Book Publishing Word of the Day: Front Matter

22 Dec

Front Matter

All the pages at the front of a book that precede its main text: title page, colophon (aka copyright page), dedication, table of contents, preface, introduction, foreword, acknowledgements, and so on.

(From the forthcoming TSTC Publishing Glossary.)

. . . . . . . . . .

Books have four basic parts: cover (front and back), front matter, body and/or main text, and back matter. Some parts of the front matter are relatively standard: title page, colophon (or copyright page), and table of contents. Some are optional depending on the specific makeup of a project: dedication, foreword, preface, etc. The layout and design of the front matter should reflect the interior design of the book at hand in particular or, at the very least, the house style of the publisher in general. Today I’d like to talk about the mandatory front matter elements because they require a lot of attention right before we go to print.

Title Page

In our books, the title page is first page when opening the cover. (Some books, however, will have a blank page before the title page.) The title goes at the top with the subtitle (if any) underneath it. Beneath that we’ll have a black and white graphic unique to the title page that reflects the content of the book. Below that you’ll see the name(s) of the author(s) with their schools and/or certifications listed underneath in smaller type. At the very bottom of the page is the horizontal TSTC Publishing logo. (Horizontal means that the star in our logo is to the left of our name; the “stacked” version has the star over our name.)

Colophon

This is the page with copyright (and related) information. In our books this page is always on the back of the title page although exact placement can vary. At the top is the copyright symbol followed by the name of the copyright owner. Most of the time this is the author(s). Sometimes, however, books are produced as “works for hire” and/or internally and, in those cases, the copyright will be in the name of Texas State Technical College. Immediately below that is the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). This is followed by the contact information for the publishing office. Beneath that we list the editorial, graphics, and production personnel who worked on the project. This is also where we list any interns who worked on the book so that when they receive complimentary copies for their portfolios there is some documentation they worked on it. Finally, at the bottom of all this information we put the edition number: first or second or whatever it may be.

Table of Contents

This is a list of the chapters/sections of the book with corresponding page numbers. In addition, our technology forecasts have separate lists for the illustrations and tables in them. Normally, in the TOC you’ll see that the first page of the main text of the book is page one. Because of this, many times you will see some parts of the front matter numbered with roman numerals. In these cases, whether shown on every page of the front matter or not, the page numbering for the front matter begins on the front/title page.

Final Thoughts

As I said earlier, the front matter—despite making up a very small percentage of the overall pages of a book—requires a high degree of attention—that is, proofreading—right before a book goes to print. There are two reasons for this: the nature of the information contained within the front matter in addition to its late place in the book layout and design process.

First, the information in the front matter must be consistent with all references to that information in the rest of the book. That is, the title on the title page must match the title on the cover of the book—it’s amazing but on a regular basis I see books where this is not the case—and the name(s) of the author(s) must match every other reference on the front and back cover, colophon, and back matter. The ISBN must be correct and match the ISBN used to generate the product bar code on the back cover. Everyone listed on the colophon must have their names spelled correctly. The chapter/section titles in the TOC must match the titles on the interior pages of the book and all page numbers on the TOC must match their corresponding pages in the book. All of this is “just” detail work but, unless you work on books on a regular basis, these things can fall through the cracks and not be found until you have 500 copies of your book already printed and sitting in front of you.

Second, the paradox of the front matter—for me, at least—is that while it is the first thing a reader sees, it is also the last thing to be produced in the layout and design process. That’s because most of the front matter can’t be done until the rest of the book is completed—chapter titles finalized, page numbers double checked, ISBN assigned, and so on. Because of that, the front matter can wind up having less time spent on it—a few days at the most—in comparison to interior chapters that you may have worked on for weeks or months. Yet, the front matter, given its placement that makes it the first to be seen by a reader, CANNOT have any mistakes in it. Period. First impressions—that is, credibility—mean everything, especially with textbooks and other curriculum materials. How can you realistically expect anyone to take your book seriously if you can’t even proofread or get other materials consistent within the first half a dozen pages? Given this importance of the front matter being clean, correct, and consistent, we have a separate editorial checklist for proofing both the page proofs before sending the files to print and the final bound proof copy we receive from the print shop.

Mark

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