Here are all the different parts of a nonfiction book in the right order, so you can make sure your book is up to industry standards.
Different sections address the needs of different stakeholders, from readers (table of contents, foreword, preface, introduction, body and conclusion), to librarians and retailers (title and copyright pages) to researchers and academics (appendices, end notes, indexes, etc.).
Order of Appearance (OA) vs. Order of Execution (OE)
To make the task of composing your book a little easier, I’m going to list the different parts in their order of appearance (OA) followed by their order of execution (OE) so that you don’t spend time creating a part before you’re ready to do so.
For example, even though your book’s copyright page is 5th in order of appearance it’s actually 18th in the order of execution, so you shouldn’t really work on it until almost the very end.
Book Cover (OA: 1 of 20, OE: 12 of 20)
It goes without saying that all books are judged by their covers.Your book cover is bar none the most important single part of your book – even the best written nonfiction book will falter if its cover is amateurish or substandard in any way.
For this reason, it’s imperative that you hire a professional book cover designer with experience in the nonfiction genre to ensure that you’re on a level playing field with your competitors, both self-published and traditionally published.
Your book cover is made up of three main components: the front cover, the book spine and the back cover. If you’re printing your book as a hardcover edition, you’ll also be creating content for the front and back cover flaps.
The front cover consists of the following elements: the cover image or cover treatment, a headlining testimonial appearing on top of the cover, your book title and subtitle and your author name.
Your book title will be typeset with the largest font on the cover and it must be large enough that it can be legible on a small thumbnail image.
The spine typically contains your book title and your author name. The real estate on book spines is very limited and usually too small to even fit a subtitle.
The back cover consists of the following elements: your second best testimonial, shown at the top, followed by either additional testimonials or by your book blurb, your short author bio, your author headshot, and your book’s ISBN barcode.
These are the pages that appear before your book content begins in earnest. Front matter pages are numbered in roman numerals because they’re not technically part of the body of your book.
Front Matter Pages from the First Page to the Table of Contents:
1) Half-Title Page (OA: 2 of 20, OE: 13 of 20)
This is the very first page on your book. It contains just your title on the top half of the page (no subtitle) without any other additional information.
2) Other Books by the Author Page (OA: 3 of 20, OE: 14 of 20)
The backside of the half-title page can either be left blank or be used to list other books you’ve published before. You could headline it with something like: “Also by the same author:” or “Other books by the same author:”
3) Title Page (OA: 4 of 20, OE: 15 of 20)
This page is a clone of the half-title page, except that it also contains the sub-title, the author name, and the names of key contributors, such as your editor or your illustrator if you have an illustrated book. At the bottom of this page, you’ll place your publisher’s logo (or your own logo if self-publishing).
4) Copyright Page (OA: 5 of 20, OE: 18 of 20)
This page appears on the back of the title page and contains your book’s copyright notice, the publisher notice, the edition notice, your copyright restrictions, credits, your biographical record, legal disclaimers and third-party permissions.
Let’s go over these elements one by one:
4-1) Copyright Notice
The copyright notice is made up of the “Copyright” word itself followed by the © symbol, the year of publication (YYYY format) and the author’s name “by John Doe.”
e.g. Copyright © 2019 by John Doe
4-2) Publisher Notice
The publisher notice contains the name of the publisher, their mailing address or P.O. Box (optional) and their website address (optional). If you’re self-publishing your book, you’ll need to create a brand name to use for your book – this imprint will be associated with your ISBN.
e.g. Published in the United States by ABCDE Press, 12345 Street Ave. East, P.O. Box 277, City, State, Zip code.
4-3) Edition Notice
The edition notice simply informs the reader and the book trade at large whether this is the first edition of your book or a revised edition (e.g. Second Edition, Third Edition, etc.). Also, if your book is in print, you can also mention the print run here.
e.g. First ABCDE Press Edition, 2019
4-4) Copyright Restrictions
This section identifies all copyright restrictions as they pertain to your book content:
e.g. “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information browsing, storage, or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.”
