The Fact of the Matter

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Let’s face it, if you have never published a book before, you have no reason to know that the order in which things appear in your book matter. But the fact of the matter is that how your book is organized can peg you as an amateur.

What is this Matter?

Each book has both front and back matter. These are the items that appear in your book that are not the actual chapter contents. For example, you might have a foreword and an acknowledgments page. There could be an index and a dedication. You might have a bibliography and an introduction.

What difference does it make where these things show up in your book? Believe me, if you put them in the order that I listed them above, you would be quite embarrassed indeed. And your readers (should you acquire any) would be quite confused.

Why Should You Care?

There is a specific order that all of the matter appears in a book. That order is outlined in the publishing industry standard Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). The CMOS is a reference book on every editor’s desk. It outlines the birthing and production process of our publications, from the way we use our language to the way we document and produce our works. It is the primary style guide for book publishing.

CMOS coverThe fact of the matter is that we have standards so that all of us can pick up a book and know that our table of contents will appear within the first five or so pages of the book. We can count on it being there. We wouldn’t want to have to search in the middle of the book for a list of contents, would we? Absolutely not. So standards help us by organizing our content in a reliable way that we can depend on from book to book.

We can always find publishing data on the copyright page on the first four pages of the book (after our title pages). We know that if anyone meant anything to the author, we will know who they are before we get to the first chapter. Standards help us to count on these things.

What’s the Order?

In my e-book for nonfiction writers, The New Writer Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Nonfiction E-Book (at, I lay out the primary parts of the book and their uses. They are also found in Section 1.4 of the CMOS that I referenced earlier. To give you a quick glimpse of common components (not all), they are:

From the front of the book

Title pages (half title, series title, full title)
Copyright page
(Table of) Contents
(All of this before Chapter 1)

In the back of the book


So that you are aware, these pages also appear on a certain side of the book (recto or verso), thus you will need to understand what all this means. Take a look at the book The New Writer Workbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Nonfiction E-Book for a detailed listing with explanations. (Find it at

Keep It All Together

If you are an independent author and you want to look like you have it together, be sure to keep your book parts in order. The fact of the matter is that your book’s organization will matter to both your reputation as an author and to your readers.

To Your Writing Success,


PS If you would rather just have a second pair of eyes to watch your back (and front…matter that is), contact me via e-mail at to request a $20 Matter Review. I will look at both the order of appearance and the content of those pages. (NOTE: This is a great deal even if your book has already been published because we can fix it before anyone else buys/sees it.)

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