Front Matter - article

As you're putting the finishing touches on your manuscript, focus your attention on the overall presentation of your book. Front matter—the content of your manuscript preceding the main body text—is usually the first place a potential reader will look before buying your book. With the availability of the Google and Amazon search service, your front matter may also be available for online buyers to preview, therefore making it a key writing component.

Though not set in stone, the front matter usually follows this sequence:

1.  Title Page

2.  Copyright Page

3.  Dedication

4.  Table of Contents

5.  List of Tables/Figures

6.  Foreword

7.  Preface/Introduction

8.  Acknowledgments

9.  Prologue

Title Page

The title page is usually one of the first right-facing pages in your book and contains your book's title and the author's name. If your book has a subtitle, it is usually included directly under the title. If you'd like to recognize a co-author, editor, photographer, or illustrator, you can also include their name(s) on the title page. Your book designer can lay out this page so your title font matches that on your cover, or a similar font to your chapter names inside the book.

Copyright Page

All of your book's legal information is compiled on the copyright page, usually on the left-facing page behind your title page. It includes the copyright in your name, the publication date, ISBN numbers for each version of your book (softcover, hardcover, and e-book), along with an industry-standard clause prohibiting reproduction or reprinting without your permission.


An optional dedication page is commonly placed on the right-facing page opposite the copyright page, but can be moved at the author's discretion. The industry standard is to leave out the word "Dedicated" and just start with "To."

Table of Contents

Depending on your genre, a table of contents may be necessary. In general, fiction books do not include a table of contents, while poetry, nonfiction, and reference books generally do. Since most fiction is written in a strictly linear narrative, it's unlikely your readers will need to jump around and reference a table of contents. But if your fiction book is a collection of short stories or includes chapters with meaningful titles, consider including a table of contents in your front matter.

Nearly all nonfiction books include a table of contents, as readers will jump from topic to topic and may not necessarily read the book in a linear fashion. Similarly, most poetry collections include a table of contents so readers can jump from poem to poem.

List of Tables and Figures

Like the table of contents, a list of tables and figures is usually reserved for nonfiction and reference books.


Often misspelled as "forward," the foreword is a chance to include a longer endorsement of your book from a peer or someone with knowledge about your book. In most cases, the foreword includes an anecdote about an interaction between the foreword writer and the author, with a brief summary of why the book is important. If your book is fiction, find someone who has read a copy of your manuscript, preferably someone who is also a fiction writer. If your book is nonfiction, try to find a subject-matter expert on your topic who can lend credibility and context to your work. The foreword can be an extended endeavor, but a page or less will usually suffice.


The preface—which is essentially the same as an introduction—is the first appearance of your voice as the author. With a conversational tone, use the preface to share a bit about yourself and why you wrote the book. For fiction books, the preface often includes the story of how you got the idea for the book and how it developed over time. For suspense, you may want to include a narrowly averted disaster in the writing process. For nonfiction and reference books, the preface should be more utilitarian. Include your background on the subject, why your book is important compared to the other titles in your genre, and how readers can use your book for maximum benefit and understanding.


If there's anyone who worked on your book that you didn't include on the title page or mention in the preface, you can include them on the acknowledgment page. Acknowledgments are brief, and usually contain a list of names rather than a full explanation of each person's involvement in the book.


Reserved exclusively for fiction books, the prologue usually introduces a character, scene, or scenario that is important to the story. Many prologues foreshadow a later event, and plant an important idea in the back of the reader's mind. If you have a compelling component you'd like your readers to know before they start the first chapter, include it in the prologue. A prologue is optional, and may serve the reader better as the beginning of the first chapter. As the author, only you can make the final decision.

Share this story
Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn