Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Anatomy of a book

One of the first things you realize when you want to publish your own book, is that there's more to a finished book than just the text.

If you want your book to present itself as a professional product (and that is essential if you hope to see it on bookstore or library shelves) then you need to realize that those additional parts are not just random adjuncts. They each have their purpose and, while there's a lot of variation, there are also some expectations around what goes where. Get it wrong, and it will scream "amateur" to anyone in the book-buying business.

The most obvious thing wrapped around the text is the cover.

The front cover is familiar enough and deceptively simple: artwork, title, and author. I'll talk another time about the benefits of a professional designer, but suffice to say that there's a whole website here dedicated to what can easily happen if you try to go it alone.

For print versions, you have to add the spine (title and author again) and back cover. The latter will usually carry at least a blurb, ISBN barcode, and maybe author bio and photo.

Of course, once I get past the cover, I typically flip to chapter 1 and start reading. 

But wait! Back up a bit. What are all those pages I just flipped past?

If you look more closely, a typical book starts with several pages that have always looked random and confusing to me, but I've learned there is order and structure hidden there. These pages, collectively, are called "front matter".

At the very least, there is a title page, showing the title, author, and publisher. On the back of the title page is the copyright page.

Most of the front matter is fairly straightforward, but the copyright page is worth a special mention.

The copyright page typically contains legal statements ("All rights reserved, blah blah blah" and "This is a work of fiction, so, no I'm not writing about you, dumbass!"), author and publisher information, and ISBN.

Most of this is self-explanatory, but there's often a couple of confusing elements. Most professionally-published books in USA and Canada will have cataloguing-in-publication data. This is provided by the US Library of Congress or Library and Archives Canada, and tells libraries how to catalogue the work.

Here's an example:

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bott, Ian S., 1960-, author
          Ghosts of innocence / Ian S. Bott.

Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-0-9937242-0-6 (pbk.).--ISBN 978-0-9937242-1-3 (html)

          I. Title.

PS8603.O9183G56 2014              C813'.6             C2014-902878-4 

The best bit about this section is that you don't have to worry about the content here. In fact, you mustn't try to alter it. You must include it exactly as given, weird spacing and punctuation and all.

At the bottom of the copyright page, you will often see a string of numbers. This tells you which edition of the work you are looking at. Why have a whole list of numbers (10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3) rather than just saying "Edition 3"? This harks back to manual typesetting, where it was easier to set up the copyright page once, and just remove a number from the end whenever you prepared a new edition.

The main thing I've learned about the copyright page is to look at lots of examples, search for suitable templates, and include the wording that makes sense to you.

Other front matter elements: The title page is often preceded by a half title page (just giving the title), and can be followed by many pages of: dedication, table of contents, foreword, preface, and acknowledgements.

For Ghosts, I am keeping it simple with a half title page, title page, copyright page, and dedication. Then into the meat.

At the back of the book, there may be more pages, oddly enough called "back matter". This includes things like appendices, end notes, glossary, bibliography, and index. Most of these sections are more likely to be used in non-fiction than in novels. I have not included any back matter in Ghosts, although I have posted a glossary on my web site and may consider adding it into a future edition.

The overall thing I learned here is to consult professional book designers, some of them have information and suggested layouts freely available on their websites. Use their guidance to learn what goes where, and pick what's right for you.


Jean Davis said...

Good info to know! Thanks for sharing.

Botanist said...

You're welcome, Jean :)

Nick Wilford said...

Good, informative post. There's a lot of things to remember. Luckily I can handle most things myself, having published an anthology - the only thing I have to outsource is the cover. I don't have an artistic bone in my body!

Botanist said...

Nick, I am able to provide raw cover art, but even then I called in a designer to turn it into an actual cover.

Teresa Cypher said...

Lots of information I haven't even begun t give serious thought. I'm not good at figuring out things myself. Saving my pennies here so I can pay someone else to figure them out. :-)

And I'm certainly glad to hear that "Ghosts" is on its way!!!

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