Everything You Want to Know About Front Matter

developmental book editor

Need help with your front matter? Contact me!

A developmental book editor will look at your narrative and story arc. This includes overall conceptualization, plot, character, theme, and other storytelling elements. A developmental book editor may also rewrite or add new content, including your front matter, back matter, and chapter titles.

Today we look at front matter.

What is Front Matter?

Several authors have contacted me for help in writing their front matter. For those who are not exactly sure what front matter is, here’s the scoop.

Your front matter is what readers see in the first few pages of your book. This is a preliminary section that we have all skimmed through or even skipped at times, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important! As an author, you’ll have a renewed appreciation for front matter and it’s role in organizing your book.

A lot depends on your genre. For instance, the front matter of a romance novel may differ somewhat from a biography. I’ve noticed that many self-published books may or may not follow the standard flow of front matter. Regardless, be prepared to write the following pages for a professional and industry standard appearance. Your developmental book editor and/or publisher should be able to help you determine what works best for your hard cover or e-book:

Title Page

  • Title and subtitle
  • Author’s name
  • Co-author’s name (if applicable)
  • Illustrator’s name (if applicable)
  • Foreword
  • Preface or Introduction
  • Publisher’s name
  • Copyright information
  • ISBN
  • Date of publication

Dedication

Being an author enables you to dedicate your book to someone. If you wrote your book in someone’s honor, then you can say so in the dedication. Books are often dedicated to spouses, parents, mentors, muses or anyone else who inspired the story.

Table of Contents

Your table of contents usually appears in the middle of the front matter. It lists what is in the book, namely the chapters. A chapter can be written as Chapter One or Chapter 1—totally your preference. Most authors include chapter titles, as well, while others include the chapter title only. Research your favorite books and see what the authors opt for, then decide how you would like to format your table of contents.

Foreword

The word “foreword” is sometimes inadvertently confused with the word “forward” and becomes the mutant “foreward.” Foreword is the correct spelling, which is easy to remember by noting the “word” in foreword. Your foreword is written by someone other than yourself, preferably a notable person who is a subject matter expert or can attest to the substance of your book topic. Forewords are not necessary in most books, but can lend substance to historical, political, religious and biographical books.

Preface

Some authors use the term Preface, while others call it an Introduction. In scholarly books, a preface is appropriate and can be followed by an introduction after your acknowledgments page. I don’t recommend a preface for informal books, as the word introduction is more familiar to readers and often reads like a short story. It explains how the book came to be, the concept, and some highlights. Note that some authors do not include a preface or introduction at all, and opt instead for a prologue (noted below).

Acknowledgements

Who has impacted your journey? Who has encouraged you as you wrote? Who has helped you bring your book to life? Your acknowledgements page is a platform to thank these special people, including your book editor, publisher, and other supportive team members. If your family, friends, coworkers or mentors helped in the writing of your book, you can acknowledge them here.

Prologue

Just before the first chapter, some authors open the story with a scene and setting—the Prologue. It should be well written, for it puts the reader directly into the action. The purpose is to compel them to keep reading. Think about the first few sentences, which should provide a hook. Moody, foreboding, shocking, or outrageously funny, the prologue introduces your readers to what lies ahead.

Other Terms

Epigraph: a quotation, proverb, song lyric or other profound thought that can be included in the front matter—usually on the first page of the book and/or at the end. Some authors use quotations to begin each chapter. Some sprinkle quotes throughout. Epigraphs can provoke thought, infuse irony, or foreshadow the plot.

“Editors we recommend: Melanie Saxton is a professional, widely published writer and editor specializing in book editing and ghost-writing assignments.” ~ Gorham Printing, Centralia, WA

Next Up

We’ve covered front matter, but what happens after you type “The End?” A developmental book editor will also help with your back matter. Check it out here.

Questions? Let me know if I can help! Contact melanie@melaniesaxtonmedia.com.

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