Half title

Half-title, title and imprint - how to design the first pages of your book

The first page of the book is not the first page of the text. When you open a book, the very first thing you see is the half title. But what is that and what is the structure of a book before it starts with the actual content?

What is the half title?

The half title is used to protect the book block from dirt or ink rubbing. It is a remnant of a time when not all books were bound before they were sold. This first page protects the designed main part of the book. Today, it has lost its function due to industrial book printing. Nevertheless, it remains the first thing the reader sees after opening the book. On it he finds as a rule in simple design held title and author.

What is the cover made of?

Take any book from your shelf and look closely at the first few pages. You've probably noticed that the text block doesn't start on page 1. Before the actual content of the book there is the title. This gives you a first overview of the content and the most important background data of the book. It is structured in the same way for every book: The first right-hand page is called the half title page, followed by its reverse side - also called the frontispiece - the main title and the imprint. On the following pages there is space for a dedication, quotations or a table of contents, then on the next right-hand page the actual text begins and only from here also the page numbering.

Page 1: Half title

The first page always starts on the right and contains the half title with title and author name. Also the series title, the publisher or a logo can appear on the first page, or it can be created completely blank. Because the half title is kept simple and offers a lot of space, it is often used for handwritten signatures.

Page 2: Half title back cover

The back of the half title, also called vacat or frontispiece, often remains completely blank. Sometimes, however, there is an author's photo and the vita or a short description of the book. You can also place acknowledgements or dedications here, just as you like. For book series, you can also list the other parts or show an illustration.

Page 3: Main title

The main title is often elaborately designed and is the most representative page of the title. It shows all the bibliographical information about the book, such as title and subtitle, author, publisher and year of publication.

Page 4: Imprint

On the back of the main title is usually the imprint. The imprint is mandatory for both printed books and eBooks. For children's books or illustrated books, it is often placed after the text for design reasons. It contains ISBN, the copyright notice to the rights holder and year of publication and the publisher's information. You can also note your cover designer, editor, book typesetter, or other contributors here. In addition, the German National Library, recommends to include their standard note in the imprint.

What is the German National Library?

The German National Library (DNB) is the central archival library for all German-language media. Books are also collected and recorded there. The standard note of the German National Library offers assistance for libraries to record titles with ISBN. In order to be allowed to enter it in the imprint, the book must have an ISBN and a title notification must have been sent to the directory of available books. Most self-publishing provider will take care of it for you. It's best to check in advance whether this service is also included with your self-publishing service provider.

What is an ISBN?

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) allows books and publishing products to be clearly identified. In Germany, the MVB Marketing and Publishing Service GmbH, a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), provides ISBNs to publishers and authors. The 13 digits of an ISBN are put together according to a precise system to convey the respective information about the book. This makes it possible to find out in which country a book was published, by which publisher it was published and what form of publication it is, i.e. paperback, hardback or eBook.

Although the use of an ISBN is not a legal obligation when publishing a book, it is a prerequisite for your book to be visible in the databases and merchandise management systems of the book trade. This means that without an ISBN, no bookseller or library can order your book. An ISBN is also a prerequisite for an entry in the directory of available books. Again, check in advance if your self-publishing service provider provides an ISBN.

Page 5: Dedication, table of contents or text block

The next right-hand page can have different functions. Maybe you add a dedication or give a clear overview of the chapters of your book with a table of contents. But be careful: the actual text always starts on the right-hand page. If you put a dedication on page 5, for example, the next left page is empty and the text block starts on page 7. It always starts on an odd numbered page, so add a blank page without page numbering if necessary.

If you start with the text directly on page 5, you can insert page numbers from here on. From here on, pages with text are numbered, but blank pages are not. Empty pages can occur, for example, if you want to start each chapter on the right-hand page, but the previous chapter ends on a right-hand page. In this case, you can insert an unnumbered blank page on the left.

How do I create a title page?

To create a title page, you can Word templates offer useful assistance. Or you can simply use the text designer in our project editor.

The first pages of a book at a glance



Possible content

Page number


Half title

Book title

Author name

Series title



Blank page



Half title back cover

author vita



Blank page



Main title

Book title


Author name


Year of publication




Standard DNB note

Bibliographic information



The writing itself doesn't follow any direct rules, but is based more on craft, whereas the structure of a book has a standard structure. To get a sense of what information is common in the title for your genre, look at a few books from your bookshelf and match them to your manuscript accordingly. Word templates can provide useful guidance on following the common format for page numbering or necessary blank pages. Don't forget to include the standard DNB note if your book has an ISBN and is listed in the index of available books.


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