Your Book's Front Matter - Before the Story Begins

I get lots of questions from my clients as to what comes after the story is written.

While a lot of the questions are about illustrations, what’s been coming up more and more is about the pages that come before the story text begins. The pages before the story are called the front matter.

Just this week, someone asked me about a Dedication Page.

So, here is a list (in order of appearance) of the pages that will or may come before the first page of your story. Some examples are included.

1. Half title page – this is a page at the very beginning of the book that has ONLY the title of the book. It’s usually only used if pages are needed to thicken the book.

2. Frontispiece – this is a page that is an informative or decorative illustration that faces the book’s title page. It appears on the opposite page of the title page. This page is optional.

3. Title page – this is the page that lists the title, subtitle, author, and publisher. I may include the publisher’s location, year of publication, a description of the book, and either the cover illustration or other illustration.

4. Copyright page – this is the page that lists the copyright notice and the “All rights reserved” warning. It should also include the publisher’s name and address; printing details; the edition of the book; and the ISBN(s).

It may also include ordering information, your website URL, disclaimers, and the CIP Data Block from the Library of Congress.

In regard to the CIP Data Block, explains:

"The Library of Congress issues a CIP data block to you. It is not something you can create for yourself. However, if you’re a self-publisher, you are not even eligible to have a CIP data issued to you by the Library of Congress.

"You can, however, pay to have a P-CIP (Publisher’s Catalog-in-Publication) data block generated for you, if you truly desire. Having P-CIP data can make your book look more professional. It costs anywhere from $60-$100, and can be done by Quality Books, Inc. or" (1)

5. Dedication – this is a page that explains the author’s source of inspiration and/or who she is dedication the book to. It can be a single name or it can be a paragraph or two. This page is optional.

6. Epigraph – this is a page that includes a quotation, sentence, or poem. It can face the Table of Contents or the first page of the text.

I had ghosted a book series had an epigraph in each book.

Epigraphs can also be used at the beginning of chapters, on the same page the chapter begins or on a separate page opposite the beginning of each chapter.

According to

"An epigraph can serve different purposes such as it can be used as a summary, introduction, an example, or an association with some famous literary works, so as to draw comparison or to generate a specific context to be presented in the piece." (2)

This page is optional.

7. Contents Page, also known as the Table of Contents – this page lists each section and/or chapters within the book. It helps the reader navigate the book in longer works, like middle grade and young adult stories.

You would not use a Contents Page in a picture book.

8. Foreword – this page has a short piece written by someone other than the author. Its purpose is to introduce the author and the book. It most often includes the writer’s name and signature.

Usually, the writer of the foreword is noteworthy.

This page is optional.

9. Preface – this page is written by the author and usually tells about how and why the book came to be and the process. It may also include what the book is about and why you think it’s important. This page is optional.

10. Acknowledgments – this page lists the people or entities the author is grateful to for help in the creation of the book. This page is optional.

11. Introduction – this page discusses the purpose and goals of the book. This page is optional.

12. Prologue – this page sets the scene for the fiction story. It can include backstory and should be told in the protagonist’s voice. This page is optional.

13. Second half title – this page helps set off or end an extensive front matter. As the name implies, it’s identical to the first half title page and is added before the beginning of the story text. It is used when needed.

Other pages in the front matter that you may find in some books are: List of Figures and List of Tables. But, for the majority of authors self-publishing children’s books they aren’t needed.

I just want to note here that most of the front matter isn’t necessary until after the story is written. And, if you have a picture book, it won’t be needed until after the illustrations are done.

You’ll need it when you’re ready to get your book formatted to upload your book to sites like IngramSpark and Amazon KDP or when you’re ready to hand it over to a service to upload it for you.

That’s about it for the front matter of your book. The story itself is considered the ‘body of the book.’ I have an article on the 'back matter' of your book. I'll post it here next month.

Hope this is helpful in your self-publishing journey.


This book was originally published at:


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out Karen's new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman


Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing 

Social Media & Powerful Headlines

Diversity in Writing - Is Research Enough?


Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this important information about front matter in books. I often see mistakes so it is great to have such a comprehensive list to use. You include acknowledgements. I know many people include it in the beginning. These days I often see books with acknowledgements in the final pages. In the back, tt seems less distracting to the reader so makes sense to me.

author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Karen. I truly devoured this. I suggest that though we sometimes need the term “Table of Contents” to let folk know exactly what kind of contents the writer means, in the book itself the word “.Table” becomes redundant. Fine publishers tend to use just “Contents. “. There are lots of similar refinements like this one for front and back matter in The Frugal Editor ( I am saving this article to refer to before I ever click on a”publish” icon! 😊

Linda Wilson said...

You're post on breaking down the front matter of a book is very helpful. I learned a lot and will refer to your article when planning future projects. Thank you for the info, Karen!

deborah lyn said...

Thank you Karen! This article is wonderfully concise and helpful. Quite timely for me as I wrap-up and format my manuscript. I'm saving this post as my in-process and final check list.

Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, I like the idea of having the acknowledgements in the back of the book. I agree it would be less distracting in the back. I've also seen acknowledgements on the dedication page.

Carolyn, Linda, and Deborah, I'm so glad you found the article helpful and will be using it as a reminder when you're getting into the front matter of your book/s.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I like the author's bio on the very back page--even though that is on the left. That makes it easily accessible to browsers of the paper edition. I have seen it--rarely--in the the front matter. I wish I could remember the publisher who did that. I kind of liked it there, too.

Jemima Pett said...

One of the other reasons to move some of the traditional front matter to the back, for ebooks, is the 'Look inside' and excerpts offered by online retailers. It defeats the purpose if the excerpt consists almost entirely of front matter, and will likely turn your would-be purchaser off.

Karen Cioffi said...

Jemima, What great advice! I hadn't thought about the 'Look Inside' for ebooks. Thank you for sharing this. If I may, I'd like to include this in the article, giving you credit of course.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Yes, Jemima, and a lot of the frontmatter copy that people advise we not use at all can be moved to back matter, not discarded if we don’t want to! ❤️

What Is More Valuable Than Fame

By Terry Whalin (@terrywhalin) Many writers believe writing a book will make them famous. They believe getting their book into the market wi...