Getting Your Grey Matter Around Front Matter

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Nearly all books, whether they are photography, cookbooks, or text based, can be broken into three basic parts: Front Matter, Body, and Back Matter. Let’s take a minute and talk a bit about common book components to consider when creating your book.

Our jurors reviewed hundreds of books submitted to the Photography.Book.Now competition and one of the things that made many of the winners stand out was their inclusion of front or back matter. So, what is front and back matter? Quite simply, front matter is everything that comes before the first chapter or body of your book begins. The most common components include Title Page(s), Copyright or Publication Page, Table of Contents, Preface or Introduction, and Dedication or Acknowledgements. The Body of your book is the primary text or images most likely separated into sections or chapters. The Back Matter then is those components that come after the Body such as a Photograph Plate List, Index, or About the Author page. Not every book needs every component, but at a minimum I’d suggest including Title pages, an Introduction or quotation, and an ‘About the Author’ or biography page. For a very detailed breakdown and description of all of the components I mentioned, checkout this web entry on Parts of a Book.

Today, I’ll focus on Front Matter by sharing a few examples from Beth Dow’s stunning “In the Garden” which was the grand prize winner in the Photography.Book.Now competition.

beth dow title Getting Your Grey Matter Around Front Matter

Half Title and Title Page(s)

Pull nearly any book down off of your shelf and you’ll find that the first page tends to be devoted simply to the Title and Author name. Many books start with a single page, strangely enough called the Half Title, that gives only the title of the book, omitting the subtitle and author name. The Title page then provides a full title, subtitle (if applicable), author name and any additional publication details. You can see that Beth included her web site address on her title page. These simple pages set the tone for your book and provide the reader with a welcoming entry-point to the body of your work or story. A few design tips – the font that you use on your book cover for Title Information should be replicated here. Also consider adding a splash of subtle color here. You can see how Beth pulled in a light green that is also reflected on the dust-jacket flaps. Finally, don’t put a page number on this page – keep it simple.

Copyright Page

BookSmart adds a copyright page automatically to every new book. A copyright page is not required since by simply creating your original work of authorship and publishing it, your copyright is automatically obtained. To take your copyright page to the next level consider adding your contact information, acknowledgement of editors (even if it the editor was your spouse, child, or dog), web site or logo. You can have some fun here if you’d like. One design tip, position your copyright page on a left-hand page to give it less importance. The most common location is following your title page. Remember, once you make your Blurb book, the content and copyright is still yours.

beth dow devotion Getting Your Grey Matter Around Front Matter

Dedication or Acknowledgements

Beth placed a very prominent devotion to her husband Keith, who originally printed the platinum-palladium images. This gives the book an additional personal touch. It is difficult to see in the above image, but what I love about this is the use of white space. It makes the simple “for Keith” both precious and important.

beth dow preface Getting Your Grey Matter Around Front Matter

Introduction, Preface or Foreword

The Preface and Foreword actually have differences I wasn’t even aware of until I started to write this post. A Preface is usually an author’s explanation of why they wrote the book and someone other than the author writes a Foreword. So, that’s the technical description. For our purposes, having some type of introduction, no matter how minor, allows you to build a narrative and context for your work. Beth has provided a short, yet provocative Preface that helps a reader take away much more from her book than they may have without this introduction. She also provides a quote taken from Vita Sackville-West author and gardener on the preceding page. If you don’t have a Foreword or aren’t up to writing your own Preface, consider using a favorite quote or short essay.

As I mentioned earlier, don’t worry about having all of the components I listed in your book. Think of your front matter as the entryway to your book. What context, narrative, and personality do you want to provide your readers prior to experiencing the meat of your book? Lastly, remember to have some fun with these components. Search for that favorite quote or even make up your own publishing imprint. Happy Bookmaking!

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  1. Hi Chad- Great breakdown of what makes up an effective book. Interesting to work through Beth Dows as the example.

    By Susan
      April 8, 2009 – 8:55 am   Permalink
  2. This was helpful as has been the other tutorials you’ve done that I’ve listened to. Question: Regarding back matter. What layouts would you suggest for a “About the Author” page?

    By Sharon
      October 7, 2009 – 8:40 am   Permalink

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