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Self Publishing: How to organize the components of your book
Posted January 21, 2013; Updated October 15, 2017
By Rick Roberts ,

Those who choose to self-publish a book often wonder how they should organize their manuscript.

The following guidelines are provided as an example of common practises in contemporary book publishing. I've listed book components in the order in which they usually appear in a professionally published book. Some components are optional but are included in this list for your information. It is accepted practise to begin most new components on a right-hand page. I've noted exceptions where components should appear on the reverse (verso) of a preceding page. The standard for numbering right-hand pages is for them to carry odd page numbers -- left hand pages have even page numbers.

How you decide to organize your book is up to you. One of the more attractive benefits of self publishing is that you get to make the design and content decisions.

  • Covers and End Papers:
    • Cover:
        We will deal with book cover options in a future article.

    • End Papers:
        An End Paper is the blank page that is the first page that you encounter when a book is opened. Some publishers include an image on the inside cover and continuing onto the End Paper. This was very common in the late 19th to mid 20th century.... less common today. An recent example is Gerry Boyce's book Historic Hastings which includes a drawing of the county building on the book's End Papers. The blank page within the back cover is also called an End Paper. End Papers are also known as Leaves. Hardcover books always have End Papers. Paperback books sometimes include End Papers. Coil bound books seldom if ever include end-papers. The only time that a self-published author will need to think about end papers is if they choose to include an image on them.
  • Front Matter: (page numbers in Roman numerals)
    • Half Title Page:
        Some authors/publishers choose to include a Half Title Page. The Half Title Page does not include the name of the author nor that of the publisher. Only the title of the book appears on this page. Oftentimes the book title is justified to the right-hand side of the page and positioned midway in the upper 1/2 of the page. The remainder of the Half Title Page is completely blank. A Half Title Page is optional.

      • Other Books by this Author Page:
          The reverse of the Half Title page can include an Other Books by this Author Page. We prefer to insert the Other Books by this Author Page as a separate page at the end of the book. Either way, it is an optional inclusion.

      • Frontispiece:
          The reverse of the Half Title page can include a Frontispiece. A Frontispiece is an appropriate image or photo that is central to the topic of the book, usually with a caption. A Frontispiece is optional.
    • Title Page:
        The Title Page includes the book title, the name/s of the author/s and the imprint of the publisher. Self published books do not include a publisher name unless the self-published author has established a publisher's imprint for their own works.

      • Copyright Page:
          Located on the reverse of the Title Page, the Copyright Page includes publication information, copyright statement and year of publishing, printing information, ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and CIP (Cataloguing In Publication). Both the ISBN and CIP are recommended inclusions. It also includes the publisher’s name and address (if applicable). This is an appropriate place for a self published author to include their contact information where additional copies can be obtained. This is also the page to list any grants received, country of printing, and edition number. This page is essential.

    • Dedication Page:
        Many writers wish to dedicate their book to a person, persons, event, organization or other. This is the place to do it. A Dedication Page is optional.

    • Epigraph Page:
        An Epigraph Page contains a relevant or memorable quote that compliments the subject of the book. An Epigraph Page is optional.

    • Table of Contents:
        The Table of Contents lists chapters by name and page number where they begin. Other headings may include sections such as Appendix, Index, Bibliography, Notes, maps, etc. A detailed Table of Contents is especially appreciated in non-fiction books such as genealogies, local histories, cookbooks, how-to books, etc. A Table of Contents is not usually included in a novel or work of fiction.

    • List of Illustrations, List of tables:
        A List of Illustrations or List of tables that include the page numbers where they appear, is helpful in non-fiction works though not essential.

    • Acknowledgements Page:
        Although an Acknowledgements Page can appear in a variety of places in a book, including at the end, this page placement is our preference. An Acknowledgements Page can include a single sentence or stretch to more than one page if there are many people's contributions that need to be recognized. An Acknowledgements Page is optional.

    • Foreword:
        A Foreword is a short introductory note written by someone other than the book’s author, usually an expert in the field. Forewords can provide credibility for a new author's work. A Foreword is optional.

