What are the Elements of a Book?


Once you’ve finished your first draft, you will likely still have a few things missing before your book is complete. While the manuscript moves through the editorial process, you can focus on seeking endorsements (praise for the book from celebrities, other authors, and fellow experts), thanking anyone who helped along the way, and tidying up loose ends.

Some of these extra pieces are very similar; for example, what’s the difference among a foreword, a preface, and an introduction? We’ve assembled a list of the potential elements of your book, in the order they’ll appear in the final publication.

Many of these elements are optional (*), and a couple of them can appear either before or after your main text (+).

Front matter

Front matter is just what it sounds like: the matter at the front. This is everything that appears before your main text.

Advance Praise*

Endorsements typically go on the back of a paperback and on the back flap of a hardcover’s dust jacket. If you have too many endorsements to fit that space, they are printed as the first element inside the book, just inside the cover.

Half Title Page*

The half title page includes only the title—no author, subtitle, etc.

“Also by” page*

If you have previously published books, they can appear on the back of the half title page.

Full Title Page

The title page contains the title and subtitle, your (the author’s) name, the publication date, and the publisher.

Copyright Page

A copyright page contains the legal copyright information for the book, including the ISBN, publication date, cover design and photography credits, and any disclaimers.

Dedication*

A dedication is intended to indicate an important person or to express very special thanks—for example, “To Pancake, the longest dog with the shortest legs.”

Epigraph*

An epigraph is a quote that represents the entire book.

Table of Contents*

The table of contents lists all of the elements of the book that appear after it (but not, e.g., the dedication or epigraph), including your chapter titles and the pages the elements begin on. It typically does not include headings within your chapters.

Foreword*

A foreword is a description of the purpose, creation, or importance of the book written by someone other than the author (you). This is preferably someone with influence in your field or one that is related or complementary, but it can also be anyone with a recognizable name (e.g., a celebrity) who has read and benefited from your book.

Preface*

A preface is a description of the purpose, creation, or importance of the book written by you. This is where you first introduce yourself to the reader.

Author’s Note*+

The author’s note can be any material that is tangential to the book—thanks, background, further information, etc.

Acknowledgments*+

The acknowledgments page is a form of thanks, listing the people who helped you through writing, research, or some other aspect of the book (or life) and why they were important to or helpful in the process.

Introduction*

An introduction details information—usually background—that is distinct enough to be kept separate from the text but necessary for its comprehension or use. The content often centers on the book’s structure and themes and showcases the value-add (benefit) for the reader.

Main Text

This is the delicious, meaty center of your literary sandwich.

End Matter

End matter is like front matter but at the end. It’s everything that appears after the body of your manuscript. 

Author’s Note*+

Acknowledgments*+

Appendix*

An appendix contains material that is useful but not directly relevant or too complex for the main text. It is typically used for technical information, large tables, worksheets, and other matter that does not easily fit into the flow of text. There is typically a separate appendix for each distinct set of this information.

Notes*

Notes can be citations, extra or background information, or other material that is not central enough to be included in the main text. They can appear as footnotes (if there are 25 or fewer in the book) or endnotes (if their number exceeds 25).

Glossary*

A glossary defines key terms relevant to the book that are crucial to comprehension and perhaps not commonly known to the reader. If you have an index, you usually don’t need a glossary.

Bibliography*

A bibliography contains the citation material for works referenced in the book. For most nonacademic books, these appear instead in notes.

Ancillary Products

Ancillary material can include a wide variety of supplemental content, including a reader’s guide, a self-assessment, and an author Q&A.

Index*

The index lists key terms and phrases along with the page numbers of their discussion in the text.

About the Author

This is the final item in the book. It is usually a short biography, detailing your expertise or personal background.


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