Parts of a Book Explained

Updated on May 4, 2019
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Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.


In addition to the main body of text, there are several parts of a book which can be included to provide background information or helpful resources. Not all of these parts are required to meet common publishing standards. So authors can pick and choose which optional parts will enhance the book's experience for readers.

Parts of a Book: Front Matter

Note: Page numbers for Front Matter are often in lower case Roman numerals to differentiate this material from the body of the book.

TITLE PAGE: Includes the title of the book and author on one side (a right hand page). On the reverse, are: copyright information, ISBN numbers, disclaimer statements, edition info and publisher information. Has no page numbers.

HALF TITLE PAGE: (Optional) Includes the title of the book and author (in traditional publishing practice, author’s name does not appear) on one side (a right hand page). On the reverse, it is blank. Its inclusion is a throwback to bygone printing processes where this page helped protect and identify the book during production. These days, authors may use the page to sign copies for readers. Otherwise, has no major function today other than convention with established publishing standards. Visually, though, it helps create a smooth transition into the body of the book from the cover and title page. Has no page numbers.

DEDICATION PAGE: (Optional) Usually dedicates the work to someone or something special. The dedication statements are on one side (a right hand page) and the rest of that page, as well as its reverse, is blank. Has no page numbers.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: (Optional) Not usually necessary in works of fiction, but can be an integral and useful part of nonfiction works. The Table of Contents (TOC) is a list containing names of major sections (if the book is arranged in sections; see more about sections below) and chapter titles with corresponding page numbers so readers can jump to a specific page or section. Depending on the ebook format, the Table of Contents may contain links to allow readers to jump to various book sections or chapters. An optional list of images, diagrams, illustrations or charts may be included in the TOC or as a separate list altogether. (Note: Microsoft Word has a handy Table of Contents feature that can automatically create a TOC. However, it does have to be redone every time a change to the page numbers occurs during the editing and proofing process.)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: (Optional) This is the “Academy Awards acceptance speech” portion of the book. In this section, the author thanks those who have helped or been supportive of the author’s book project, life or career. Like the never ending Awards speeches, some go on for pages… and pages. Caution! If you’re worried about hurting the feelings of people you forget to include or leave out intentionally, consider leaving this section out of your book!

FOREWORD: (Optional) Usually written by someone other than the author. Authors may reach out to someone famous or a recognized expert to write this section to lend credence to the work by association OR to attract the famous person’s fans to the author and his/her work. Often, if authors wish to draw in the foreword writer’s fans, they may add a “Foreword by [FAMOUS PERSON’S NAME]” to the cover and title pages.

TESTIMONIALS: (Optional) Written by people who are endorsing the author and/or the book (if given an advance copy). As with the Foreword, including testimonials from famous people (with their permission) can help sell the book. Testimonials may also be included in book cover artwork.

PREFACE: (Optional) Some explanation or other information about the book, the author or its topic that doesn’t quite fit into the body of the work, but may be important for the reader to know. Helps the reader put what is presented into context.

Parts of a Book: Body Text

Note: Page numbers for Body of the Book are usually in standard Arabic numerals, starting with 1. As well, major segments of the book and the first page of the first chapter usually begin on the right-hand page.

INTRODUCTION: (Optional) Similar to the Preface, an introductory chapter can provide additional information so the reader can put the book’s message into perspective. However, unlike the Preface, the Introduction (which may be titled “Introduction” or something more explanatory and engaging) provides more information that is specific to what will be presented in the pages that follow.

SECTIONS OR PARTS: (Optional) If it is important to organize the book’s content into logical, topical “chunks,” chapters may be grouped together by topic, chronology, steps or some other way that helps readers mentally move through the book or the subject. Leading into each section may simply be a section title page (section title on a right hand page without page number, reverse side is blank). Alternatively, the section lead-in could be a short chapter or a few explanatory paragraphs about what will be covered in the section (may include page numbers in this case).

CHAPTERS: This is the meat of the book! And, of course, it's required!

Parts of a Book: Back Matter

Note: Page numbers for Back Matter continue the numbering from the Body of the Book in Arabic numerals.

AFTERWORD: (Optional) This is where the author wraps up what was presented in the book to bring the reader to a satisfactory conclusion. May include items such as an update on the situation or topic discussed in the book or the author’s personal reflection on his/her experience writing the book.

APPENDICES or RESOURCES: (Optional) This section can include lists of websites, books or other resources that would be helpful to the reader and that relate to the content of the book. Caution! Website addresses and contact info can become dated quickly, necessitating frequent updates to the book. Alternatively, direct readers to a resources page on the author’s website or blog that can be easily updated as information changes.

ABOUT OR AUTHOR BIO: (Optional, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) Like the About page on a website, the About or Author Biography chapter in a book can give more information on the author and his/her background, experience, credentials, public-appropriate personal information and contact information. For those using a book to promote a business, this section is ESSENTIAL!

GLOSSARY: (Optional) Defines difficult, important or unusual terms found in the book to help readers understand the material and to help make the book a go-to resource.

BIBLIOGRAPHY and/or FOOTNOTES: (Optional) A list of sources used when preparing the book. In more academic works, this listing usually follows a prescribed style standard such as the Chicago Manual of Style, APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association).

INDEX: (Optional) An alphabetical listing, by topic, of the material in the book. This can be quite a tedious process that is usually done AFTER the final manuscript is complete, formatted and almost ready for production. Because this list references the book’s page numbers, any edits that change pagination could completely change ALL the page numbers in the book, therefore necessitating a complete edit of the index. Yikes! So carefully consider whether it is worth the effort, time and possibly expense to include it in your book. Generally not a necessary element for shorter books.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • What part of a book is the appendix?

    As noted in the article, book appendices (there may be more than one appendix) are part of the back matter of the book.

  • In a book, what are preliminary pages and what are main pages? How they are numbered?

    If by "preliminary pages" you mean foreword, acknowledgments, etc., those are in the front matter and are usually lower Roman numerals. The main text, body, of the book, starts with Chapter 1 and the pages are numbered in Arabic numbers (1, 2, etc.).

  • What is the spine of a book?

    The spine of a book is the area where all the pages of the book are glued or stitched together (bound) at the center. It is covered by the book cover that wraps around the book. If there are enough pages, the title and author's name are usually printed on it so that the book can be identified when on a shelf. You might want to check out my post on book binding:

  • What part lists the sources of works used in the book?

    Sources used would be included in the bibliography and/or footnotes which is in the back matter.

  • What is the blank page at the begining of a book called?

    I believe you're talking about the blank, no-text page that's next to the cover in a hardcover book. These are usually called endpapers, or flyleaves. It's a double page that's folded in half, with half glued to the cover and the other one is free. They help protect the main textbook block. You will rarely see them in paperback (perfect bound) books.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    10 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi, Mary! Glad you found it helpful. True, using a book-like structure for reports is a great idea. People are used to that format which makes it easier for them to read. Thanks for adding that insight to the conversation! Have a great day!

  • aesta1 profile image

    Mary Norton 

    10 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    I like this clear outline. It's very helpful because you explained so well what each is supposed to say. I often use this for our reports, too.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Flourish! Yep, I suggested this for an author who would have had to constantly update her book to accommodate ever-changing info. Thanks for your comment about it. Happy Weekend!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    3 years ago from USA

    I especially like your tip regarding resources and pointing readers to your website. Definitely makes sense.


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