Formatting front matter: hints for independent publishers

essential front matter: copyright symbol on computer key

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A while ago, I blogged about formatting ebook text. Quite a lot of people found it useful. So, as I promised then, I’m doing a follow-on blog about front matter—recommendations about what to include and how best to format it.

As with my previous post, these recommendations are based on how I format front matter for ebooks. You—or your book designer—may want to do things differently. Your choice. You have a good reason for doing it your way, don’t you?

Front Matter: what is it?

text set in metal type

Image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay

It does what it says on the tin 😉

Front matter is everything that comes in front of the text of the work.

Some of it is essential.
And some of it is optional.

Essential front matter consists of a title page and a copyright page.

Optional front matter can include any or all of:

  • a half-title page
  • information about the author’s other publications
  • quotes from reviews and/or bestselling authors (PR puffs)
  • a dedication
  • miscellaneous other stuff such as quotations from books, acknowledgements, historical notes, author biog etc etc

Since this blog is going to be fairly long, I will leave optional front matter for a future post.

Essential Front Matter

policeman defends copyright against thief cartoon

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Why is it essential? Because it proves you’re claiming copyright in your work.

And you really, really do want to do that, don’t you?

Because it’s your first line of defence against those nasty sneak thieves and internet pirates who want to make money out of stealing and reusing your content.
You spent hours creating it. Protect it.

The Title Page

In a print book, the title page (always a right-hand page) usually consists of two or three items: the book title; the author’s name; and (if there is one) the publisher’s name or logo. That’s it. For self-published ebooks, you probably need only the title and the author’s name. And there are no right- or left-hand pages.

On print books, the title often appears well down the title page. For ebooks, it looks odd that way. Put the title at the top of the title page (as in the Kindle example below).

Title page of Kindle ebook

Don’t use fancy fonts, don’t mix fonts, and don’t use font sizes that are too big, because they can look unprofessional. If you’re using 12pt Times New Roman for your main text and 14pt TNR for chapter headings—as recommended in my post on text formatting—then I’d recommend:

  • title in 20pt TNR, or 24pt TNR; only go bigger if title is very short
  • block capitals in regular rather than bold
  • centred (ie based on no indent style)
  • fitting the title on a single line, even if point size has to be reduced

Underneath the title, add the author’s name, in exactly the same style as the title. Finish with a page break. If you like, you can include a lower-case “by” on a separate line between title and author name. See my example above which uses TNR 24pt regular throughout.

The Copyright Page

In print books, the copyright page is always on the back of the title page. In ebooks, the copyright page should follow immediately after the title page (and the page break). Most copyright pages contain a lot of text. Check out any print book to see just how much. Most of the text is rarely read. So it makes sense to use a smaller font. If you are using 12pt TNR for the text of your book, I recommend using at least 1pt down (11pt), or possibly two down (10pt):

11pt [or 10pt] TNR for the copyright page, with all text centred
[clickable publisher URL]

Choices. What goes on the copyright page?

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

It depends who you ask. The manuscript formatting  Help pages on Amazon KDP cover both front and back matter in just a few lines:

Amazon KDP Help on front and back matterThat’s it? Yes, apparently. So your copyright page would include only the two lines shown.

My recommended list of contents for the copyright page covers rather more 🙂

  1. Publisher and date of publication (with publisher URL)
  2. Book title, with information about previous editions, name changes, etc
  3. Copyright notice
  4. ISBN
  5. Assertion of moral rights
  6. Licence paragraph
  7. General disclaimer
  8. Assertion of rights
  9. Link for publishers and further information
  10. Credits for cover, cover images, formatting

Ten sounds a lot, but numbers 5-9 usually only have to be done once. You then copy and paste them to the next book. In fact, I usually copy and paste the whole copyright page from one book to the next and then go in and change the bits that need changing, like the ISBN and the dates in the copyright notice. The image below shows items 1-5 for my book, Marrying the Major:

copyright page example

1  Publisher and date of publication

If you are publishing on Amazon, or Smashwords etc, remember that you are the publisher. A platform such as Amazon is the distributor. If you have created a publisher name to use for your self-pubbed books—eg Joanna Maitland Independent—that name should go in item 1. The inclusion of the country of publication is optional though I always use it. Here, I am going against the advice in the Smashwords Style Guide which suggests that the inclusion of a country name can confuse readers. You choose which way to go. I recommend:

Published [in CountryName] by [PublisherName] in [Date]

2  Book title

exclamation mark in fireFor the first publication of a new book, you need only include the book title. But, if the book has been published before, and/or by a different publisher, it is customary to include the date of that publication and details of the publisher. See example above. If this is a new edition, perhaps revised or re-edited, you should say that, too. That’s particularly important if you’ve changed the title for a new edition. Readers get cross if they are misled into buying a book they’ve read before.

