The Parts of a Book and the Elements of Content

an open book with the pages flipping
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It doesn't matter if books are published traditionally or self-published, most book content is arranged in a traditional, prescribed manner. While some of the elements of the content outlined below are optional, they all 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 in the very beginning of a book. The front matter contains the nuts and bolts of the book’s publication—information such as title, author, publisher, ISBN, and Library of Congress data. The front matter pages aren’t visibly numbered. However, if they are, the numbers appear as Roman numerals.

The typical parts of a book's front matter include the following:

  • Half Title (Sometimes Called Bastard Title): Actually, this is just the title of the book. 
  • Frontispiece: This is the piece of artwork on the left (otherwise known as “verso”) side of the page opposite the title page on the right (otherwise known as “recto”) side.
  • Title Page: The title page is the page that contains the title of the book, the author (or authors) and the publisher. 
  • Copyright Page: This includes the declaration of copyright—meaning, who owns the copyright, which is generally the authors)—and other types of credits such as illustrators, editorial staff, and indexer. Sometimes, this page has notes from the publisher and copyright acknowledgments—for books that contain reprinted material that requires permissions, such as excerpts, song lyrics, etc. The edition number (the number that represents the number of the edition and of the printing) is also on the copyright page. Some books will specifically note “First Edition,” while others don’t declare that they are first editions. Instead, a first edition book is represented 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 look like: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
    • Dedication: The dedication page is where the author honors an individual, or individuals, by declaring that the labor of the book is dedicated “To” (and the name, or names, are filled in).
    • Acknowledgments: This is where the author thanks those who contributed their time, resources, and talent towards the effort of writing the book.
    • Table of Contents: This area outlines what is included in each chapter of the book.
    • Foreword: ​The forward is what is referred to as the “set up” for the book—typically written by someone other than the author.
    • Preface or Introduction: The introduction is another “set up” but it's for the book’s contents, generally written by the author.

    A Book's Body Matter

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


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

    A Book's End Matter

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

    • Glossary: The glossary is a list of definitions of terms that might be unfamiliar to the reader.
    • Bibliography: Most often seen in non-fiction like a biography or an academic book, 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. These include things like major topics and mentions of key people in the book—and their specific, corresponding page numbers.