Self-Publishing Basics: Book Pagination For Fun and Profit

by Joel Friedlander on October 2, 2009 · 20 comments

The post continues the series begun in an earlier post, and is Part of the Book Construction Blueprint, which provides reliable guidance to anyone taking on the construction of a book that must conform to generally accepted practice.

Having looked at the Parts of the Book, we have already imposed a sequence or order on the elements that will make up your book. How to lay out the individual pages, and how to number them properly, is the next element of book construction.

What Is Pagination?

Pagination can be considered the way in which the information on a book’s pages is laid out. It’s often used to mean the consecutive numbering of the pages, which indicates their proper order. This was rarely done in documents before 1500, when they were written by scribes, who numbered only the right-hand side pages, if they bothered to number them at all. Since these were the front sides of the paper folios that make up a book, this practice is called foliation.

Different Sorts of Page Numbers

Now book pages are numbered consecutively, and all pages (except any endpapers if they are present) are counted whether page numbers appear on them or not. In book pagination the page numbers are referred to as folios, and they may appear almost anywhere on the page. If they are at the bottom of the page, they are called drop folios. Since all pages are counted in the pagination, but some pages don’t have folios on them, a page number that doesn’t appear on its assigned page is known as a blind folio.

Pages that are inserted separately from the pages that make up the book, such as a section of illustrations or photographs printed separately, are not paginated, and therefore don’t have page numbers on them.

Roman Numerals Anyone?

In the United States it is common practice to paginate the front matter of a book with lowercase roman numerals (i, ii, iii). This is helpful in the production process because some of these pages may be enlarged or inserted at the last moment. If the book were paginated with arabic numerals from the very first page, any change in the front matter would necessitate renumbering the entire book. This way, the front matter can be adjusted at will without affecting the body of the book.

Display Pages Are Special

There are numerous pages in a book that are considered display pages. These include the half title(s), title page, copyright, dedication, and epigraph. If a part title page has no text on it, it is usually considered a display page as well. No page number appears on these display pages. Typically a drop folio (or no folio) is used on the opening page of each part of the frontmatter. It’s also important to remember that blank pages should be entirely blank, and that means no pages numbers.

Numbering the Text Pages

The first page of text begins with arabic page 1. If the text opens with a second half title, or if the book uses part titles, and the text begins with the title for Part I, the half title or part title counts as page 1, its reverse (verso) is (page) 2, and the first arabic number that would appear is the drop folio (page) 3 on the first text page. If text appears on the part title, a drop folio (page) 1 can appear also. If there’s no part title or half title, the first page of the text becomes page 1. Usually, page numbers (and running heads) are left off pages that have only illustrations, charts or tables, unless the book has an extended number of pages dedicated to a long sequence of figures or tables or similar content.

Paginating Chapter Openers and Back Matter Sections

The chapter opening page of each chapter, and the section opening page of each section in the back matter is paginated either with a drop folio, or with no page number.

What About Multivolume Works?

In 2-volume works, the publisher will decide how to paginate volume 2: He’ll either start with page 1 on the first page of text, or he’ll continue from where the page numbering left off in volume 1.

When an index to a 2-volume work appears at the end of volume 2, it makes more sense to paginate both volumes as one so that any reference, like an index, does not have to quote both volume and page.

On the other hand, works with more than 2 volumes really ought to be paginated volume by volume to keep the page numbering within reasonable limits. In this case any reference to a particular page has to include both the volume and page number.

Foliated Back Matter Anyone?

Regardless of the pagination scheme used in works of more than one volume, the front matter in each volume still starts with page i. If back matter has to be added to volume 1 late in production, use lowercase roman numerals, continuing the page numbering from where the front matter in that volume left off. If the front matter ended on page xiv, the back matter would start with page xv.

Watch for the next installment in the Book Construction Blueprint, Elements of the Page

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    { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    Valerie March 2, 2015 at 1:47 am

    Hi Joel,

    I’m just looking for clarification on pagination.
    I am putting together an anthology for my Writers Circle. We have a section in the centre with 8 colour photos in it. They are not being printed separately, but sent to the printer in the same pdf as the rest of the book. Should these not be included in the page numbers? If the last page before the photos is 72, should the first page after the photos be 73?

    Many thanks


    Billie Heron August 5, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I wrote a book I want to give to my granddaughter. I want to make it myself with 10 signatures. How can I have the printer number them so they come out right?


