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The Elements of Book Layout

In a recent conversation with an author we were discussing the various “parts” that make up good book layout. After looking over what he had I made a number of recommendations. He did not layout the pages but had a friend or relative do so and the idea of correcting their work was giving him some anxiety. Unfortunately, I see this all too often. If whoever is doing the work would just look at and mimic a professionally designed book interior at least they would have the elements in the order of what is generally accepted.

So what are the various parts of the book and where are they? The three primary parts are: the front matter, the chapters or body of text, and the back matter. And, each of these are made up of specific parts in a specific order.

Front Matter contains all of the pages preceding the chapters or content of the book. When numbered starting after the copyright page it is in Roman numerals (v, vi, vii, etc.). Specifically and in order we want to see the following:

  • Half Title is the very first recto (right facing) page. It contains only the title of the book and no page number. For the half title and title page the font used should coincide with that on the cover. Nothing screams amateur more than starting off with the interior title and cover text not having some resemblance.
  • Series titles or Frontispiece is the very first verso (left facing) page. If the book is part of a series, previous titles or other titles by the author can go here. Or, it can contain an illustration specific to the book. In lieu of either it is simply blank and without a page number.
  • Title Page, the second recto page, contains the title, subtitle, author name, publisher, publisher, publisher’s city and state, and logo. Also it has no page number.
  • Copyright page, the second verso page contains the general information and metrics about the book. This will include the following:
    1. The publisher’s name, address, website, and logo
    2. Author, or authors, name
    3. Copyright statement. Either “Copyright year author” or “© year author”
    4. Rights of ownership and other verbiage about rights of reproduction or permissions for reprint
    5. Disclaimers and/or warnings about the text
    6. Acknowledgement of editors, designer, cover artist, or photographer
    7. ISBN, LCCN, CIP information
    8. Where the book was printed. For instance: Printed in the USA
  • Dedication, the third recto page, where the author can dedicate the work to a person, or persons, who have played a significant role in their life.
  • Epigraph, the third verso page, if used is usually a quotation from another person or another work. (Note: if it is recent quote, permission must be granted. Even a single sentence can fall under copyright protection.)
  • Table of Contents, the fourth recto page, containing the chapter heading and page numbers of the body of the book. A TOC may not be necessary for a novel, but can be important for a non-fiction work.
  • Foreword, the first recto page after the table of contents, when included, is an entry about the book and/or author. It is usually written by someone other than the author. Please note it is spelled foreword, not forward.
  • Preface, the next recto page after the Foreword, when included, is where the author may explain why the book was written or other background information involving the content.
  • Acknowledgements, the next recto page after the preface, is where thanks are given to all those who helped, inspired or supported their efforts. In some instances, acknowledgements can also be placed in the back matter.

Body of Text contains the chapters of the book. The page numbers are in Arabic numerals (i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc.).

  • Introduction, if included, will be the first recto page in the body. Generally, it does not show the page number or header.
  • Chapters, the first chapter should start on the next recto page. The style for the following chapters can vary. One option is to start all chapters on a recto page. This is considered formal and can leave the preceding verso page blank. Another allows for the following chapters to start on either the recto or verso leaving no blank pages. In some cases the following chapter may simply start a few lines after the end of the previous chapter. Although it is rarely done it is seen in some fiction and an occasional non-fiction book.

Back Matter starts on the first recto page following the end of the chapters and contains the supporting information about the book that is collected in a series of sections such as the appendix, end notes, bibliography, and index. In many cases, the start of each of the parts in the back matter begin on a recto page, but, since it is simply information about the contents of the book it is not necessary.

  • Appendix, contains lists, tables, charts and other information important to the text but are collected and presented in a group. There may be multiple appendices specific to a particular group of information.
  • End Notes, if used will be in lieu of chapter notes and footnotes.
  • Glossary, if used contains definitions of words and terms that may not necessarily be used in general speech. When specific terms or acronyms are used an extended definition may help the reader to get a better understanding of the context.
  • Bibliography is a list of other books and materials used to compile and support the body of the text.
  • Index is considered an important component for non-fiction work. While it can be time-consuming to create, edit and check the index it is a valuable resource especially for historical, medical or other technical works.

Not all books will have all elements described above. But, when they are included, structure and placement will make the book look professional and will not distract the reader.

If you have any questions or would like a review of your layout prior to printing please contact us.