What’s a Book Map, Anyway?

Have you ever heard of frontmatter or backmatter? Unless you have worked in book publishing or have published a book, chances are you have not. A book map is basically everything that will be included in your book.

A book map is basically everything that will be included in your book. (Tweet).

In traditional print publishing there’s a book map template to put the book into 16-page signatures (as that’s how books were traditionally printed, cut, and bound). So this showed where blank pages would be inserted to keep the page total to a multiple of 16, and also ensured that every needed page (title page, copyright, etc.) was accounted for.

These days when we talk about a book map it’s more like a checklist of what you’ll include, as not every book includes every element. It’s essentially the structure of your book. Some books have an introduction; others don’t. Some books have an index; others don’t. The advantage of laying out a book map in advance is preparation. If you want a foreword, for example, you need to allow time to contact the person, and then allow time for the person to read the book and write a foreword. If you want to include a glossary, you need to build time into the writing schedule for that. If you want to include resources or a bibliography, knowing that ahead of time will allow you to organize all of that information as you write rather than trying to put it all together after you’re finished. (I’ve edited many books that were done by the latter method. Believe me when I say the other, more organized, way is a better option — for you, your editor, and your readers.)

To get back to frontmatter and backmatter for a moment, frontmatter includes the elements at the front of the book before the body of the book — the text. It includes the title page, the copyright page, the dedication and acknowledgments sections if you have those, and up to the table of contents. You also have elements like the foreword (written by someone else) and the introduction or preface. Then after the body, you have backmatter: appendixes, resources, index, about the author.

The body of your book is also part of the book map. How are your chapters organized? Are there “parts”? If you have a lot of chapters, maybe the book is organized into three parts, and each part contains six chapters. That’s all part of the book map, because each of those parts is a page in the book, right? Having a clear order of matter will be tremendously helpful for your designer when it’s time to format your book. She or he can use this as a checklist to make sure nothing gets lost in translation from your word-processing document(s) to the design program or that you didn’t forget to add something that you wanted. (This happens all the time with dedications and appendixes especially.)

Having a clear order of matter will be tremendously helpful for your designer when it’s time to format your book. (Tweet)

What will your book include?