As an author, you’ve probably spent more time worrying about what goes on the page than what goes around it. But as a reader, you’ve likely relied on the little print around the margins–you know, the stuff that tells you the author’s name, what chapter you’re reading, and what page you’re on. That “stuff” is called the “page elements,” and it’s an important detail to your published book.
Page elements consist of three main parts: 1) the page number, 2) running heads (author name, chapter title, book title, etc), and 3) the body (your manuscript).
You’ve likely never paid attention to how the page elements are presented, but if you take 3 books off your shelf at random, you’ll probably notice that each one has the elements laid out slightly differently. There are some general conventions to presenting your page elements, but so far no hard and fast rules.
As you look at a book, you’ll likely see the author name, title, or chapter title (if applicable) along the top of the pages. These often alternate pages, with the author name on the right-side page and the title on the left. These are not visible on chapter pages.
If the chapters have their own titles, these often show up in place of the author name, on the right side.
Often, page numbers are found on the outside corners (either top or bottom of the page) or in the center bottom of the page. They can be decorated with a stylistic glyph if desired, but often they’ll be plain. Their purpose is to help the reader track their progress through the book.
This is the part of the book you spend the most time reading. Most often, the elements at play here are the line spacing (leading) and indentation between paragraphs. Typically, American-produced books will have a left indent on all body paragraphs except for the first paragraph of the chapter or the first paragraph after a section divider (often marked with a decal). Those first paragraphs often also have a stylistic element, whether it be a drop cap or a first line of small caps to draw the reader’s eye.
If you choose to work with us, we’ll handle much of the creative process of putting your book together. But if you’re choosing to author-publish, these design elements will help your book have a professional look and feel once it’s printed.