    Joel Friedlander August 5, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    If you prepare the book for the printer, it’s up to you to number the pages the way you want them to appear in the book. If the printer prepares the book for printing, make sure you receive a proof before the book goes to press so you can check the page numbering.


    Nikhil Kothurkar June 27, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Thanks for this excellent article! My question is regarding the topic in your article “Foliated Back Matter Anyone?…If the front matter ended on page xiv, the back matter would start with page xv.”
    In the Table of Contents of academic/Non-fictional books, where should the entries for the back matter elements such as Appendix, Epilogue appear? At the top, in continuation with the front matter elements or at the bottom, after the main chapters?
    Thanks in advance!


    Les Nordman August 19, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I am publishing a diglot book. I ask about paginating just the hard copy version only.

    The story is on the left-hand pages in the first language, and in the second language on the right-hand pages. It must be this way, so that the reader, if he has difficulty reading the story in the first language, can quickly look at the same passage in the second language on the facing page. So, “foliation” must begin on a left-hand page (if I understand rightly your text above).

    How does one paginate the front matter, and then the text, of such a diglot? I have searched my entire library: I possess not a single copy of a diglot. For advice in pagination I have checked Kate Turabian, and Sheridan Baker’s “The Complete Stylist”: neither help me at all.

    Please can you help me?

    Thank you,

    Les Nordman

    How does one


    Lea-Ellen July 17, 2012 at 1:25 am

    The majority of my clients use CreateSpace from Amazon for POD print books. CreateSpace does not seem to follow the ‘big six’ publisher standards in regards to pagination. Do you know why this is? Is there any way an author can correctly put pages in their print books using CreateSpace and have page 1 actually start on Chapter One? This would be great (and important) information to know.



    Joel Friedlander July 17, 2012 at 9:50 am


    I’ve done lots of books for CreateSpace, but always provide them with a PDF so the pagination is not an issue, they just print what we give them. I assume you’re talking about a book whose layout was done by the CreateSpace design team? Is that right? And they wouldn’t use roman numerals for the front matter? If you give me some more information I may be able to solve this for you.


    Lea-Ellen July 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    An author who I know also formats books for other authors (ebooks mainly, but also print). She has the master Word Doc (she has stripped out all formatting and manually put it back in). Ebooks are not a problem, since they don’t have page numbers. She does convert the file to PDF for CreateSpace for the print book. However, it seems that the page numbers are a problem (the odd numbers fall on the right side, so that’s fine). The problem is that page 3 doesn’t begin within chapter one doesn’t read as page 3. The page numbers begin with page 2 on the back of the title page and just continue onward until the end of the book (even blank pages have numbers and headers – such as the back of the title page and the acknowledgement page).

    This isn’t just something that I notice that happens on books she formats. I have many print books via CreateSpace by different authors (some have self-published and some are from small publishers), and they are ALL numbered this way as well as have headers on pages that don’t appear in other print books that you buy at a physical bookstore.

    If it’s possible to use CreateSpace and still get the headers and pagination correct (the way authors would like it to look like), do you know how this is done? Or is this just a programming function that happens with CreateSpace for print books (and therefore it’s not possible to have the desired look)?

    Thanks for your input and help,
    Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}


    Richard Peacock February 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I used your website and advice to publish a book of art created by children in China. The children are part of two health and education projects in areas of high HIV and heroin use.

    The book has been really well received and I hope that it shows their story and their art in the best light.

    Without your website and help I couldn’t have done this.


    Richard Peacock
    Publisher: One step to the border.


    Joel Friedlander July 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Thanks so much for the feedback, Richard, and congratulations on getting your book done.


    Richard Peacock August 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Joel,

    The book was printed and published. It has now sold in 18 countries and I am very proud of it. We launched in China, twice (it’s a big country), New York, London and Norway. The feedback has been amazing.

    The children artists are very happy, as are we all adult artists. You can find some of the stories on out Facebook Page (

    Oh, and as part of the story, the London launch (a circus) led to being asked to produce a circus for the Olympics … (search Google for: Richie Peacock’s Vintage Cirque-Olypmpique).

    So you and your website have made a huge impact. Thank you so much.

    I spent many, many weeks high up a mountain, in the Himalayas in China with source material planning the book with your help. I never thought it would become real. But it did, in 100’s of ways. My notes are a testament to you and your website.

    Please allow me to post some to you.

    Best wishes and thanks again,

    Richard Peacock,
    Patron: The Border Arts Project
    Publisher: One step to the border


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