In this section you can give credit to those professionals who’ve helped you in the production of your book. They may include:
e.g. Cover Design: Jane Doe
Author Photograph: Jim Doe
4-6) Bibliographic Record
In this section, you’ll add the bibliographic record assigned to your book by the Library of Congress. Please note that you’ll need to purchase an ISBN for your title before you can submit your request.
Visit this page to submit your bibliographic record request:
Visit this page to purchase your ISBN:
Here’s an example:
Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data:
Title of the Book: Sub Title
1- Problem-Solving. 2- Self-management. 3- Success. I. Title.
BF555.A55 2019 111’.1 –ab11 12-34567
Now it’s the time to add any legal disclaimers that are necessary for your protection. The nature of your disclaimers will depend on your genre.
For example, fiction books need to stipulate that all characters are fictitious and do not represent any actual person, living or dead.
If your book is nonfiction, then you need to clarify that you’re not responsible for any errors or omissions, and that your information doesn’t replace the advice of experts (i.e. your content does not replace the need to consult with a physician, a lawyer, a certified accountant, etc.)
Here are some examples:
“Unless otherwise indicated, all the characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
“Although this publication is designed to provide accurate information in regard to the subject matter covered, the publisher and the author assume no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any other inconsistencies herein. This publication is meant as a source of valuable information for the reader, however it is not meant as a replacement for direct expert assistance. If such level of assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.”
4-8) Third-Party Permissions
If you’re reprinting content under copyright from third parties, then you must first obtain written permission from their publisher. You’ll need to contact their publisher’s rights-department in order to make this request.
Keep in mind that reprinting grants are a source of revenue for publishers, so expect to be asked for payment.
Here’s an example of a permission grant:
“Our deepest fear…” from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. Copyright © 1992 by Marianne Williamson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishing, Inc.
5) Dedication (OA: 6 of 20, OE: 16 of 20)
This page can be used to acknowledge a person or an entity that you want to dedicate your book to.
6) Quotation or Epigraph (OA: 7 of 20, OE: 17 of 20)
This page can be used to show a quotation or an inspirational statement that adds context to your book, or simply a favorite quote that you’d like to include in your book.
Table of Contents (OA: 8 of 20, OE: 20 of 20)
This page (or pages) shows a listing of your contents and is usually auto-generated by the software used by your book designer, so it needs to be created last after the entire content of your book is set in stone.
Pages from the Table of Contents through to the First Chapter:
The following pages transition your book from your front matter to your content:
1) Foreword (OA: 9 of 20, OE: 10 of 20)
The Foreword is a comment about your book, about you or both, written by a recognized influencer with a large following in your niche. We’re talking about a “celebrity” whose credibility is well-established and recognized in your field and by the media at large.
Now, to be quite honest these are very hard to get unless you have a direct connection with these individuals.
Unless you know the celebrity personally in some capacity (perhaps through family and friends, or perhaps you’ve done work for them in the past and they hold you in high regard), it’s highly unlikely that they’ll sing your praises, because they value their personal brand and will likely never put their reputation on the line for an unknown author. Unless, of course, your book is so outstanding in their eyes that you manage to “knock their socks off.”
If you can secure one, however, a positive foreword by someone famous has the potential to launch your book into the stratosphere. There are many accounts of unknown nonfiction book authors that went on to achieve great success through the giant doors that were swung open by a powerful foreword from such a person.
Having said that, unless you already have a solid connection to a celebrity in your niche, don’t spend too much time trying to obtain a foreword and spend it instead to improve the quality of your content.
2) Preface (OA: 10 of 20, OE: 9 of 20)
The Preface, on the other hand, is written by you and it’s just about you. Here you can share your personal story, the journey that has led you to write your book, what your book does (but not “how” it does it), why you’re qualified to write it and, if your book has been published before, outlining any changes from the previous edition.
In short, the preface is the vehicle that you use to have an initial personal conversation with your readers in order to start building rapport.
A word of caution: since you’ll be telling your reader about yourself, it’s imperative that you’re not perceived as “bragging” or being a shameless self-promoter.
