What is Front Matter?

Open any book from your shelf, whether soft cover or hard cover to the first page. What do you see? A title page? A half title page? A page of endorsements for the author’s previous books? The first page could be any one of these. Now flip through the pages until you reach Chapter One. How many are there? Could be a minimum of four pages, could be quite extensive depending on the information the author has included. All pages in a book before Chapter One are considered front matter.

The cost of printing a book depends on three things: trim size, quantity of books ordered at one time and the total number of pages. Keep in mind the front matter of a book is included in the total number of pages. A minimum of four pages in the front matter would include: title page, copyright page, dedication with a blank page behind it. Typically these pages are numbered in Roman numerals beyond the dedication.

Half title page
Many novels start with a half title page where it’s a mainly blank page with only the title printed in small caps or at least smaller font than the title page. The back side is typically blank or includes a book card: a listing of previous works by the author or other titles in the series.

I thought a half title page allowed more room for the autograph. The author could personalize the book more extensively. What I’ve heard from bookstore owners, is an author’s signature should go on the title page itself making it more valuable.

Like Wearing Suspenders with a Belt
The number of front matter entries is up to you; however, too much is like doubling up protection for holding up your pants. Do you need to include a preface, introduction, foreword, list of illustrations and more in your book? No, and especially no if the book is fiction.

What’s the difference between a preface and an introduction? Both may be written by the author. A preface is an opportunity to state why the book came to be or what the author’s credentials are in writing this book. Sometimes various appreciations or gratitude’s are included. An introduction is written about the content of the book, maybe an overall view of the subject to introduce the reader to the subject. Typically the preface comes before the introduction.

Spell That Again? 
One of the most misspelled words an editor will find in a manuscript is the word foreword. Many writers mistakenly spell it forward, as in forward motion. An easy way to remember the correct spelling is thinking “before words” be-foreword-s. The foreword of a book is typically written by someone other than the author. This may be a testament from a professional source or celebrity in the genre.

Think of an engine on a train, this is the front matter. These pages of information bring the book forward, into being.

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