Get a headstart on your 2023 publishing goals!

person holding a book

Front Matter for Low-Content Books

Table of Contents

Pick up just about any book off your shelf, and you’ll find that there are several pages of content before the book actually starts.

This is what’s known as “front matter”. And likewise, the extra pages at the end of the book is called “back matter”.

This is where you usually find technical information about the book, rather than content of the story. It’s also a good space for marketing opportunities!

So how can we use this space for low-content books and journals?

There are plenty of options that not only leverage this space from a business perspective, but add a sense of professionalism to your journals.

In this article, we’ll cover some examples of front matter that you might want to include in your next journal project.

How to design front matter

My favourite way to design journals is with Canva. Since journals are more highly designed than regular books, this visual editor works well!

At minimum, I like to add four extra pages at the beginning of a journal for the front matter.

Remember that the first page of your book is on the right-hand side. I like to have the first page of ‘content’ show up on the right-hand side as well, since this is the easiest page to start writing on for most right-handed people.

That means that you need to have an even number of front-matter pages in order to line the pages up.

Design-wise, I like to pick two fonts maximum for the front matter.

This usually means a display font (a.k.a. a fancier font that suits the journal theme) and a serif or sans serif body font.

I’ll also pull together a couple of black-and-white images or graphics to accentuate the pages.

Again, these should suit the theme or niche of your journal.

I find that a lot of people who are producing massive numbers of journals for KDP tend to cut corners design wise.

The front matter is something people tend to ignore.

However, I think this is a real missed opportunity.

It’s also not that hard to create front matter if you develop a formula.

That way, you can change out the images, fonts, and a few key words for future journals…

…and keep using the same design style going forward!

With that in mind, let’s look at some examples of what you can include in your low-content book front matter.

“This book belongs to…”

This is a pretty common feature in most commercially produced journals, notebooks, and planners.

The very first page inside the cover is where the customer can write in their personal information.

This could include their name, phone number, email, address, social media handles…

Pretty much whatever someone would need to track down the journal’s owner if the book ever got lost.

We can reproduce this kind of ‘personalization’ page easily using Canva, or whatever other design tool you prefer to use.

Since this is the very first page, this is also the first thing that customers will see if Amazon enables the ‘look inside’ feature for your book.

It’s a good space to make an impact!

You can customize the wording depending on your genre and target audience.

You could do something more wordy, or keep it short with simple labels.

You can put lines for writing on, boxes to fill out, or blank space for freeform writing.

Copyright Page

Copyright pages are important, because you want to make sure that your original journal designs are protected and traced back to you.

Typically, copyright statements are on the left-hand side of a book.

That might mean that the copyright page is the second or fourth page inside your book.

So what kind of information should you put on a copyright page?

The simplest version is a statement like this:

“© Jane Smith, 2022. All rights reserved.”

If you’re using a Mac, you can insert the copyright symbol using Option + G.

If you’re on a PC, you can insert it using Control + Alt + C.

You can definitely get fancier with your copyright statements if you’d like.

If you are publishing your journals under a brand name, you might want to include some information about your business here.

That could mean a website, a social media handle, or an email address for contacting.

Copyright pages are quite individual, so I recommend picking up some books off your shelf or from the library and looking at what kind of content is included in their pages.

You can get lots of inspiration this way. Don’t forget to look at the other front matter too for more ideas!

Title Page

This one might seem the most obvious, but you’ll want to include a title page in the front matter of your book.

The title page is always on the right-hand side of a book.

It’s usually right before or after the copyright page.

The title page will include, obviously, the title of the book or journal.

You can also include the name of an author, or a publishing brand, if you’re not using your own name.

If there is a foreword or introduction to your book or journal, you can mention that and the name of the author here.

You can also include a publisher’s mark. This is basically a logo for your publishing house. If you have one designed, you might want to put it at the bottom of the title page.

You can also include a publisher’s mark on the back cover of the journal for consistency. It looks professional!

Dedication or Quote

After these three important pages, you can start to get more creative with your front matter.

Most journals don’t have a dedication, but in some special cases you might want to include one.

This would work especially well for hybrid journals that include some sections of written text in addition to the pages intended for writing on.

Another option is to include a page with a relevant quote on it.

I like to do this with my hobby themed journals in particular.

It’s a great way to add a little design interest, while also spacing out your front matter.

It can be a good way to reset your page count as well, if you need a filler page in order to get the following one on the left or right.

I like to include a design element with the quotes, so that it’s not just a boring page.

A greyscale image, black and white illustration, or even a simple divider or decoration can work well here.

Of course, you could skip the text entirely and just include an image.

I’ve done this for books intended for children, like learn-to-write books.

This turns the page into a colouring activity! Much better than leaving a blank page as a spacer.

Directory or Table of Contents

Most journals won’t have a specific table of contents as they typically have repeating pages.

You’ll also find that most self-published journals don’t have numbered pages. This is because it can be time consuming to number every page with a repeating template. However, this is easier if you are using software like Adobe InDesign to create your book interior.

Even if the pages aren’t numbered, you can create a section for your customer to organize the contents of their journal.

For example, if you make a blank recipe book, you may want customers to be able to write down each recipe name and what page to find it on.

You could do this by leaving a blank numbering box on each recipe page template, or by numbering the blank recipe pages and labelling the directory accordingly.

Keep in mind how your customer will actually use the journal.

Is it really necessary for them to reference the different entries in the book?

This can be relevant for journals that are about indexing information rather than recording thoughts and feelings.

Instructions or Advice

You might also want to put a section of written text in your front matter explaining to your customer how to use the journal.

This is particularly helpful if your journal promotes a method or habit.

Is there a specific way that the customer should be using the book?

Is there a strategy that they can use to be successful in the journaling practice in question?

This can be a simple one-page explanation.

I recommend signing the note with your name, identifying yourself as the editor or another similar publishing title.

This is another way to add a sense of professionalism to your book product.

Instead of a blank, soulless journal, they’ve received something that was clearly made with some thought and intention.

This can go a long way into getting higher reviews for your product, too.

There are so many types of pages you can include in your journal front matter.

You can likely think of some niche-specific pages that you might want to add as well!

Get creative and brainstorm what kind of content you could add.

Again, keep in mind the customer experience.

What will make this journal easier or more enjoyable to use?

What will improve the overall design and aesthetic?

If you keep the customer’s interests in mind throughout the design process, you’re far more likely to receive good feedback, referrals, and possibly even repeat customers.

If you’re not sure where to get started designing your own paperback journals and low content books, why not check out my Skillshare course?

You can get access to this (and my other passive income courses) for FREE with a 1 month trial of Skillshare.

Just click the course thumbnail to go check it out! Happy designing!

About Rebecca Wilson

About Rebecca Wilson

Writer, designer, and book coach Rebecca Wilson has been publishing a broad variety of creative books for more than half a decade. She combines her teaching background and publishing expertise at SelfPubMagic to share her love of bookmaking with other creatives.