When you’re self-publishing a book, it’s important to pay attention to detail.
You have to do all the little things that readers expect from a professional book in order to attract attention and convince people to spend their hard-earned money and precious time on your book.
That includes getting a great cover designed, having your book professionally edited, and making sure that the interior design, formatting, and layout meet professional standards. If a book completely disregards these standards, readers are likely to be skeptical of the actual content—this is one case where the wrapping really does tend to reflect on what’s inside.
But what makes an interior design seem professional?
Let’s take a look at the major parts of a traditional book.
One of the first pages you see when you open a book, whether in print or on an e-reader, is the title page.
This simple page just lists your title in large font, centered both vertically and horizontally on the page. Below it goes your name (or your pen name).
If you’re using a publishing company (whether a traditional publisher or a publishing company you’ve created), the company’s name and logo goes at the bottom of the title page.
The title page is always a right-hand page.
If you’ve written other books, the Other Works page is the right place to list them!
Many series authors include the list of books in the series, in order, so that readers can see what else is available.
Authors might also include other series they’ve written, nonfiction books, or any other texts that might be of interest to their readers.
This is a great page to include in any book you’ve written, regardless of whether it’s the same genre, because people who like your writing probably want to read more! Think of this as an opportunity to cross-sell your books.
In an ebook, you’ll want to make all these titles you’re listing link directly to a sales page for your book so that readers can click and buy effortlessly.
The Other Works page can be either a left- or right-hand page.
All that legalese at the front of a book is called the “colophon.”
This page gives all the statistical and professional information about the book, and it’s where you put your copyright information, ISBN, and any information about contributors like cover artist or illustrator.
The colophon is typically the first left-hand page after the title page. It often uses a much smaller font than the main text of the book.
Dedication or Epigram
The dedication or epigram is an optional page near the front of your book.
If you want to give a shout-out to one or two particular people, this is the place to do it. If you’re planning to thank lots of people, save the list for the acknowledgments page; this is for a very special thank you to someone specific.
A dedication can be as simple as “To Joe” or it can be a longer, more personal message.
Your dedication is centered on a right-hand page, about a third of the way down from the top of the page, and it’s typically formatted in a slightly larger font than what you use for the rest of the book.
An epigram is much like a dedication in terms of location and formatting, but instead of being a thank you or message to a specific person, it’s a quote, song lyric, or pithy statement that typically has something to do with either the content of the book or the inspiration behind writing it.
If you want, you can include both a dedication and an epigram, but they should be on separate pages, one right after the other.
Table of Contents
The table of contents is a key part of most nonfiction books (and also a few fiction books).
It acts as a road map for the book, listing the chapter titles and the page each chapter starts on.
There’s a lot of different formats you can use, including tabbed charts, dot leaders, and justified alignment. But basically, you just need to put each chapter number, chapter title (if you have one), and page number on its own line.
The table of contents typically starts about a third of the way down a right-hand page. In comprehensive nonfiction books, the table of contents often extends onto a second page—it’s okay to put that on the back of the first page, on the immediate next left-hand page.
When you’re building an ebook, it’s a good idea to link all the chapters in the table of contents to the first page of that chapter. This makes it much easier for your reader to jump around in the book.
If you’ve built your ebook using the KDP conversion system or using Barnes & Noble’s built-in Nook publishing system, the chapters might be automatically linked up for you, depending on how you formatted your source files.
If you’re writing a fiction book, the table of contents can be optional. If you don’t have fancy names for each chapter, like “In Which Our Hero Jumps Off a Bridge,” then you can probably leave the table of contents out of the print version.
However, even if you don’t include a table of contents in the print version, you’ll probably want to include it in the ebook version—again, to make navigating easier on your reader.
Introduction or Foreword
This is another optional section. The introduction might be something you’ve written to help explain the motivations behind the book, or it might be a summary written by someone else.
Often, an introduction that’s written by another person is called a foreword.
The introduction starts on a right-hand page and can run for a couple of pages before the start of the book’s actual text.
In many cases, the introduction or foreword is numbered using Roman numerals instead of regular digits. So the first page of the introduction might be labeled i instead of 1.
After you’ve gotten all of those formalities out of the way, you can finally put your actual text into your book!
The main text always starts on a right-hand page. Typically, you’ll put the chapter number about a third of the way down the page, then start the text a few lines below that.
If you don’t have a chapter name and don’t want to use chapter numbers, you can simply start your text a third of the way down that first main page.
Appendices, Notes, or Bibliography
Some books, particularly nonfiction, need to provide extra information like appendices, notes, or bibliographies.
These go at the end of the book, after all the text. You can use one, several, all, or none of these sections, depending on your book’s specific needs.
An appendix typically consists of supplemental material to support the main text of your book.
Examples include groups of photos or illustrations, lists of vocabulary or ideas, relevant quotes, or rundowns of characters or places found in the book.
Notes can be formatted either within the text of your book, as footnotes on the page where the note is needed, or as endnotes that appear after the text.
These add some relevant information to whatever you’re making a note about, but are typically tangential to the topic. So if you’ve found out something really interesting about, say, King Henry that you want to share, but that is too much of a digression from the point you’re making in the text, you might include it as a note.
When writing endnotes, you’ll typically divide them up by chapter for easier referencing. So you’d put Chapter 1 and then write all your notes below that heading, then move on to the notes for Chapter 2 and so on.
If you’ve cited any sources in your text, you need to provide your readers with a way to find those sources to read on their own. This also goes for long quotes that you’ve included; in order to be free and clear of plagiarism issues, you need to provide a way for readers to find the original source.
That way is called the bibliography.
This is basically just a list of all the sources you’ve used, with clear and relevant information to let the reader find the exact reference material you used.
There are a lot of different formal referencing styles used in professional academic writing, but for most nonfiction, you can choose whatever style appeals the most to you.
Many authors use the Chicago Manual of Style for its straightforward, simple rules.
No matter what bibliography style you choose, be sure to list your references in alphabetical order from A to Z, sorting the references by the author’s last name.
Towards the end of the book, you can take a page or two to thank all the people who have helped you during the process of writing it.
Many authors include their editor, agent, cover designer, and other key figures in their acknowledgments. Family, close friends, and pets are also popular. If someone gave you particular help with the research, fact-checked your use of medieval warfare tactics, or let you follow them around on the job, it’s appropriate to thank them here.
Much like other specialty pages in the book, the acknowledgments page goes on a right-hand page and starts about a third of the way from the top.
It’s a good idea to include an author bio in your books so that readers can get a little more familiar with who you are.
This isn’t a five-page Wikipedia article—it’s just one to three paragraphs about you. It’s typical to include other books you’ve written, key accomplishments, major publications you’ve written for, or fun facts about who you are and where you live.
This is also a perfect place to put your social media info—encourage your readers to connect with you on your website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
In your ebook version, you’ll want to add direct links to all of these so that the reader can follow you with just a click or two.
One book section that was popular in the golden age of pulp fiction that’s now making a comeback is the Coming Soon page.
If you’ve already started working on your next book, this is a perfect place to put a teaser—think about including the first chapter of the next book in your series to whet readers’ appetites for more.
Form and function go hand in hand. Impress your readers with a professional book by following the book structure formula.
For more on creating a professional-quality book, read on:
- How to Get an ISBN for Your Book Without Getting Ripped Off
- How to Create an Audiobook PDF Companion Document for ACX, iBooks, and More
- How to Write a Fiction Book Blurb That Sells (Not Just Another Boring Synopsis)
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!