Skip to main content
13 January 2023

Learning The Self-Publishing Lessons Only A Book Can Teach You

Written by Sarah-Maree

Ah, yes. Friday the thirteenth. Always a great day for feeling cursed. In this case, I’m looking at writing and some of the things I missed when designing and organizing the front few pages of my published books. Curious to know the painful lessons I learned? Keep reading, because it’s a real … uh … Friday The 13th show. If you know what I mean.

Beware Rookie Publishing Mistakes, They Said

I mean, at this point, my two books are already in print, so there isn’t a whole lot I can do right now, but I am SO changing things for future books or for future reprints. This is the classic situation of doing something and then finding out later that you did it wrong. I certainly hit on a lot more of the rookie mistakes than I had originally thought.

Mimic Other Books They Said, It’ll Be Easy They Said

To be fair, no one said it would be easy. It just seemed like an easy concept. I hear it all the time as a writer who goes down the self-publishing rabbit hole. Paraphrasing here, “If you want your book to be taken as seriously as the books published by known publishers, then you have to make your book look like one of theirs.” In other words, turn your book into a mimic and have it eat your customers, or something like that.

Oh, I did that. Ok, not the mimic part. I don’t have magic, sadly. What I did do was to mimic the fronts of other books and other writers when I formatted my stories. I checked the spacing, I tweaked the legal text so it wasn’t straight up plagiarized. I tried keeping the order the same, but not all books had the same spacing or ordering of things. And I still had mistakes that went beyond those minor discrepancies, but I didn’t know that until recently.

The Dark Path That Led To Discovery

Each time I publish, I forget the real pain in the neck it is to make the transition from a document of text to a properly formatted and ready to print version. Typesetting. Not to mention, I forgot about the really painful part of turning it into an e-book. I’ve been lucky so far in that my husband has undertaken those tasks and left me to do all the fun stuff, like writing and editing.

Well, after seeing the stress he was under, I decided to pick up a few books to see what I could do to help out. It was my book and my project, so it only seemed fair I figured it out for myself and then went to him if I needed help.

And here we are now. I’m barely a fourth of the way through Dr. Jan Yager’s Book, How To Self Publish Your Book: A Complete Guide to Writing, Editing, Marketing & Selling Your Own Book. Already, the book has taught me a lot, and I haven’t even reached the part about typesetting or e-books. Below are just a few notes I’ve taken (cleaned up, of course) regarding fiction books and the order and content of what the book refers to as the front matter.

Front Matter Order

Half-Title Page

This page is optional for fiction books. All it has is the title. No subtitle, no author name, nothing else.

Advance Praise

This is for those quotes some authors get from famous people or editors or publishing houses. Most authors don’t have this page because they don’t have the connections. It looks bad if you have quotes from people no one knows. This page should only be here if the above page is not there. It is, however, optional as well. It should start on a right-hand page.

Other Works

Like the two above, this page is also optional. This page is for listing other books an author has published. Sometimes they are listed on the left-sided page after the half-title page. It acts as a buffer for the half-title page and what comes next.

Title Page

If none of the above are done, then this needs to be the first page of the book. Otherwise, it needs to come early on and on a right-hand page. The book was pretty clear about the lack of exceptions on this one. The layout is as follows:

  • Author’s name (or names) should be either above or below the title
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Number of the edition (in the case of a revised version)
  • Publishing company (logo and trademark symbol for logo – typically centered)
  • City and state published in (centered and at the bottom of the page)

Copyright Page

This one has so much information about it. I’ll try to keep it brief but legible. For starters, this is the part where a disclaimer would go, if you feel you need one. A disclaimer is an official statement absolving the publisher of any legal responsibility regarding the contents of the book. It is optional. Then follows these categories: cover designer, interior designer, editor (with their permission), typesetter, publisher, publisher’s address, publisher’s phone number, publisher’s website, library of congress cataloguing-in-publication data (CIP) OR library of congress control number (LCCN), ISBN, copyright holder, all rights reserved, & printer’s key.

If any of those sound unfamiliar to you as a self-publisher, I don’t blame you, but also, it’s important. I learned a LOT about this page in particular. There is so much going on here that I don’t even want to get into the details. If you need those details, check for the book in your local library. That’s what I did. It’s seriously invaluable.


Most fiction books jump straight to the first chapter and don’t bother with a table of contents. Oh, and only rookies put “Table of Contents” in their books. It should just be “Contents”. Can you guess if I did this or not. I did. I did do this one. It hurt. A LOT.

Another note is to not say the word “chapter” in this section. The chapter numbers are alright to keep, but the actual word should be omitted. Chapter titles are also acceptable, but the author said to scope out other books in your genre and mimic them. At least I got this one right. Good mimic!

Dedication Page

Also optional. This one also should fall on a right-hand page. The following left-hand page is supposed to be blank so that the chapter or the Part 1 page can start on a right-hand page, too.


Also optional, and this one is one that typically comes at the end of fictional works, but apparently it can go in the beginning, but an author should know their genre and go from there.


This is the what-inspired-the-story-or-book part. It’s rare in fictional books, and I doubt I have any good reasons for it, so at least I don’t have to worry about it!


Optional. Works of fiction don’t normally feature introductions; although, there are exceptions. For example, one might be used if a work is translated or to cast the book in a certain literary or historical light.


I know, right! We finally made it to the final point! This one, as I did already know, is optional. This is used to set up the background, time period, setting, or knowledge of certain characters. If it is simply a chapter, don’t call it a prologue. I am surprised to say that neither of my two published books have prologues, which is good as the first chapter is definitely a chapter, but I’m still surprised. My other stories all have prologues. Or at least, my longer stories do. Huh, maybe it isn’t all of them. Anyway, the point is, just because you do it in one book doesn’t mean you should do it for all of them. Consistency isn’t key here. Following the rules is.

I Didn’t Say It Would Be Easy OR Fun

We made it. Well, I made it here anyway. That’s the bare bones of what I’ve learned so far. I left a few optional things out as they were either way out there in terms of me never using them or because they were for non-fiction books only. As for details, yeah, there were a lot of details for these sections. Again, I highly recommend picking up a book on formatting and whatnot if you’re also self-publishing. It’ll save you headaches in the long run. Well, it’ll save you from some headaches. I’m sure I’m going to have some fun discoveries later on in this book on typesetting and creating e-books. EEK!

Have a happy Friday the 13th! Until next time, may your adventures be many and your inspiration be endless!