The Parts of a Book and the Elements of Content

an open book with the pages flipping
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That is, what are the parts of a printed book? Whether books are published traditionally or self-published, most book content is ordered in a traditional, prescribed manner. While some of the elements of the content outlined below are optional, they share a common structure, and each element appears in a similar location in every book.

A Book's Front Matter

Front matter is the information that appears up front and first in a book.

The front matter contains the nuts and bolts of the book’s publication—information like title, author, publisher, ISBN and Library of Congress data. The front matter pages aren’t visibly numbered; when they are, the numbers appear as Roman numerals. Here Are the Typical Parts of a Book's Frontmatter:

  • Half Title, Sometimes Called Bastard Title: is just the title of the book (you can think of it as kind of half the title page)
  • Frontispiece: is the piece of artwork on the left (“verso”) side of the page opposite the title page on the right (“recto”) side.
  • Title Page: this is a page which contains the title of the book, the author (or authors) and the publisher. [Read about how to craft an effective book title.]
  • Copyright page — includes the declaration of copyright (that is, who owns the copyright, generally the authors); other types of credits, such as illustrators, editorial staff, indexer, etc., and sometimes notes from the publishers; copyright acknowledgments — for books that contain reprinted material that requires permissions, such as excerpts, song lyrics, etc.; edition number — this number represents the number of the edition and of the printing. Some books will specifically note “First Edition”; others don’t declare that they are first editions, and instead is represent their printings with a number. In those cases, a first edition would look like: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. A second edition would be noted as: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
    • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data – which includes information such as title, authors, ISBN, Library of Congress number, subject matter, year of publication.


    • Dedication: where the author honors an individual or individuals by declaring that the labor of the book is “To” [name or names]
    • Acknowledgments: the author’s thanks to those who contributed time and resources towards the effort of writing the book.
    • Table of Contents: outlines the what is in each chapter of the book.
    • Foreword: is a “set up” for the book, typically written by someone other than the author.
    • Preface or Introduction: is a “set up” for the book’s contents, generally by the author.

    A Book's Body Matter

    Body matter is the core contents of the book—the “story.” The core content is most often divided into discrete segments, most commonly chapters. If larger chunks are divided, they are called parts, sections, and chapters.


    The body matter is numbered with Arabic numerals beginning with the number “1” on the first page of the first chapter.

    • Art program — anything that isn’t text (photographs, illustrations, tables, graphs, etc.) is considered to be part of the book’s art program. The art program might be integrated into each page or appear all together within a separate “signature” somewhere in the book.

    A book's End Matter

    End matter is the materials at the back of the book, generally optional.

    • Glossary: this is a listing and definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar to the reader.
    • Bibliography: most often seen in non-fiction like a biography or academic books, a bibliography lists the reference sources used in researching the book.
    • Index: An index is an optional but highly desirable element for non-fiction books. The index is placed at the end of the book and lists all the major references in the book (such as major topics, mentions of key people in the book, etc.) and their specific, corresponding page numbers. Note that even traditional publishers pass along the cost of hiring an indexer for the book to the author.