Front Matter

The time has come for me to consider what I want to include in the front matter of my book. Front matter is those pages before the book actually starts. You know, the section with the title page, some legal stuff, dedications, an amazing photo of moi (not likely). At least I think that’s what goes in the front of a novel.

But maybe I had better check. 


Okay, so as usual, the book designer genius Joel Friedlander has the lowdown on what you put in the front of your book with all sorts of fancy titles and words – like frontispiece, verso and half title. Definitely check out his post for a comprehensive list of what can be included in front matter and the general order. But front matter can be long or short and I was most interested in what is usually included and what is almost always included in both print novels and ebook novels.

Print Novels

I used my usual method of surveying the books on my shelves for this. The basic elements of front matter included in all print novels are:

  • A Title page—The title page includes title, subtitle, author and publisher of the book. Sometimes it can include the publisher location and year of publication.
  •  A Copyright page – The copyright page is usually on the other side of the title page. It includes the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, cataloging data, legal notices (i.e. that the novel is a work of fiction), and the book’s ISBN. Credits for design, production, editing and illustration are also commonly listed on the copyright page.

The front matter of most print books also includes:

  • A dedication

  • Blurbs of support or praise for the novel from reviewers and/or other authors (note that Friedlander does not include this in his list)

  • One or more half title pages (extra title pages with just the book title before and/or after all of the front matter)

Less common elements in order of the frequency of their appearance in the books from my shelf include:

  • A list of other books in the series or by the author
  • A quotation (called an epitaph) 
  • A Table of Contents
  • A list of characters
  • A prologue
  • A map
  • A book description
  • An excerpt
  • Information about the author

Acknowledgements and information about the author are generally at the back of the book.

It is also important to note that most print books (traditionally published ones that is) include cataloguing data on the copyright page. In some books this includes a summary of the book and tags or keywords for what the book is about. I believe this is called metadata and I understand it is important for the “findability” of books. I will be looking more into this in the future.

Ebook Novels

But what about ebooks? Are they different? I had heard that it is desirable to keep the front matter of ebooks short, since you want to get your readers to the actual story as soon as possible in the Look Inside feature on Amazon, so they are more inclined to buy your book.

I decided to check out the front matter of ebooks by ten self-published successes including J. Konrath, Hugh Howey, Bella Andre, Melissa Foster, CJ Lyons, Russell Blake, Scott Cramer, Theresa Ragan, Aaron Saylor, and Keith Robinson.

I discovered that there is a vast amount of variation and there is simply no truth to the suggestion that ebook front matter is shorter. However, I did note that three of these authors had their Look Inside set to jump over the front matter straight to chapter 1. I will have to check out that setting. In addition, there is no consistent order in which these items appeared – in many cases it seemed almost random. Usually, the title page appeared first followed by the copyright information and then all of the other stuff, but not always. Likewise, although the Table of Contents often appeared closer to the start of Chapter 1, this was not always the case.

Below are what these ten authors included in their front matter, from most common to least common, with tallies in terms of how many included what.

  • Title Page – 9
  • Table of Contents – 8
  • Copyright (the c in a circle with the author’s name and the year) – 8
  • Rights notice (the all rights reserved, this book may not be reproduced in any way statement) – 6
  • Dedication – 5
  • Cover designer credit (sometimes with website) – 5
  • Legal notice (the this is a work of fiction statement) – 4
  • Contact information (email, twitter, Facebook, and/or website) – 4
  • Introduction (why I wrote this) – 3
  • About the series and/or book – 3
  • Press name and/or logo (some indies set up their own imprint) – 3
  • Blurbs from reviewers and/or other authors – 3
  • Edition number – 2
  • Formatting credit – 2
  • About the Author – 2
  • Recipe or music list or something unique - 2
  • Foreward – 1
  • Quote (epitaph) – 1
  • Editing credit – 1
  • Proofreading credit – 1
  • Excerpts that link to author’s other books – 1

Whew… that is a lot. Several of the authors who are well established definitely used the front matter as an opportunity to highlight their success in the form of blurbs, introductions and statements about themselves.

From the Tables of Contents I could also determine that a few authors put sections about their other books, about themselves and their copyright notice at the end of the book.

Based on the above, I would say if you are trying to keep your front matter short, pretty much anything goes and almost all of it could be moved to the back of the book. Based on the above, I would be inclined to definitely include a title page, table of contents, copyright statement, rights notice, legal notice and my press name. I think I would also like to credit people, but I am not sure. I might put that at the end.

I would love to hear what you think, and your experiences designing and selecting your front matter.

Photo Credit:  MikeBlogs via Compfight Creative Commons