Traditional Publishing

Prelims for self-published books

When you open a book, you'll find that there are a whole series of pages before the book proper begins. These preliminary pages are called "prelims", or "front matter".

The prelims required for self-published books are exactly the same as those required for traditionally published books. The only difference is that while a publisher will create and arrange these pages for a traditionally published author, the self-published author must create them for themselves.

Your prelims will normally have a separate page numbering system to the rest of your book, and will normally be numbered with lower case roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, etc.). This is because prelims are normally prepared after the rest of the book is finalised, as they include things like tables of contents, which cannot be created until the page numbers throughout the book are fixed. Because the page numbers must have already been fixed, you can't allow the prelim pages to alter the pagination for the rest of the book, as this would change all the page numbering. That's why prelims have to have a separate page numbering system. This means that you can insert as many prelim pages as you want without changing the fact that the book proper will still start on page 1.

Half title page

Your first page will be your half title page, also known as the "bastard title". This will be a recto (right-hand page) and will ostensibly be page i, though the page number is usually not printed on it.

The half title page should consist only of the book's title, in a typeface consistent with the book's cover or interior design, which is normally centred and positioned somewhat lower than the top trim. How far to drop the title from the top trim is a matter of preference, and may depend on the length of the title and the size of the typeface (i.e. how much space it takes up on the page), but between a fifth and sixth of the way down the page from the top trim is a good guide.


Page ii (the reverse of the half title) is normally blank, but can be decorated with a relevant image, which is referred to as the "frontispiece".

Title page

Page iii will normally be your title page. This should include:

Optionally, it may also include:

As with the half title page, the page number is often not printed on the page itself.

Copyright page

Page iv (the reverse of the title page) will normally be the copyright page. The text on this page is sometimes set two or three points smaller than the main text of the book to ensure that all the informaiton fits on one page. The copyright page should include the following information:

It may also optionally include credits for editing, design, production, illustration, etc.

As with the other pages already covered, this page often does not carry a page number. The first page that is actually numbered is often page v.


If you're including a dedication then you would normally include it on page v, after the copyright page. It's normally set the same size as the main text in the book, but centred. Sometimes it is set in italics.


An epigraph is a short quotation used at the start of the book, or at chapter heads, or both. When used at the start of a book it may appear on a recto on its own page at this point, or can sometimes appear on versos facing the table of contents or the first page of text.


Tables are navigational tools that list out elements within a book, along with the page number where you can find them. The number and type of tables you include will vary depending on the type of book you are publishing. For a book of fiction or poetry you may only want a table of contents. For a nonfiction book it might be useful to include tables of diagrams, charts, etc.


The acknowledgement page, if you choose to include one, is a place for the author to thank particular individuals – usually those who have helped in the writing and/or production of the book.


A foreword can be written by the author, but is often written by someone else – particularly if somebody well known can be persuaded to provide it! In these situations you will often see the phrase "with a foreword by..." used on the front cover. 


Unlike the foreword, a preface is generally written by the author, and falls outside the scope of the book's argument  or story. It is a space where the author can speak directly to the reader about their motivation in writing the book; their inspiration and intention, etc.


An introduction is normally a feature of a nonfiction book. The introduction, like the preface, is written by the author – but whereas the preface talks about the book, the introduction forms a part of the book. It may lay out or summarise the arguments to be covered, or introduce the main concepts or subject matter of hte book. For this reason it may also be placed at the start of the book, beginning on page "1", rather than in the prelims.


A prologue is the fiction equivalent of an introduction. It is the start of the work of fiction and sets the scene for the coming story. Unlike the preface, which is written in the voice of the author themselves, the prologue is written in the narrative voice, like the rest of the story. A prologue should not include statements like "I wrote this book because..."!

Repeated half title page

Once the prelims are finished some book designers will repeat the half title page. This is particularly the case when prelims are long, though the page can often be cut if page extent needs to be reduced. The reverse of the page can contain an illustration, or an epigraph, but is usually blank.