This section is the place to tell your readers who you are in order to build trust, not to impress them or be boastful about your accomplishments or credentials.
Only include those pieces of information that are relevant to your personal journey in relation to your book and how the book came to be.
3) Acknowledgments (OA: 11 of 20, OE: 11 of 20)
Use this page or pages to acknowledge anyone who helped you in the creation of your book, including associates, your editor, your book designer, any other professional that you’ve hired to produce and promote your book, your family and anyone else of relevance to your book project.
4) Introduction (OA: 12 of 20, OE: 8 of 20)
The introduction in nonfiction books is really nothing but a sales letter and it needs to have a specific structure that guides your reader through a proper sales process to your desired result. In your case, it could be one of the following five outcomes:
- You want anyone who’s browsed your book in a store or clicked the Look Inside feature on Amazon to be moved to open their wallets and make a purchase.
- If you handed your book to a prospect as a calling card, then you want them to read your book and ultimately hire your services over those of your competitors.
- If you handed the book to an event manager, you want to be booked for a paid speaking engagement (most event managers won’t read past your introduction since they receive a large number of books and don’t really have the time to read them).
- If you sent your book to a media outlet, you want to be booked for an interview – show producers don’t have time to read the books they receive either, so the sales letter contained in your introduction is all you have to hook them.
- If you handed your book to a potential strategic partner, you want your calling card to develop into a strategic relationship.
Click the following link to learn how to craft a winning introduction for your nonfiction book.
The body of the book is where your entire manuscript resides and it’s composed of three main parts:
Part Page (OA: 13 of 20, OE: 2 of 20)
Depending of the total number of chapters, nonfiction books are typically (but not always) divided thematically into parts. Each part will group a number of chapters and will be headed with its own title page, listing the part number and a part name, if applicable (e.g. “Part 1: How Our Bodies Absorb Energy”)
Chapters (OA: 14 of 20, OE: 1 of 20)
The bulk of the body of your book is made up of chapters. To make them stand out, the first page of each chapter needs to get a different treatment than the other pages in it. Often times the text in this page begins a third down the page and sometimes even half-way down.
The font used for the chapter title is typically much larger than the body font, and sometimes it includes a graphic element that adds context to the chapter or repeats a graphic element from the book cover.
Conclusion (OA: 15 of 20, OE: 3 of 20)
Often times, nonfiction books have a conclusion or afterword where the author summarizes the main teachings of the book. This section can be a single page or have multiple pages.
What’s critical however is that you never introduce new concepts or ideas that haven’t been covered elsewhere in your book when you’re writing a conclusion.
The goal of the conclusion is to bring your book’s premise to a close while reminding readers of its main takeaways. Many authors end this final body section by wishing their readers well and leaving them with a final thought.
The back matter in a nonfiction book will have some or all of the following pages:
Appendices (OA: 16 of 20, OE: 4 of 20)
This is an area where you can add supporting information that you feel is necessary but doesn’t flow well or fit in the body of your book.
End Notes (OA: 17 of 20, OE: 5 of 20)
If you have numerically noted references throughout your book to further expand on key ideas and concepts, this is the section where you’ll capture them in order of appearance.
Glossary of Terms (OA: 18 of 20, OE: 6 of 20)
Some specialized books need to use very specific nomenclature that some readers may not be familiar with. The glossary will list this information sorted alphabetically and explain it using terms that your audience will understand.
Bibliography (OA: 19 of 20, OE: 7 of 20)
This section contains a list of external publications that you’ve referenced throughout your book.
Index (OA: 20 of 20, OE: 19 of 20)
If your book has one or more indexes, say an index for topics, one for images, one for exercises, etc., they’ll be typically located at the end of your back matter. Most indexes are several pages long.
Now you know the role every part of a nonfiction book plays. Keep in mind that you may not need all of the parts listed here in your book, just those that make sense in your specific case.
To be sure, analyze the contents of several top nonfiction sellers in your niche and choose accordingly.
All the best on your book project!
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.