for the proper format of citations.
(Optional) An alphabetical list of topics, people and important terms. Indices should be done by a professional who will do the work in consultation with the author.
The above list is not exhaustive, although we have tried to make it as complete as possible. As the book author, you also have leeway to be creative. Perhaps you could include order forms for materials, a reference to a download on your website, special offers—the sky is the limit and ultimately, you are in control. Discuss your ideas with your designer, and have fun!