The Anatomy of a Book (Layout) – Book Design 101

Photo of a book from above - illustration to article Book Design 101: Layout.

Welcome to Book Design 101 – a handy guide covering all the basics of what you need to know when publishing your first book. In this episode, we’ll look at what, exactly, should be a part of the book layout.

If you’re interested in formats and covers – check out this article.

The book block

Let’s start with the basics – this is a book block. A book block can be either sewn or glued to the cover. Sewn bindings are more durable, but also more expensive. Glue is cheaper, but it might mean that your book will not last as long. 

Photo of a book from above.

The left pages of a book are called verso pages and the right pages are called recto. The text column is surrounded by margins. The inside margin is called the gutter. Something that is also commonly used,  especially in non-fiction, are running headers, which can be placed either above or below the text column. 

An open book showing different elements of a book layout - recto/verso pages, margins, running headers.
The book in the picture is "Teoria feministyczna" bell hooks, pubished by Krytyka Polityczna in Poland, translated by Ewa Majewska.

Dividing the book layout

Every book interior can be divided into three main parts – front matter, the body text, and back matter.

Front matter

The front matter usually starts with two title pages. The first one is called a half-title page – it contains only the title of the book, usually in a smaller size than on the actual title page, which comes next. The title page can contain the title and author’s name, a subtitle and a series name, and the publisher’s logo. You can also include some ornamental elements. The title and the half-title pages are always placed to the right, so on the recto pages.

The next part is the copyright page, which, at a minimum, contains information about who is the copyright holder, the year when the book was published, and the ISBN number.

However, copyright pages range from very minimal to very extensive. It’s common to include the names of everyone who worked on the book – so the editor, proofreader, cover and interior designer, etc. – as well as the name of the printing company. Some also use the copyright page to give credit for photographs used on the cover or in the book itself, share the name of the typeface used for the text, add website and social media addresses, or various disclaimers. The copyright page is placed on the left side. 

Image showing two different copyright pages - a simple and an extensive ones.
Examples of a simple and more extensive copyright page.

If you're looking for a template for what can be included on a copyright page, here's some resources:

NO: - Kolofon, SNL - Kolofon
ENG: Kindlepreneur - Copyright Page Template, The Book Designer - Copyright Page Template

You can also decide to include a dedication or a motto/quote, as well as maps, plans, genealogical tables, a list of abbreviations, or a pronunciation guide, if they’re relevant to your book.

Next comes the table of contents, usually starting on the right side. It can be as complex as you’d like – it’s customary to include the main headings, but if your book is non-fiction and divided into smaller parts, it’s up to you which headings you deem important enough to include in the ToC.

Finally, we have the preface, which is, of course, non-obligatory, but if you include it, it counts as part of the front matter.

Photo showing an open book - a table of contents.
The book in the picture is "Teoria feministyczna" bell hooks, pubished by Krytyka Polityczna in Poland, translated by Ewa Majewska.
Open book showing a table of contents with colourful numbers.
The book in the photo is "Designing for print" by Marina Poropat Joyce.

You can decide when to start numbering the pages. The front matter usually doesn’t have visible page numbers, and so the first chapter of the actual book can start on page 7, 10, or 15, depending on how long the front matter is. However, it is also possible to start the numbering from the first chapter and “ignore” the front matter – so that chapter 1 starts on page 1. If your preface is long, you might also want to include it in the page numbering, or use a separate system for it – for example, some prefaces are marked with roman numerals, and chapter one restarts the numbering with regular numbers.

Body Text

Self-explanatory – the actual text of your book.

Back Matter

The back matter is what comes after “the end” – and, more commonly, is found in non-fiction than fiction, unless you include an afterword.

You can also decide to include an annex or an appendix – additional material that is supposed to somehow enrich the main text. Examples of content that can be part of an annex include maps, tables, charts, genealogical trees and other illustrations.

If you want to have references in your main text, you can choose to use either footnotes ­– which are shown at the bottom of relevant pages, or endnotes. If you use endnotes, a list of references is included in the back matter.

You can also include a bibliography, which is a good idea especially in the case of non-fiction books, and an index – a list of important names, terms, places and topics, with page numbers. 

An open book showing an index to the right.
The book in the photo is "Designing for print" by Marina Poropat Joyce.

Another element is a glossary, which lists and explains specialist terms used in the book, in alphabetical order.

An open book showing a glossary.
The book in the photo is "Designing for print" by Marina Poropat Joyce.

Lastly, you may also want to add acknowledgements, if you want to thank the people who helped you create your book or were otherwise important to you.

If you want to include some other elements – feel free! The contents of the back matter are generally up to you as the author.


text columnen tekstkolonnekolumna tekstu
marginen margmargines
gutter marginen innbindingsmargmargines wewnętrzny
running headertopptekster/bunnteksterżywa pagina górna/dolna
front matter-materiały wprowadzające
back matter-materiały końcowe
half-title pageen smusstittelsidestrona przedtytułowa
title pageen tittelsidestrona tytułowa
copyright pageen kolofonstrona redakcyjna/kolofon
table of contentsen innholdsfortegnelsespis treści
prefaceet forordprzedmowa
afterwordet etterordposłowie
annexet anneksaneks/dodatek
bibliographyen bibliografi/litteraturbibliografia
glossaryen ordlisteglosariusz/słownik
indexen indeksindeks/skorowidz

That’s it!

I hope you found this short article useful – let me know if you think it’s lacking something, or if you have an additional question.

I’m always up for a chat – get in touch via  

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