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Book Anatomy 101: Book Body Parts

In the first installment of our Book Anatomy 101 series, we looked at the range and organization of your book’s front matter. In this article, we’ll look at the main book body and components. Although you might assume the body is simply a long narrative broken up into thematic or chronological sections (chapters) there are… [Read More]

Book anatomy 101, parts of the book body by Joel Friedlander for BookWorks.com

In the first installment of our Book Anatomy 101 series, we looked at the range and organization of your book’s front matter. In this article, we’ll look at the main book body and components.

Although you might assume the body is simply a long narrative broken up into thematic or chronological sections (chapters) there are actually quite a few different elements found in the body of books.

Here’s a list of parts of the book body. No book will have all these elements, but most books have several of them.

Book Body Parts: Introduction or Prologue

Introductions are used in nonfiction books, while prologues are more common in fiction. In an Introduction, the author explains the purposes and the goals of the work, and may also place the work in a context, as well as spell out the organization and scope of the book. In fiction, the Prologue sets the scene for the story and is told in the voice of a character from the book, not in the author’s voice. Although an Introduction or Prologue is sometimes included in the book’s [Front Matter] it’s more common to begin the body of the book with them, so that the Introduction or Prologue would commonly be page 1 (after the Roman numerals used in the Front Matter).Book anatomy 101, parts of the book body by Joel Friedlander for BookWorks.com

Part Opening page—Both fiction and nonfiction books are often divided into parts when there is a large conceptual, historical or structural logic that suggests these divisions, and the belief that reader will benefit from a meta-organization.

Chapter Opening page—Most fiction and almost all nonfiction books are divided into chapters for the sake of organizing the material to be covered. Chapter Opening pages and Part Opening pages may be a single right-hand page, or in some cases a spread consisting of a left- and right-hand page, (or a verso and a recto). Statistically, if a spread opening is used, half the chapters (or parts) will generate a blank right-hand page, and the author or publisher will have to work with the book designer to decide how to resolve these right-hand page blanks.

Book Body Parts: The Meat of the Matter

Text—The main narrative of the book body that forms the vast majority of its content.

Epigraph—A short quotation at the beginning of a book or chapter, often meant to relate to the theme of the book or the section in which it appears.

Subheads—Short headings that make the book more usable and accessible to help readers quickly understand the overall outline and main themes of the chapter, and ease of navigation to specific information on the page. If the text is further subdivided into subsections, different typographic styles are used for each level of subhead to indicate to the reader the organization of information in the book body.

Extracts—Quotations from other non-book sources that are included within the main text flow, extracts are usually set off from the main text to make it plain to readers that it’s from a different source.

Pull quotes—Nonfiction books often take (or “pull”) quotations from the text of the book to highlight with a graphic treatment.Book anatomy 101, parts of the book body by Joel Friedlander for BookWorks.com

Sidebars—Areas running along the outside edge of a book page can be used to highlight key ideas in the text, to display pull quotes, or to provide information that adds to the main narrative but is not strictly a part of that narrative.

Footnotes—Annotations are a key part of best practices for using information from other sources. Books—both fiction and nonfiction—can use notes at the bottom of the page on which the citation appears (“foot” notes), notes at the end of chapters, or notes collected by chapter in a special Notes section in the Back Matter of the book. Some books may use a combination or all of these note styles.

Chapter summaries or contents—In a long historical or complex work, especially one with long chapters, it may be a benefit to readers to include chapter summaries, either at the beginning or the end of the chapter, or more detailed table of contents for each chapter.

Chapter endnotes—In addition to notes at the bottom of pages, notes can be collected into a separate section at the end of each chapter.

Book Body Parts: Graphics

Many fiction and nonfiction books contains graphics of some kind, either in black and white, or full color. Some of the kinds of graphics you’ll find used in the book body include:Book anatomy 101, parts of the book body by Joel Friedlander for BookWorks.com

Photos—Photos can be placed into the text where appropriate, or gathered into a special photo section. The latter approach is particularly useful if high-resolution reproduction is required, necessitating the use of coated paper for the reproductions.

Illustrations—Pen and ink drawings are particularly well suited to book design since these drawings mesh seamlessly with the typography the forms the bulk of the book. However, grayscale or color illustrations can be used to teach skills and methods, or as in the Harry Potter books, to provide an insight into what the characters and settings of the book might look like.

Charts and Graphs—Useful in business, technical, and scientific books, charts and graphs can help explain complex or technical material.

Maps—One of the favorite ways to illustrate fantasy novels is with maps of the crated world. Travel books and histories also make wide use of maps.

Decorative elements—Outside of the purely informational graphics, books often contain strictly decorative elements from typographic ornaments to full-page illustrations.

Book Body Parts: Wrapping Things Up

Epilogue—An ending piece, either in the voice of the author or as a continuation of the main narrative, meant to bring closure of some kind to the work.Book anatomy 101, parts of the book body by Joel Friedlander for BookWorks.com

Afterword—May be written by the author or another, and might deal with the origin of the book or seek to situate the work in some wider context.

Conclusion—A brief summary of the salient arguments of the main work that attempts to give a sense of completeness to the work.

Postscript—Provides new information that extends the story after the main narrative has ended.

Knowing how books are traditionally put together gives us the freedom to know where we can bend the conventions of bookmaking in the service of our readers.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this series where I will be discussing back matter.


[Note: If you plan to format your book yourself, you'll want to pick up a copy of Joel's definitive how-to, The Book Blueprint: Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books.]


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