Parts of a book: common terms explained

From the cover to the end sheets and the title page to the glossary, there are many elements that go into a book. And while you may not need to know all the terms associated with each part, it’s helpful to have a general understanding of the different components.

For a self-publisher—or soon-to-be one—it’s vital to understand the terms used in the book industry. The right vocabulary will help you include the necessary pieces in your finished book. Knowing the common book terminology can also provide credibility when speaking about them with others in the industry.

When it comes to books, we know a thing or two about making them. We’ve received countless questions about how books come together over the years. If you’re self-publishing your first book, or even if you just want to learn more about the industry, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about book terminology.

To help understand the bookmaking process, we broke down some more well-known book terms. Read through them below to get up to speed when turning your memories into treasures.

Book terms (in alphabetical order)


An acknowledgment is a section at the end of a book that thanks the people who contributed to its creation. Acknowledgments tend to be in long paragraph format and often tell a bit about the process of making the book and who was involved. They can be a single page or several pages.

Depending on the book genre, they may mention editors and publishers, friends and family, or everyday individuals who shared their stories with the author. They may even include universities (or specific departments), associations, mentors, or inspiring experts in a field. The acknowledgments give the author the chance to recognize everyone who impacted the book and the author in some way, shape, or form.

Afterword or epilogue

In some books, there’s more to tell after the story ends. An afterword or epilogue can be used to provide closure, an update on the characters, or even foreshadowing for a sequel. These sections are usually shorter than other chapters in the book and are placed after the story ends. In general, an epilogue is part of the story while an afterword is not.

Authors can use these sections to share additional details that may be interesting to the reader about what happens next. In some cases, authors use an epilogue to tee up a sequel to the book.

Some books may end with a cliffhanger or with a not-so-happy ending. In these cases, the story may seem to end abruptly. While that can be helpful to add a dramatic flair, it can leave the reader wanting more. An epilogue can help further explain the ending or what happened afterward. It may also pose questions to the reader about common themes mentioned in the book. Whatever the reason, afterwords and epilogues add value after the story ends.

Appendix or addendum

Often used in nonfiction, an appendix or addendum is a section at the end of a book that contains supplemental information. This could be in the form of data, lists, charts, images, maps, or other materials not found in the main text.

Appendices and addendums are often used to provide extra support for claims made in the book or to share detailed information that may be of interest to the reader.

Anything not relevant to the book’s main body can go into the appendix. It can add context or further information to add credibility to the text. Some items included in the appendix are references, citations, or additional reading recommendations. Authors and editors can also use an addendum when making new additions to an already published book.

Author biography

An author biography (or author profile) is a short summary of the author’s life and work. It includes background about the author, which helps illustrate the author’s credibility. It can be simple and stick to the facts about where they grew up, their education, unique experiences related to the subject, and other books they wrote. Or it can tell more of a story to help readers get to know the author.

In nonfiction books, the author biography is often used to establish the author’s qualifications. For example, if an author is writing a book about early childhood development, they may mention their experience as a professor or share research they’ve conducted in the field. For fiction books, an author biography is typically used to give context about where the author draws their inspiration and create a personal connection with readers.

Depending on the genre and format, author bios can be on the back cover, the bottom of the back page, or on the book jacket flap of a hardcover book. It can be a single paragraph or several paragraphs long. Many authors choose to include a headshot along with their bio and some include their website and social media profiles as well.

Back matter

This refers to all the material in the back of the book. The back matter has everything after the body of the book. It provides readers with further information about the story, the author, or related details. The back matter can include the following items (and more!):

  • Afterword or epilogue
  • Appendix or addendum
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography or endnotes
  • Index
  • List of contributors
  • Author biography


Backing is a part of the bookbinding process to protect the book and allow it to hold up through repeat opening and closing. It helps prevent the text block’s spine from collapsing into a concave shape over time. Basically, backing is the shaping of a ridge (or shoulder) on each side of the spine of a text block of a book, accommodating the boards’ thickness and creating a hinge for them to swing on.

