Ensure the preliminary matter in your book follows the accepted order

One of the things we see often with self-publishers is poorly put together preliminary matter in books and booklets.

Preliminary matter is the technical name given for such elements in a book as title page, foreword, contents, preface and so on. The order in which these elements appear and the way the pages are numbered can vary widely in self-published books, and if it strays from the norm, it can signal to the reader that this is an amateur effort and not to be taken too seriously. It may send a subliminal message that this publication lacks credibility.

If for no other reason, we recommend that self-publishers adhere to normal practice when setting out preliminary matter in their publications.

The publication Style manual for authors, editors and printers (Sixth edition) is widely regarded as the ‘official’ guide for anyone faced with the task of preparing material for publication, and it recommends the following order for preliminary matter. I have also included its recommendations for how to number (paginate) preliminary matter.

Most books and some booklets will have preliminary matter, which might include some or all of the following. The order laid out below is the correct order.

  • Title Page (right hand page)
  • Reverse of title page (copyright etc.)
  • Foreword (start on next right hand page)
  • Contents (start on next right hand page)
  • List of illustrations and tables (can follow on from Contents or start on the next right hand page)
  • Preface (start on next right hand page)
  • Acknowledgements (start on next right hand page)
  • Introduction (start on next right hand page)
  • Text (start on next right hand page after Introduction)
  • Appendixes (start on first right hand page after text)
  • Reference list, endnotes or bibliography (start on first right hand page after Appendixes)
  • Index (start of first right hand page after references etc.)

Page numbering should start on the Title Page and should be page one in Roman numerals (i). However the page number IS NOT SHOWN.

The page number for the reverse of the title page (ii) is also NOT SHOWN.

Page three (iii) the Foreword is the first page that is shown.

Roman numerals should be used all the way up to the Introduction, and are shown on all printed pages beginning at the Foreword, but NOT on blank pages

Numbering restarts at 1 (normal Arabic numerals) for the first page of the text and continues on for the rest of the book. Numbers should not be shown on blank pages and are sometimes not shown for the first page of a new chapter.

Numbering should be on the outside of the page — on the left of left hand pages, and on the right of right hand pages.
Right hand pages should always be odd numbered

Should chapters aways start on a right hand page? For books with lots of chapters, such as some novels, no — start on the following page. Sometimes chapters will start immediately below the finish of the previous chapter. If there are not many chapters, then new chapters will often start on the next right hand page. Blank pages thus created should not have page numbers or headers or footers.