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Professional Book Design: Front Matter and Back Matter (Part 2 of 5):

Ever wonder what to include on all those extra pages in the beginning and end of your book? First-time authors and self publishers often miss the mark on these important pages. This 5-part series will show you how to use these pages to elevate your book to the level of a pro publisher.


Part 𝟮 of 5: 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗜𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗣𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗡𝘂𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 

Page numbering is often an underestimated element, but it plays a crucial role in guiding your readers smoothly through your content. 


𝗛𝗲𝗿𝗲'𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝘆 𝗽𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗻𝘂𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝗼 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁: 


Page numbers give your reader clarity. When readers pick up your book, they expect a clear and organized structure. 


It's important to follow publishing conventions in your numbering system. This gives your book the professional edge and shows that you took the time to do it right. Here are some important standards regarding page numbering. 


  • Odd numbers are always on the right-hand page, or “recto.” Even numbers go on the left-hand side, or “verso.” 

  • The front matter pages have Roman numerals. They can be lower or upper case, as long as they are consistent one way or the other. These pages include title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, Table of Contents, Foreword, Preface, etc. 

  • The Roman numeral page count begins with the very first page when you open the book, but some pages should not have an actual page number displayed on them, including the small title, copyright page, dedication, and epigraph. For this reason, the Table of Contents often begins on page v or vii. 

  • The first page with the Arabic numeral 1 is always the first page of the Introduction if there is one, or the first chapter if there isn’t. 

  • The back matter, like appendices, bibliography, and About the Author section, continue with the Arabic numerals. 

  • The position of the page numbers can be at the top or bottom, and horizontally centered or aligned to the outside of the pages. Just be consistent. Use automatic headers and/or footers so numbers are in the same font in the exact same place on each page. 

  • If your page numbers are on the top of the pages, the first page of each chapter should either not have a number or it should be placed at the bottom of the page (this is the one exception to consistency.) If there’s no number on the page, the following page continues the count as if it actually had a number. 

  • The numbers should be a minimum of ¼ inch from the edge of the paper, but 3/8 or ½ inch is better. Check with your printer to make sure you comply with their margin requirements. 

  • Always leave at least ¼ inch between the page number and the main text on the page. 


Ultimately, it's about your readers. You want them to get lost in your words, not in the book's layout. Page numbering is a subtle but powerful tool to guide your audience through your book effortlessly. 

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