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How Should Your Book Be Laid Out?

By 20 September 2018September 29th, 2023No Comments

We get a lot of people asking us how their book should be laid out, what is the order of things when it comes to the sections either side of the main text. Well, we have put together this guide to help you decided what goes where.

Some of the sections you will probably never use others will be essential to your work so don’t be worried that the list is so long, just pick those that are relevant to you, any questions you know were we are. . .

The following is for references will be referred to in the guide:

  • Leaf – What we publishers refer to as pages.
  • Recto – When a book is open and laying on its spine, this is the right-hand leaf. Always odd numbered.
  • Verso – When a book is open and laying on its spine, this is the left-hand leaf. Always even numbered.

Whilst these rules are not hard and fast they are the norm and we try to follow them where possible. The layout is broken down initially in the following way:

  • Front Matter – The pages at the beginning of the book before the text or body, we normally number these pages using roman numerals.
  • Text or Body – This is the main part of the book, your manuscript and will be traditionally numbered.
  • Back Matter – The pages at the end of the book that contain additional information such as references, appendices, glossaries and indices.

Each of these initial stages are then broken down further in to the elements that you would recognise, they are as follows:

Front Matter.

  1. Half Title Page – This is also called the Bastard title or a Fly title and is the first page you see when opening the books, it contains the book title nothing else, we don’t tend to use this page but skip straight to the Title Page
  2. Frontispiece – This is an illustration page that would normally be on the back of the Half Title Page facing the Title Page, again, as a rule we don’t tend to use this page.
  3. Title Page – This is normally our first Recto page and contains the title, subtitle, author and sometimes our detials. Other information that can be placed on the title page including the publisher’s location, the year of publication, or descriptive text about the book, illustrations are also common on title pages. We tend to place all our information on the copyright page.
  4. Copyright Page – This is normally our first Verso page of the book on the rear of the title page; this page carries the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloguing data, legal notices, and the books ISBN or identification number. Rows of numbers are sometimes printed at the bottom of the page to indicate the year and number of the printing however we don’t use this method. Credits for design, production, editing and illustration are sometimes listed on the copyright page although we tend to add a note on the bottom of the title page.
  5. Dedication – This is as it suggests, a dedication, provided by you, the author, and tends to be someone dear to the author.
  6. Epigraph – This is a short quotation should you wish to add one, normally something profound but the individual being quoted must be referenced.
  7. Table Of Contents – This is as the name suggests, a contents page is less common in fiction works but may be used if your work includes unique chapter titles. A table of contents is never used if your chapters are only numbered (e.g., Chapter One, Chapter Two).
  8. List Of Figures – As the title suggests, this adheres to the same rules as above.
  9. List Of Tables – Again, same rules apply as the list of figures.
  10. Foreword – The foreword contains a statement about the book and is usually written by someone other than the author who is an expert or is widely known in the field of the book’s topic. A foreword is most commonly found in nonfiction works.
  11. Preface – Nearly always written by the author, the Preface often tells how the book came into being, and is often signed with the name, place and date, although this is not always the case.
  12. Acknowledgements – Used by the author to express their gratitude for help in the creation of the book.
  13. Introduction – Here the author explains the purposes and the goals of the work, and may also place the work in a context, as well as spell out the organisation and scope of the book.
  14. Prologue – Used mainly in a work of fiction to set out the scene for the story and is written in the voice of the character within the story.
  15. Second Half Title – We tend to use this to divide sections of the book and is always placed on the recto page.

Text or Body

  1. Part Opening Page – We rarely have cause to use this page but both fiction and nonfiction books are sometimes divided into parts when there is a large conceptual, historical or structural logic that suggests these divisions, and the belief that reader will benefit from a meta-organisation.
  2. Second Half Title – Again, we rarely have cause to use these pages however if the frontmatter is lengthy, a second half title, identical to the first, can be added before the beginning of the text. The page following is usually blank but may contain an illustration or an epigraph.
  3. Chapter Opening Page – Most fiction and almost all nonfiction books are divided into chapters for the sake of organising the material to be covered. Chapter Opening pages and Part Opening pages may be a single right-hand recto page, or in some cases a spread consisting of a left, verso, and right-hand page. Statistically, if a spread opening is used, half the chapters (or parts) will generate a blank right hand page, and the author or publisher will have to work with the book designer to decide how to resolve these right-hand page blanks. We tend to use another method where the chapters flow using no blank pages.
  4. Chapter Text – Exactly as the name suggests, the meat of the book.
  5. Epilogue – Mostly used in Fiction is the ending piece of the book, usually in the voice of the author bringing closure to the book story line.
  6. Afterword – May be written by the author or another, and might deal with the origin of the book or seek to situate the work in some wider context.
  7. Conclusion – A brief summary of the salient arguments of the main work that attempts to give a sense of completeness to the work.

Back Matter

  1. Postscript – From the Latin post scriptum, “after the writing” meaning anything added as an addition or afterthought to the main body of the work. This, in our experience, is rarely used.
  2. Appendix or Addendum – A supplement to the main work and tends to be used more in non-fiction. An appendix might include source documents cited in the text, material that arose too late to be included in the main body of the work, or any of a number of other insertions.
  3. Chronology – In some works, particularly histories, a chronological list of events may be helpful for the reader. It may appear as an appendix, but can also appear in the frontmatter if the author considers it critical to the reader’s understanding of the work.
  4. Notes or Endnotes – These come after any appendices, and before the bibliography or list of references. The notes are typically divided by chapter to make them easier to locate.
  5. Glossary – A glossary comprises alphabetically arranged words and their definitions.
  6. Bibliography or References – Again normally found in non-fiction this is a list of source materials that are used or consulted in the preparation of a work or that are referred to in the text.
  7. Contributors – A work by many authors may demand a list of contributors, which should appear immediately before the index, although it is sometimes moved to the frontmatter. Contributor’s names should be listed alphabetically by last name, but appear in the form “First Name Last Name.” Information about each contributor may include brief biographical notes, academic affiliations, or previous publications.
  8. Illustration Credits – Again this is normally used where there are several contributors, we would normally use the title page to credit an individual illustrator.
  9. Index – An alphabetical listing that can be used for any of the following: people, places, events, concepts and works cited along with page numbers indicating where they can be found within the main body of the work.
  10. Errata – We have never needed to use this but it is normally used as a notice from the publisher of an error in the book, usually caused in the production process. These are not used to correct typographical errors or to insert additions or revisions. “It should be used only in extreme cases where errors severe enough to cause misunderstanding are detected too late to correct in the normal way but before the finished book is distributed.” (Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. p. 33)
  11. Colophon – A brief notice at the end of a book usually describing the text typography, identifying the typeface by name along with a brief history. It may also credit the book’s designer and other persons or companies involved in its physical production.

This is an extensive list but includes all elements should they be required, most however are not normal in fiction writing and tend to be most relevant in non-fiction technical and informational works.

We hope this list has been of assistance to you, please feel free to add your comments below.

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