How to prepare book prelims

Picture of page taken from Pride and Prejudice

When you’re writing, trying to organise your book prelims can be confusing.

Here’s my superfast guide to getting the order, labels and content right.

Title page
Imprint
Dedication
Contents
Foreword
Preface
Introduction

Title page
This contains your title, subtitle and author name. If you’re publishing under an imprint, the logo goes at the bottom-centre of the page.

Imprint
Otherwise known as the ‘colophon’. This contains:

  • the author name, copyright line and date
  • a statement of right to ownership of the work under the relevant national copyright legislation
  • a legal notice to protect the work from appropriation and unauthorised reproduction
  • disclaimers
  • the ISBN/ASIN number
  • national library deposit information (a legal requirement for publishing print copies) – known as ‘cataloguing in publication data’
  • credits for the book designer, cover designer and if in print, the typesetter and printer.

Dedication
A short line to the person(s) to whom you’d love to dedicate the book. Note: this is not the page for lengthy acknowledgement. Keep it short, sweet and personal!

Contents
This lists the chapter numbers and titles, and the headings throughout the book.

It’s a good idea to keep the amount of headings simple and easy to navigate. Two levels of heading is usually sufficient for a non-fiction book; more if it’s a formal practitioner volume.

If you’re publishing in ebook, the chapter titles on the contents page need to contain hyperlinks to the relevant chapter titles in the book (your copy-editor can do this for you).

If in print, the entries will need page numbers – these will not be the same on the typeset page as your manuscript in Word. Your designer/typesetter can add these after layout to proof.

Foreword
This is copy by invitation, often by a prominent figure in your industry or sector. It gives kudos to the author and endorses the book, and is never written by the author themselves!

Preface
This is written by the author. It’s a brief description of how the book came to be written, what inspired it, how it came about. It does not discuss the actual content.

Introduction
This does discuss the actual content: what the book is going to do, what it contains and, for non-fiction how-to books, how it’s going to help the reader. It can also contain information which shows your experience, expertise and authority to be writing this book.

Depending on how you want to organise your prelims – and especially for online book preview (such as the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon), which tends to be restricted to a certain number of pages – you could include the following as prelims or endmatter (i.e. at the end of the book).

Acknowledgements
This credits those who have supported, inspired or actively helped or advised in the writing of your book. Try to keep these short but again, it’s fine to inject some personality – so long as it isn’t a gushing, oversharing tribute!

About the author
This is your biographical note. Again, don’t make this a life story. It’s fine to extract the salient points to illustrate your experience, authority and any major achievements. It’s also good to include a brief personal line, such as where you live with family, hobbies and so forth.

If you’d like to include your contact details so readers can get in touch, such as your professional/book email address or website, it’s a good idea to place these in a separate concluding page or chapter at the end of the book.

Placement of contact details isn’t set in stone: there are different options and solutions, according to the structure and content of your book.

A note on lead magnets
If you have a system, online resource, training course or product to sell, always put your promo ad and call to action at the end of the book.

Don’t put it at the front or in the main text: this can read as too overtly salesy and cause negative audience response.

And that’s it: a straightforward order, with everything in its place!

I’ve produced some mini-guides to help authors prepare their manuscript for editing, as well as other resources to inform on the different types of editing and how they work.

They’re free – grab your copies here!

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