What are the different parts of a book? An inevitable question new author’s face when putting a book together. You may have the chapter titles picked out and an idea of how you want the narrative section of the book to flow. But what about the other important parts that come before and after the bulk of the text?
For every non-fiction author, the journey of crafting a compelling book is both exciting and challenging. Just like the pieces of a puzzle that come together to form a picture, a well-structured book comprises various essential elements. Whether you’re writing a biography, academic text, self-help book or how-to guide, understanding the fundamental parts of a book is crucial to ensure your message reaches the readers effectively.
Pick up a copy of your favorite non-fiction book and follow along as we explore the key components, breaking it down by sections:
- Front Matter
- Main Body
- Back Matter
Along with the parts of a book listed in the infographic above, we’ll explore the guidelines for the front cover, back cover and spine of a book.
Even though this article focuses primarily on non-fiction books, many of the parts and organizational rules apply to fiction books as well. This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and insights to create a book that engages, informs, and appeals to your target audience. While it is not necessary to include each book component discussed in this article, knowing the essentials and proper organization guidelines are crucial to enhance readability and user experience.
So, let’s dive in!
The parts of a book that are composed within the front matter section include everything that appears before the main body text or first chapter. The front matter is like the literary welcome mat to your book.
A well-organized front matter not only adds a professional touch, but helps guide readers through crucial details before diving into the main content. While many readers may not take the time to read through the details in this first section, they are nevertheless still important. As non-fiction authors, paying attention to the front matter allows you to establish credibility, express gratitude, and create a lasting first impression on the reader, as they start their journey with your book.
Note: When it comes to adding page numbers to a book, typically Page 1 is the first page of the first chapter. Since the parts of a book in the front matter come before the first chapter, you may either number the pages using lowercase Roman numerals (e.g. i, ii, iii) or omit page numbers for the front matter section.
The first parts of a book’s front matter are the half title page and full title page. A book can include both, or just the full title page. If the half title page is included, it either appears first in the book, or right after a blank page.
You may notice that the half title page only displays the main title while the full title page reveals the complete title (main title and subtitle). For example, the half title page for a popular recipe book reads “Magnolia Table,” while the full title page displays, “Magnolia Table – a collection of recipes for gathering-“.
Other must-haves found on the full title page are the author’s name and publisher. In addition, there may be an acknowledgment of work done by a major contributor. This statement is found below the author’s name. Examples include:
- Photography by…
- Color illustrations by…
- With a foreword by…
- Translated by…
Also referred to as the reverse title page, the copyright page is located on the back of the full title page. This is another must-have part of a book as it plays a role in protecting the author’s work and ensuring the book complies with copyright laws. Templates are available online to help with the organization of details on this page, which includes:
- copyright statement, such as “Copyright © 2023 by [author’s name]”
- publisher information – name, logo, full address
- date of publication
- the edition
- any legal notices or disclaimers, for example “This book does not replace the advice of a medical professional. Consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes…”
- Credits for the editor, book or cover design, photography, etc.
If included, the next page is the dedication. This page may or may not contain a photo or illustration along with the dedication, “For…” or “To…”
Table of contents
Moving forward to the table of contents. This part follows the dedication page (if used) or the copyright page. Often viewed in books as “Contents” instead of “Table of Contents,” this page lists chapter titles in order with page numbers. It is important for nonfiction books to use titles for chapters to make it easier for the reader to follow along. Additional components to this page may be a list of tables or list of figures.
Other optional parts of a book
Within the book’s front matter you may also find one or more additional parts such as the ones included in the table below.
|Epigraph||short quote, phrase, or excerpt from a notable piece of work make sure to credit the source (author and title of work)appears at the beginning of a book (usually placed on the page opposite the table of contents)sometimes appears before each chapter, or sectionsets the tone or theme for the upcoming contenthelps to capture the reader’s attention|
|Foreword||written by someone other than the author (e.g. colleague, professional within the same field as the book’s topic, friend)short in lengthmeant to provide a unique perspective and insight on the bookcan be used to add credibility to the work and help capture the reader’s attention|
|Preface||similar to the foreword as it is used to provide context and insight into the book, BUT it is written by the authorincludes details about: background of the work, explanation of the purpose, author’s motivation and intentions, research methods|
|Acknowledgements||recognize the group effort that went into the creation and publication of the bookthank individuals for support and assistance during the process (e.g. family, friends, mentors, editors, research collaborators)may be found in the back matter of a book instead (some authors/publishers choose to keep the length of the front matter as short as possible in order to allow the reader to more quickly and easily get to the main body content )|
Rarely will you see all of these optional parts included in a book. However as noted in the table, each component helps to set the stage for the reader to engage with the book. Therefore, it may be worth spending the time to add at least one of these parts to your book.
