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  • Writer's pictureEditor Jen

Glossary of Publishing Jargon: Part 1: The Anatomy of a Book


I’ve been in the publishing biz for twenty-one years now, and I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way. One of the first things I learned is that the publishing industry has its own special lingo. To that end, I’ve put together an extensive glossary of terms to help you as an author better understand the vernacular of this world so you can easily communicate with your editor, designer, and any other publishing professionals you encounter. Because this list is so comprehensive, I’ve decided to split it into multiple parts, which I’ll post over the next few weeks.


Let’s begin with what every author needs to know about the parts of a book. This list follows the order recommended in the Chicago Manual of Style, the go-to reference manual for all things stylistic in nonacademic, nontechnical book publishing in the United States. Keep in mind that your book does not need all of these features; I’ll let you know which ones are optional. To include all of them would be overkill. Note that when I mention verso (left-hand) and recto (right-hand) pages or specific page numbers, those are only relevant for print books.

The anatomy of a book’s interior can be divided into three parts: the front matter, the main text, and the back matter. For those of you who are queasy about all things medical, don’t worry, this anatomy lesson will be painless. My husband practically faints when he even hears the word blood and I freak out at the sight of skeletons—which is kind of ironic for two true crime junkies—but fortunately for all of us, the interior of a book has no blood or bones, so let’s get started.


Front Matter

The front matter is the section of a book that precedes the main text or story. Items in the front matter do not need page numbers, but if you insist on including them, lowercase roman numerals should be used. The front matter consists of the following items:


1) Book Half Title—The only thing on this page should be the main title of the book—no subtitle, no author name, no publishing info. For print books, this feature should be on a recto (right-hand) page. The next page should be left blank, unless you choose to include one of the following, all of which are optional:

a) Series Title—If your book is part of a series, include the name of the series on this page.

b) Other Works—If you’ve published other books, you may include those titles here. Alternatively, they may be featured on the back cover.

c) Frontispiece—This is an illustration or other image that represents something significant about the book, for example, the main character or the setting.


2) Title Page—This page contains the book’s title, subtitle (if applicable), the author’s name, publisher name, and publisher city (optional). In a print book, the title page should be a recto page. In both print and e-books, it should immediately precede the copyright page.


3) Copyright Page—As you’ve probably guessed, this page contains the copyright and other pertinent publishing information. In a print book, it should be on a verso page. Your editor or designer should supply you with a template for the copyright page. In addition, if you’d like to get your book into libraries, you should include CIP data or P-CIP data:

a) CIP Data—CIP data is a block of text that the Library of Congress provides, but the publisher needs to apply for it. Within this text is a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), which helps librarians order books and know where to shelve them. Self-published authors are not eligible for CIP data, but they can get P-CIP data, which includes a Preassigned Control Number (PCN).

b) Source Notes—If you have any directly quoted material in your book, including song lyrics, you need to cite the source of that material. If a book only has a few such citations and there is room for them on the copyright page, it’s acceptable to place them there. Otherwise, they should be included in a separate section in the back matter.


4) Dedication Page (optional)—If you decide to include a dedication, it should appear on the recto page opposite the copyright page. Generally, it is simply one or two sentences, and the header “Dedication” is not necessary.


5) Epigraph (optional)—You may choose to include an epigraph—a quotation that represents the topic of your book. If you do so, it can either be used in lieu of a dedication, or if you want to include both, the epigraph would come on the following (verso) page, opposite the table of contents. Below the quote, the source should be given along with the title of the work. This annotation should be preceded by an em dash and be set flush right. Be sure to cite the author of this quote in the Source Notes. And keep in mind that even if the quotation is very short, if it’s from a copyrighted work, it may require permission to use it.


6) Table of Contents (TOC)—This section of the front matter lists all the items in the book that follow it (but not those that precede it). Each chapter title (and/or chapter number) should be listed along with the page number on which the chapter begins. However, the page numbers should not be added until after the book is in layout because they will change during the editing process. In US book publishing, the more simplified heading “Contents” is used, although the section is known colloquially as the TOC.