    • Preface:
        A Preface is written by the book’s author. It is an appropriate place for the author to explain why they wrote the book, what their academic, professional, and/or personal qualifications are that qualify them to write on the topic. An author can also acknowledge those who helped or inspired them if they chose not to include an Acknowledgement Page. A Preface is optional.

    • Introduction:
        The Introduction is about the content of the book. The author introduces the scope of the book, the theme, how the content of the book is organized, plus definitions and methodology that will be used throughout the book. A "How to use this book" paragraph/s can be very useful for complex works such as genealogies. It is helpful to include a sentence that acknowledges that there are likely errors and omissions -- and that you would appreciate being notified of them so that those errors and omissions can be corrected in a future edition. Including an Introduction in your book is highly recommended if not essential.

    • List of Abbreviations:
        Authors of genealogies and other non-fiction books often use abbreviations extensively. If your book is in that category a List of Abbreviations is highly recommended. The meaning of abbreviations changes by local and over time. Confusion is eliminated by defining yours.

  • Text Body/Chapters: (page numbers in Indo-Arabic numerals)
      The body of text that makes up your book is best broken into numbered chapters that are organized in a logical sequence. Before you begin to write, plan what you want to say. Then think about how it can best be organized so that an unfamiliar reader will be able to easily find the information that they want and be able to understand it. If you are writing a local history book your chapters might include topics such as pre-settlement, founding, settlement, agriculture, industry, commerce, religion/churches, local politics, etc. A genealogy can be organized in a variety of ways including beginning with the eldest known ancestor and moving forward in time by generation, each generation being a new chapter. Your options are many.

      Chapters often include subsections. For instance, if you are writing a local history and are now working on the Religions/Churches chapter, you might decide the break that chapter down into historical sketches of each local faith: Church of England, Methodist, Plymouth Brethern, Presbyterian, etc. It is entirely appropriate to include the subsection titles in the Table of Contents.
  • Back Matter: (page numbers in Indo-Arabic numerals, continue from previous section)
      All pages that come after the main body of your book are called "Back Matter"

    • Afterword:
        The Afterword is usually written by the author to provide additional information after the reader has finished the main body of the book. Sometimes that Afterword is added to a subsequent printing/edition to update the reader. For example, a church history might include an Afterword that updates the reader with new information about recent developments or changes at the church.

    • Appendices:
        Non-fiction books oftentimes include one or more Appendix items. Examples of Appendices are lists of people, events, ship passenger lists, voter lists, military rolls, or other resources relating to the book's topic. Fiction seldom includes Appendix items however there are exceptions.

    • Glossary:
        A Glossary of Terms is helpful for readers when the book includes words and/or phrases that many readers would not be familiar with. Examples of words in a family history that may need a definition: ahnentafel, primogeniture, consanguinity, GEDCOM, manumission, genealogy, base-born, preponderance of evidence, nee, codicil, gazetteer, majores, soundex, patronymics, progeniture, etc..

    • Sources; Notes:
        Non-fiction books are greatly enhanced when the writer chooses to include a list of their sources. One of our authors is working on a new book in which he is including two separate lists. One list for "Primary Sources". The other list includes "Secondary Sources". Source/Notes lists numerically cross-reference the source/note to the place where the information appears in the book.

    • Bibliography:
        A list of the published and unpublished materials that were consulted while writing the book is always useful in a non-fiction book.

    • Index:
        An Index is an alphabetical list of people, places, and topics that are found in the body of the book, that includes the page numbers they appear on. Many family historians choose to provide an Index of Names rather than a more exhaustive Index. Others build comprehensive indexes that provide cross references.

    • Author Biography:
        The Author Biography page is an appropriate place to include a paragraph or two about the author. Information about the author's background, especially as it relates to activities, experience, affiliations, and/or education that supports the topic covered in the book. Many authors include a photograph of themselves.

    • End Papers: (see "End Papers" in the "Covers and End Papers" section at the beginning of this article)

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