Recto and verso
Recto and verso are terms used to describe the two sides of a printed page in a book.
- Recto – refers to the right-hand page of an open book
- Verso – refers to the left-hand page of an open book
Most of the parts of a book begin on a right-hand page. There are a couple of exceptions. First is the copyright page which is commonly found on the reverse side of the title page. Second is the epigraph which is found on the reverse side of the dedication page. If the book does not have a dedication page then the epigraph can be placed on the page opposite the table of contents or first chapter.
Moving forward to the parts of a book that are found in the main body section. This core piece of the book is where the primary narrative, information or story is presented. Here, we’ll highlight a few things to keep in mind when writing the main body.
Specific to nonfiction books, the introduction may be found in the front matter or main body of a book. The goal with the introduction is to help transition to the main part of the book. It can be as short as a single paragraph or be multiple pages.
Note: If including the introduction with the front matter content, use Roman page numbers. However, if the Introduction is part of the main body, use Arabic numbers for the pages.
Especially if including a preface in the book, you’ll want to make sure the information in these two parts is different, where the preface focuses more on the background details and the introduction is used for other purposes.
Typically, the introduction is the place to summarize the main points of the book and provide details (e.g. definition of terms) to help the reader better understand what’s to come. For example, if you’re writing a book about plant-forward eating, you may want to use the introduction to present how you define this term and the plan for discussing it throughout the book.
TIP: Check out the introduction of books within a similar genre to yours for inspiration.
Main body content
The content of a nonfiction book is best separated by chapters. Chapters are used to:
- break content into smaller, manageable sections
- allow for easier navigation and comprehension
Each chapter focuses on a specific topic, event, or idea to help advance the narrative or argument of the book.
Chapters often have their own titles to provide a glimpse of the content covered next. For instance, a recipe book may be separated by chapters with titles like, “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” and “Dinner,” while a book geared towards helping women navigate pregnancy may have chapter titles for each month or weeks gestation of pregnancy.
In addition to chapters, some longer and more complex books may also divide the content into “parts.” Each part typically covers a specific theme, subtopic, or phase. Parts are used to group related chapters together, further helping create a clear structure within the book. Like chapters, parts are often titled to give readers an idea of what to expect.
For example, using the same pregnancy book from the previous example, the chapters can be grouped together into parts titled “first trimester,” “second trimester,” “third trimester,” and “postpartum.”
Imagine how challenging it would be to read a 200-page book without any parts or chapters. Establishing clear dividers is an organizational approach that is beneficial in presenting the content in a coherent and systematic manner that is crucial for maintaining reader interest.
Including visuals in the main body of a book is another way to enhance the reader’s experience and comprehension. Visuals may include: images, graphs, tables, diagrams, illustrations, and photographs. While not necessary, the use of visuals has several benefits such as:
- enhance understanding of content for the reader
- improve retention
- pique readers’ curiosity
- break up long blocks of text
- provide clarification of data
- improve aesthetic appeal
Note: While beneficial, it is important to utilize visuals appropriately. They should complement the text and add value to the reader’s experience. Additionally, remember to always obtain proper permissions and give appropriate credit.
After the main body of the book comes the Back Matter. This important section serves several functions including offering closure, supplementary information, and a navigational tool for the main body contents. While none of the following components are required parts of a book, they each have specific purposes and depending on the narrative of the book are strongly encouraged to include.
“About the Author”
This brief biographical part provides a glimpse into the author’s qualifications, experiences and any previous books authored. It is an optional part of a book that is yet another way the author can establish a connection with the reader and help validate the information presented in the main body. There are a few places wihtin a book where you can find the author bio: front or back matter, back of a paperback, dust jacket of a hardback book.
The appendix provides supplementary information that is relevant to the book’s content. Especially with nonfiction books, the appendix is beneficial in providing readers with additional in-depth information, data, or explanation without disrupting the flow of the main body of content.