Two techniques used in backing—rounding and lay flat—are common in many books. Rounding provides the rounded shape of some book edges and helps keep the spine intact. This technique has been around for centuries and is common among many hardcover books. Layflat books open completely flat on a surface. It allows the reader to lay the book on a table and have the book remain open to a page on its own. This technique was initially used in the mid-twentieth century and is an excellent technique for photo books.

Bibliography or endnotes

Both bibliographies and endnotes are important in academic and nonfiction books. They provide readers with a list of resources to consult if they want to learn more about the subject—usually consisting of a formal list of citations and references for quotes, statistics, and other facts or opinions mentioned in the body of the book.

A bibliography is a list of all the sources used in researching and writing the book. It includes books, articles, websites, and interviews, and sits at the very back of a book, after the epilogue and appendix.

An endnote is a reference, citation, or comment placed at the end of a chapter or section. Endnotes provide additional information about something mentioned in the text. They are often used to give credit to sources or add comments.

Body matter

Authors, publishers, and bookmakers use the term body for everything inside the main content of the book. The body matter consists of the story or content of the book and is often divided into chapters.

However, the format of the body will vary depending on the book genre. A fiction book typically includes chapters that separate different scenes in a story. For a nonfiction book, chapters may separate time periods or topics discussed. For example, cookbooks may have recipe sections rather than chapters, and textbooks may have subjects or units.


This is the process of physically assembling a book. Bookbinding begins with an ordered stack of paper sheets that are folded together into sections or sometimes left as a stack of individual sheets. The stack is then bound together along one edge by either sewing with thread through the folds or by a layer of flexible adhesive. There are three main types of binding:

  • Library binding: An especially durable book bound following standards established by the American Library Association.
  • Perfect binding: A binding method that uses glue to fasten the pages together after the folds are trimmed off. This method uses only adhesive, usually a hot melt, to secure the pages into a wrap-around cover. Telephone books and paperbacks are typical book forms that use perfect binding. We make all Blurb books with this binding technique.
  • Saddle stitch: This binding method focuses on holding the pages of a single signature together by using a staple, wire, or thread.


The case is the hardcover that protects the text inside. The book cover case consists of two stiff boards, an inlay, and covering material. The case is made separately from the text block and attached at a later step in the bookbinding process.

The copyright page provides legal ownership of who owns the rights to the book. It can help avoid any potential legal disputes in the future. The copyright page appears directly after the title page. It includes the copyright notice (who owns the rights); Library of Congress catalog identification; ISBN, the edition, if applicable; any legal terms or notices; credits for book design, illustration, or photography; and the production entities. Occasionally, books include the contact information of the author or editor, as well.


The covering is the material or finish on the outside of the book. While most books are hardback or paperback, there are many variations within these two categories:

  1. Hardback: Also known as a hardcover, they are high-quality, sturdy books. Modern hardback books use cardboard as backing, covered with a glossy material. They are usually priced higher because of their durability and high quality. Covering options for hardback books include cloth binding, ImageWrap, or Dust Jacket.
  2. Paperback: Paperbacks, or softcover books, are backed with paper instead of heavy bound cardboard. Paperbacks are lightweight and perfect for on-the-go reading. They are priced lower than hardbacks because of the lower-cost backing. Covering options include conventional softcover finish or softcover with flaps.


This dedicates the book to a person or group of people. The dedication page usually appears just after the copyright page. Unlike the acknowledgments, the dedication is short, consisting of only a sentence or two. An author may choose to dedicate the book to a parent or friend who inspired them. Or they may dedicate it to a larger group of people who are the book’s subject.

End sheets

Also called endpapers, end sheets are the pages glued to the inside of your hardcover book’s front and back cover. These sheets are blank pages and use heavier paper than the book’s main content. They form the first and last unprinted pages of a hardback book. Each end sheet is folded in half and glued to the backing on one side and the first and last pages of the book on the other side. Softcover books and magazines do not have end sheets.


Often written by someone other than the author of the book, a foreword is a short introduction that comes before the main text. It usually gives context or background information about the book. The foreword is written by someone who can speak to the author’s qualifications or the book’s significance. It is not to be confused with a preface, which comes after the table of contents in most books.