Tip: if your book has been published before, and especially if you’ve changed the title, I recommend that you warn potential buyers about that fact at the end of the blurb on the Amazon page for your title. It’s not enough to include that information on the copyright page (though you should do that, too) because potential buyers rarely check the copyright page.

3  The copyright notice

The copyright notice is straightforward but essential. Remember that if you have revised your book, you may have more than one copyright date. You will still be claiming copyright from the first publication date, but you also need to claim it for the revisions.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Some platforms, such as Smashwords, ask publishers not to use the © symbol, but to use “Copyright” instead. Amazon does accept © and I recommend you use it, though it’s a good idea to use “copyright” as well, in case the computer should reject the symbol. So my recommended format is:

Copyright © FirstName LastName Date(s)


The Smashwords Guide says it’s not necessary to include the ISBN. The Amazon help screen doesn’t mention it. However, most publishers do include the ISBN and, since it may not occur anywhere else in the text you upload, I recommend that you include the ISBN on the copyright page.

ISBNs are quoted in both the old 10-digit versions and the modern 13-digit versions. You can quote both if you prefer, as shown below (using ISBNs for Lady In Lace). However I recommend  you 

use only the 13-digit ISBN, taking care to include the mandatory hyphens.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9957046-4-0
ISBN-10: 0995704643

(NB As you can see from the example above, you don’t get from the 13-digit ISBN to the 10-digit ISBN simply by lopping off the first three digits. That’s because the last digit in both formats is a check digit. It’s easy to make mistakes. That’s why I use only the 13-digit version.)

5  Assertion of Moral Rights

There’s a useful Wikipedia article about Moral Rights in the UK here and, since I’m not an Intellectual Property lawyer, I’m not going to go into what they are. But moral rights are not automatic; they can be waived. If you want to claim them—and you should, although some publishers’ boilerplate contracts require you to waive them—you need to assert your claim on the copyright page. Publishers use various formulations. Feel free to copy my version which is:

The right of Joanna Maitland to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 

6  Licence paragraph

Piracy of ebooks happens a lot. You don’t want your readers to buy one copy of your ebook and distribute it to all their mates for free. Most readers wouldn’t dream of doing that, but a gentle reminder does no harm. My recommended reminder paragraph is a slight variant on the licence text recommended in the Smashwords Style Guide (which Smashwords invites authors to copy or modify). Do copy or modify my version which is shown here, outlined in red:

7  General disclaimer

The platforms don’t specifically recommend including a general disclaimer but I strongly recommend that you do, especially if you are writing contemporary fiction. You really do not want to be sued by an aggrieved Ms A N Other who alleges that your book defames her. And yes, it does happen. So even writers of historical fiction, like me, tend to include a disclaimer. Feel free to copy or modify the one I use which is shown below:

general disclaimer for copyright page

8  Assertion of rights

This is a belt and braces paragraph, shown below outlined in red. Almost all publishers use it, so I do, too. It’s not quite the same as the licence paragraph (at item 6), because it covers more uses. I recommend you include this too:

9  Link for further information etc

I recommend you include a straightforward email link for publishers or others who might wish to publish excerpts of your book or want to contact you, the publisher. You can see the version I use in the image above, immediately below the red outlined text.

10 Credits

It is both polite and professional to include credits for your cover designer, the producers of any cover images you used, and your interior formatter. I recommend you do so.  You can see example credits from one of my books at the bottom of the image above.

If you did any of it yourself, give yourself a credit. You deserve it. And if you can’t face doing it yourself and would like help, get in touch. My fees are very reasonable!

Phew! That’s enough for one weekend, isn’t it?

If you’ve managed to read this far without throwing something at the screen, congratulations!

I hope you find the above recommendations helpful and that this post can serve as a checklist for you when you’re creating and formatting the front matter in your book. As I said in the text, I am more than happy for fellow authors to copy the various paragraphs that I use, if that would be useful. If you want to modify them to suit your own work, that’s fine by me, too.

Happy formatting. And I may be back soon (or soonish) with a blog about optional front matter.

Joanna the demon formatter?

PS For ebooks, especially on Amazon, the front matter will also include a Table of Contents which should be clickable. I covered the instructions for doing a ToC in my earlier blog. You’ll find it in the section about Chapter Headings.

8 thoughts on “Formatting front matter: hints for independent publishers

  1. Elizabeth Bailey

    It’s a learning curve, isn’t it? I keep my front matter short like you, and send all the next book etc to the back. But Amazon insists on the contents page, which I think has to be at the front by their rules, but I’m not absolutely sure.
    An excellent rundown of what is needed.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks, Liz. I have seen the odd book with the table of contents at the back, but Amazon does prefer it at the front. I don’t count it as front matter — perhaps I should? I see it as part of the text of the book.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Welcome, Sophie. It has the advantage that, although it seems long, it’s largely a matter of copy and paste, with a small amount of editing. And once you’ve used it for the first book, you then copy and paste into book #2 and so on. Simples 😉

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