7) Foreword (optional)—Some authors choose to include a foreword, which is like a celebrity endorsement. Therefore, it should be written by a prominent figure, such as an expert in the book’s subject matter or a well-known person who knows the author and/or has read the book. When you, the author, have such a connection, including a foreword by a high-profile person can also serve as an effective marketing tool. In a print book, the foreword should begin on a recto page, so depending on the length of the TOC, a blank page may need to be inserted. The designer or formatter should handle that.


8) Preface (optional)—The preface is somewhat like a letter or essay in which you, as the author, explain to the reader why you are qualified to write the book, how you became interested in the subject matter, and why you decided to write the book. A preface is most often found in nonfiction (especially academic) works but may be used in fiction as well. In a print book, the preface should begin on a recto page, so a blank page may need to be inserted, but the designer or formatter should handle that.


Body Text

The body text is the main part of the book—the narrative or the heart of the work to go back to our anatomy analogy. But it also contains some of its own specific sections.


1) Part opening pages (optional)—If you feel that your readers would benefit from organizing your book into parts, the part opener, which may or may not contain a part title, would begin on a recto page and be given the arabic page number 1.


2) Prologue (optional)—In contrast to the preface, a prologue is generally found in works of fiction (or narrative nonfiction or memoir) and is written from the point of view of one of the characters. The purpose of the prologue is to intrigue the reader, set the scene for the story, and offer the reader some perspective, such as background information on the characters or the setting that’s not divulged in the narrative because it happened before the timeline of the story begins. However, if done right, this can be carefully woven into the narrative. If a prologue is used and your book is not divided into parts, the prologue would fall on a recto page and be given the arabic page number 1. If your book is divided into parts, the prologue would fall on page 3.


3) Introduction (optional)—Generally only found in works of nonfiction, an introduction can be used to introduce the subject matter, summarize the main arguments you will present in the book, fill in any pertinent background information, and define any content-specific terms (unless there are so many of them that a glossary is required). If an introduction is used and your book is not divided into parts, the intro would fall on a recto page and be given the arabic page number 1. If your book is divided into parts, the intro would fall on page 3.


4) Chapter Opener Page—New chapters begin on a recto page. Each chapter opener page should include the chapter number and the chapter title (if applicable). The body of the chapter should begin on the same page. If your book is not divided into parts and you don’t have a prologue or introduction, the chapter opener page should fall on page 1.


You may choose to include an epigraph below the chapter title (or chapter number if no chapter title is used). Alternatively, an epigraph could be included on the verso page opposite the chapter opener page. Whichever style you choose, it should be used consistently for each chapter opener of the book.


5) Drop Cap (optional)—This term refers to the first letter of a chapter that’s larger (usually two to four lines in height) than the rest of the text.


6) Folio—This is just a fancy-schmancy word for a page number.


7) Gutter—In publishing, the gutter refers to the inside margins of a print book where two pages come together. When reviewing final proofs, it’s imperative to make sure no text or essential parts of images fall into the gutter where they cannot be seen.


8) Pagination—This refers to the arranging and numbering of pages in a book.

9) Running Head (optional)—A running head appears at the top of the page, continuously throughout the book. Discuss with your designer if you’d like to use this feature and what you want it to include. Typically, the book’s title, part number, or chapter number will go on the verso page with the chapter title on the recto page. Note that chapter openers and blank pages do not carry running heads.


10) Conclusion (optional)—A conclusion is like a trial attorney’s closing argument. Authors of nonfiction books sometimes wrap up with a summary of the main points or arguments presented in the work. If you decide to include a conclusion, it’s acceptable to give it a more descriptive title, but it is not considered a chapter. Ideally, it should begin on a recto page. Although a conclusion is the opposite of an introduction, they do not necessarily go hand in hand. Therefore, just because you include one of them, it’s not necessary to include both.


11) Epilogue (optional)—Generally used in fiction (or narrative nonfiction or memoir), an epilogue is a section that immediately follows the last chapter of a book and is written from the narrator’s point of view. The purpose of an epilogue is to offer the reader additional information outside the main setting of the story, so it may take place months or years later. For example, an epilogue may give a sense of closure by following up on the fates of the characters or offering a “where are they now” look at real-life characters. Although an epilogue is the opposite of a prologue, if you include one of these features, it’s not necessary to include both. If you do include an epilogue, it should ideally begin on a recto page.