Forewords are most common in works of nonfiction and usually are written by someone notable in the field or the book’s editor. They introduce the author to the reader and help provide credibility for the author and the book itself. They most often appear towards the front of the book before the body.


Glossaries provide definitions for terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader and are most common in nonfiction books. Glossaries are usually found at the end of the book, after the index.

A glossary lists terms in alphabetical order to allow readers to find definitions or more details about terms used in the body of the book. It may include both common terminology and industry-specific terms—or even be used in fiction books to provide details about each character.

Head and tail bands

These are small ornamental bands glued to the book block’s head and tail. Early books used head and tail bands to protect the head and tail of bindings. Nowadays, the bands are primarily ornamental and made of cotton or silk.


The index is located at the back of the book and is a guide to help find terms, people, places, and events throughout a book. It includes an alphabetical list of words with the page references for each time the word was mentioned. Nonfiction works, like history books and textbooks, are more likely to use indexes. That’s because they help readers quickly locate and read everything related to a particular topic or term.

Introduction (for nonfiction)

The introduction written for nonfiction books provides information or background about the book’s subject. It may include related historical details or topical data that is helpful for readers to know before diving into the main body. It comes just before the body and can help set the book up with contextual details. Although it’s not a biography, it can also add credibility for the author to explain why they are knowledgeable about a subject.

Preface or introduction

A preface is a short statement from the author that comes before the text. It includes information about why they wrote the book, their intentions for the reader, and other relevant details. A preface is not to be confused with a foreword, which is written by someone else and comes before the preface in most books.

For fiction books, a preface can lead the reader into the story and inspire them to read further. For works of nonfiction, like an opinion book or a single account of a widespread event, it might explain the author’s point of view.


A prologue is often used in fiction to tell a backstory that can provide context for the book’s main story. It can be the part of a fictional story that happened just before the events that are about to occur. Or the prologue may include a story or history of the main character’s past that is relevant to the larger story told in the book. It appears just before the body of the book and sets up the main narrative.

Signature (book block)

The signature, or book block, is a group of pages printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. The paper is then folded, cut, and trimmed down to the finished page size before being bound into a book. The number of pages on a signature depends on the book’s page size and the size of the press sheet they fit on.


The spine is the part of the book that’s glued to the cover and holds all the pages together. The spine usually has the title, author, and/or publisher’s name printed on it.

Fun fact: Modern-day books are shelved with the spine out (unless you’re taking part of the backward book home decor trend), but in earlier times, people shelved books with the spine facing inwards and not always vertically.

Table of contents

The table of contents is the outline of the sections included in the book and the pages where each section starts. Books usually have outlines toward their front, usually after the dedication page.

For fiction books, this table includes each chapter or part covered in the book. Some tables of context just have chapter or section numbers, whereas others also add the names of each chapter or section.

In nonfiction, tables of context also include chapters, usually with chapter names. There may also be sub-sections within each chapter to help readers quickly locate the main elements of each chapter and topic.

In addition to the chapters or sections, a table of content will also list the different parts of the book, such as the foreword, preface, acknowledgments, index, and appendix.

Title page

The title page is at the front of the book and includes the title of the book, subtitle (if applicable), the author(s), and the publisher. This is usually the book’s first page; however, some publishers will include a list of other books by the author or publisher, book reviews, or other marketing pages before the title page.

In some cases, publishers add a half-title page just before the full title page. This may be the first page in the book, used in place of a blank page. The half-title page simply includes the title of the book and no other details.

A few words on using book terminology

Hopefully, these book terms and definitions help you better understand the parts of books that you’ve probably seen in books you’ve read. For self-publishing authors, they can help you understand which elements you should include in your book. Depending on the type of book you are creating, you may include many or only a few items discussed.

You probably know that there are hundreds of terms to know when it comes to bookmaking. We wanted to focus on those that are vital to the creation of the books you have on your shelves. Did we miss a word you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments below.


Feeling inspired to finish that book of yours? Let’s get it down on paper in print! Start now with a trade book.

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