How To Format A Perfect Novel: Part 4 (Front Matter)


HAH! You thought we were about to compile the novel, didn’t you? Not so fast, bucko. Hold yer horses.

Your front and back matter are the unsung heroes of your book. Most readers will barely notice them. And yet, they’re vitally important to your marketing, your audience interaction, your legal protection—everything BUT your story.

Here are the things I believe your book MUST have, ebook or hard copy:

  • A title page
  • A copyright page
  • A table of contents
  • A call to action
  • An “About The Author” page

If you don’t know what these are, google them. But a summary of the reasons for them:

TITLE PAGE: Books just don’t look right without them, in my opinion.

COPYRIGHT PAGE: Legal protection

TABLE OF CONTENTS (ToC): Optional in hard copy (The Game of Thrones series doesn’t have them) but VITAL in an ebook. Man, if people aren’t able to find where they are in your book and flip to it, they’ll be pissed.

Scrivener will automatically generate a ToC for your ebook. You’ll have to hand-create one for your paperback book, however.

CALL TO ACTION: If you’re not directing your reader to the next book, your website or your mailing list, YOU. ARE. DOING. IT. WRONG.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Your audience wants to know about you. Tell them.

Here are some optionals I believe are good for most books:

  • Half Title
  • Dedication
  • Author’s Note

The only one of these I strongly, strongly encourage is an Author’s Note. More than anything else, this is a personal communication from you to your reader. You’re able to tell them why you wrote your book and what it’s all about to YOU. This encourages a greater level of connection, understanding and appreciation in your reader. Tolkien’s Author’s Note in my hardcover edition of The Lord of the Rings is incredible. I just love it. I read it sometimes even when I’m not about to start reading the book again (for the thirtieth time).

So how do we go about putting these in our Scrivener file? It’s pretty simple, actually.


Front matter goes in its OWN folder, separate from your major book folder. If the “Front Matter” folder doesn’t already exist, create a basic folder (opt+cmd+n). Name it “Front Matter.” Make sure it’s NOT in the main manuscript folder. Then, right click on the new folder you’ve created and select “Change Icon>Front Matter.”

Click for larger image

In your new “Front Matter” folder, create subfolders for “Paperback” and “Ebook.” Under “Ebook,” create two further subfolders: “Amazon, Kobo, Nook,” and “Smashwords,” since Smashwords has very specific guidelines for how your front matter has to be which is TOTALLY FRACKING STUPID. (My Smashwords rant is for another post). So your front matter must be one way for Smashwords, but if you respect yourself at all, you should have it another way for the rest of your ebooks on the other “Big Three” platforms, because Smashwords’ required formatting blows chunks (in my opinion).

  • Quick Aside: In case it wasn’t already obvious, I highly recommend publishing directly wherever you can. Publish directly to Amazon, because it’s super easy. Publish directly to Kobo because it’s even easier. I generally publish directly to Nook as well. However, if I want a book to be free on Nook, send it to Nook through Smashwords, because you can’t publish a book directly Nook for free. As for the other platforms, just go through Smashwords. Apple and Sony are nearly impossible to get into, and the other platforms are so insignificant that it doesn’t behoove you time-wise to try and get to them directly.

In each of your front matter sub-folders, create a text file for each piece of your front matter. Mine goes in this order:

  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • Author’s Note (Optional)
  • Half-Title

For Smashwords, the Copyright page has to come first, so:

  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication
  • Author’s Note
  • Half-Title

Some people prefer to put their Author’s Note at the end, right after the end of the book. I think this is a piss-poor idea. The first thing I want my reader to see after they turn my last page is my CTA (call to action) telling them what to buy next. But, to each their own. If you want your Author’s Note at the end, do it.


For your book’s title page, we’re going to do something a little different. This is JUST your title image, after all: no header, no symbols. A single image. So first, create your title image. Here’s mine:

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 2.39.49 PM

Click for larger image

Name it appropriately. Mine is entitled “S1” for “Season One” (I tend to think of my books as “seasons,” like on a TV show, and this is the first book).

Make sure your title image is big enough. If it’s too small, it will look pixelated when you print your book. You don’t want that. I find that a canvas width of 2000 pixels is a nice size that ends up with a great-looking image in the book. (This goes for your Episode and Chapter titles, too).

Now, with that image file imported into your Scrivener document, go to your title page in Scrivener. To get the title to show up, we’re going to use something called a “placeholder tag.” This is a little bit of code that tells Scrivener to use the image in that place in the document. The placeholder is:

No larger image for you!

In case you want to copy/paste that, it’s: <$Img:S1;w=300>

For your project, replace “S1” in the tag with the name of your image.

This will tell Scrivener to pull the image into the Title Page when you export to Kindle or PDF. That way, your title will appear the same way whether your reader is viewing it on an ereader or a dead-tree book. I set the width at 300 because it ends up looking great in both paperback and ebook.

You’ll also notice that I have extra space on the left and right of my title in the image above. This is a little “fudge-factor” handling. The thing is, iBooks and a couple of other reading apps/devices handle images poorly. They’ll make your image look huge and ugly, taking up the whole width of the page. However, if your image has extra space on either side, it makes the title shrink down to a nice, pretty size. Make sure to include a little extra room on either side of your title so it looks good on all platforms.


You know how you want these to look. Make sure your copyright page is up to snuff—honestly, I just take traditionally published books from my shelf and make mine look like theirs.


Most traditionally published books have a half-title page just before the start of the actual book. This is the last page in a physical book before the “official page numbers” begin counting (since normally, front matter is not included in the book’s page count or reflected in its page numbers).

I format my Half-Title is formatted exactly like my Title Page above, except the width is 250:

No larger image for you!

Now, you’ve created these files in ONE of your front matter folders. Duplicate them and put them in EVERY front matter folder. You should end up with a Front Matter folder that looks like this:

No larger image for you!

No larger image for you!

See those “Blank” files in there? They’re a paperback-specific thing. Don’t worry about them for now, we’ll cover them when we get to compiling.

For now, Front Matter is done! ONWARD, WARRIORS!


Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at


Thanks, Garrett!

Minor correx: half title (bastard title) is usually first, no?


Hey Garrett, Great post man!

I'm having difficulty getting my title to show up when using placeholder tags?

Got my image - a text png stored outside the manuscript folder, in a folder named 'images' but when I type the code in- like above,  all that comes out when I compile it is the code and not the image? been trying for a while and still cant get it to work, any ideas?




Garrett, sir,

Looks like I got here just in time! :)

Awesome stuff, just great. I am stealing all of your ideas as we virtually speak.

One question: I like the binders idea alot (i finally understand the damn binders!), but won't that make any future editing a triple task burden?

Maybe not. Cheers!

CJ Burke
CJ Burke

Woo-bloomin'-hoo. Took me the better part of two days to restructure my novel and fight with graphic titles etc, but I just won the battle. Onwards!

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