12) Afterword (optional)—Used in both fiction and nonfiction, an afterword is the opposite of a foreword. Therefore, it can be written from the author’s point of view or that of someone else. Either way, the afterword should offer supplementary information to the main text and may attempt to show the importance of the work in a wider context. If you include an afterword, it’s not necessary to have a foreword, and vice versa. Ideally, an afterword should begin on a recto page.


Back Matter

As you can probably glean from the name, the back matter is the section of a book immediately after the main text or story ends. The back matter consists of the following items, each of which should begin on a recto page:

1) Acknowledgments—This is the part of the book where you get to thank the people who have supported and encouraged you while writing the book and seeing it through to publication, including family, friends, writing group members, your editor, designer, agent, publisher, and anyone else who played a role in turning your dream of becoming a published author into a reality.


2) Appendix (optional)—In works of nonfiction, you may find it useful to include one or more appendixes, which are repositories of information considered too detailed or technical to merit inclusion in the main text. Each appendix must be mentioned in the main text to alert readers where they can find this additional material. The items included in an appendix aren’t necessarily essential for understanding the text, but readers seeking further clarification may find them helpful. For example, an appendix might include a list of abbreviations or acronyms, charts or tables, or anything that may have disrupted the flow of the narrative because of its length or complexity. However, an appendix should not be used as a dumping ground for things that you simply couldn’t work into the narrative. If you have a bunch of information that didn’t find its way into the book and isn’t appropriate for an appendix, consider including it on your author website, either in an article or blog post.


3) Timeline or Chronology (optional)—Generally used only in nonfiction, a timeline is a chronological list of events arranged by the date on which they occurred. For historical works with an abundance of dates, a timeline or chronology is an easy place for readers to reference in order to keep track of events.


4) Glossary (optional)—Usually found only in nonfiction works, specifically those with very content-specific terms, such as academic, medical, technical, or children’s books, a glossary is an alphabetical list of words that were used in the book followed by their definitions.


5) Source Notes—Sometimes simply referred to as Notes, this is a section in a book’s back matter to place endnotes or to cite the source of any directly quoted material. If a book has numerous endnotes, it may be best to organize them by chapter. If a book only has a few such citations and there is room for them on the copyright page, it’s acceptable to place them there instead.


6) Bibliography (optional)—Unlike the Notes section, which cites the source of any directly quoted material, the bibliography is used to specify the reference materials (books, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.) an author consulted in writing a nonfiction book. Sometimes called References.


7) Index (optional)—Generally only used in nonfiction works (but not memoirs or narrative nonfiction), an index is an alphabetized list of people, places, events, and other keywords in a book along with their corresponding page numbers. The purpose of an index is to help readers navigate or look up specific subjects in a book. An index can have multiple levels, but not every single instance of an index term should be included. As such, it’s best to pay a professional indexer to do the work if your book needs one.


8) About the Author (optional)—In a nutshell, your author bio should offer the reader a brief look at who you are and why you’re qualified to write this book. Depending on the type of book, this might include where you were born, where you attended college, what you studied, and/or the type of degree you received, what field you work in, your hobbies and interests, the titles of any other books you’ve written, where you live, and whom you live with (spouse, children, pets). If you’re currently working on another book, include that as well. Don’t forget to mention the name of your author website, and if you’re comfortable having readers contact you, list your author email address and author/book-specific social media accounts. The About the Author blurb can appear either on the last page of the book or on the book’s back cover, if space permits. Discuss the word count with your designer, but they typically run between 50 to 200 words.


This concludes our lesson on the anatomy of a book. I’ve left you with 30+ different terms to chew on. There won’t be a quiz, so just put this knowledge to use when you show off your newfound vocabulary with your editor (hopefully me) and your designer. They’ll surely be impressed.


Next time, we’ll dissect the pieces and parts of a book’s cover. Stay tuned.

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