For example, for a book like “The Inside Tract – Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health,” which is not a recipe book specifically, the author uses the appendix to provide recipes and shopping lists. The recipes are organized by “Tracks,” that correspond directly with the “Tracks” content discussed in the last chapter of the book.
Other ideas for types of information found in the appendix:
- List of websites, mobile phone apps or books for readers to delve deeper into the subject
- Visuals – templates, maps, figures, graphs, photos, sample interview questionnaires or other items used throughout the research process
- Text with further explanation of research findings, survey results or data
Endnotes provide supplementary information and are used to appropriately cite sources without interrupting the flow of the main text. Especially with non-fiction books that are research or text heavy, endnotes allow readers to explore additional content without distraction. It is important that endnotes be correctly numbered to match the corresponding text in the main body and be arranged by chapter in the back matter of the book.
Commonly found in non-fiction books, the glossary is made up of terms used within the book and their definitions. This alphabetical list is a valuable reference tool that allows readers to quickly look up key terms without needing to search elsewhere.
The bibliography provides readers with a reliable list of sources that were used to support the information, arguments or claims presented in the book. Unless directed by a publisher, the citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago) is up to you. The key is to be consistent. Make sure to sue the same style if also including footnotes or endnotes.
An index is another valuable tool that is commonly found in the back matter of non-fiction books. This alphabetical list is composed of terms and concepts along with corresponding page numbers where the content can be found in the main body of the book. The index enhances the book’s usability and ensures that readers find relevant information they seek efficiently.
Front Cover to Back Cover
Now that we’ve looked at the parts of a book from the front matter to the back matter, let’s take a closer look at the outer components.
The front cover of a book typically includes several key elements that serve to visually represent and market the book. These include:
- Essential elements:
- title – make sure the font size and type are legible and match the tone of the book
- subtitle (if used)
- series/edition details (if applicable)
- author’s name
- Optional elements to help draw the potential reader in:
- cover art or design elements that visually represents the book’s theme
- short blurb from a notable individual endorsing the book
- “Foreword by…” statement
- “Photography by…” or “Art by…” statement, especially if visuals play a major role throughout the book such as in a cookbook
- publisher’s name or logo
While sometimes left blank, the spine usually includes the title and author’s name. Additionally, the publisher logo and book series information can also be found here, if applicable.
The size of the book plays a major role in the design of the spine in terms of what information is included and how it looks. For instance, books with a wide spine may display the information horizontally, while a shorter book with a thinner spine will print the details vertically. Very short books may have a blank spine as there is not enough room for legible text.
Note: If planning to use Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to self-publish, the minimum page count to be able to add text to the spine of a paperback book is 80 pages.
The spine of a book is an important part of a book’s overall design contributing to the visibility and appeal to potential readers, especially when standing upright on a bookshelf.
Finally, the back cover serves as an extension of the front cover. It acts as another essential marketing tool to entice readers and provide additional information about the book. Key elements that may be found on the back cover include:
- a short book description
- a short author biography
- publisher’s name and logo (if applicable)
- quotes of praise or endorsement from notable sources
- credit statement for significant photography or artwork contributions (if not already indicated on the front cover)
- ISBN and barcode
- Symbols or labels indicating the book’s genre that are easily identified by the target audience
What information should be included on a dust jacket for a hardback book?
Also known as a book jacket, or dust cover, this removable outer shell typically includes the same key elements previously mentioned for the front cover, spine and back cover. In addition, the inner flaps of the dust jacket also provide space to include a longer book description, author’s bio with photo or additional endorsements.
Now that we’ve covered the different required and optional parts of a book it may seem like an overwhelming process to take on. While each of the parts discussed help with the workflow of the book and enhance the experience for the reader, creating a book outline can help YOU the author get organized and get started writing with confidence. Whether you’re a first-time author or already authored multiple books, having go-to tools like a set of powerful affirmations to keep you motivated to write are key for success. For additional writing tips or more information on self-publishing with Amazon KDP, check out the following resources:
- 6 Effective Tips on How to Write Faster
- 25 Inspiring Journal Prompts for Bloggers, Writers and Authors
- 25+ Important Grammer Rules for Writers
- What is the Difference Between Proofreading and Copyediting?
- How to Sell Books on Amazon
- How to Write a Good Book Description on Amazon
- Kindle Direct Publishing Login