Book Design Terminology

Book design terminology can be overwhelming as you start to learn about self publishing.  Hopefully, this alphabetical list of the most common terms will help.

Acknowledgments:    The page on which the author expresses their gratitude for help in the creation of the book. It can be part of the front or back matter of the book.

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.

Appendix or addendum:    A supplement, of some sort, to the main body of the book. An appendix might include source documents cited in the text, resource material directed toward the reader, or other material of the author’s choosing.

Ascender/descenderAscenders are the parts of letters that rise above the height of lower case letters, like the upward extending parts of the “l” “h” or “t”.  Descenders are parts of letters that extend below the baseline as in the “tail” of the letters “y” “g” or “p”.

Back cover/full cover:  A single image file which shows the book’s back cover, front cover, and spine. Back cover and full cover mean the same thing when describing a book cover’s file.

Baseline:  The unseen line on which book text or type rests. It does not include the bits that go below the line, like the tail of the lower case “g” or “p”.

Bibliography:    A list of books or other published documents that have been cited in the main body of a book, although the list does not have to be limited to these cited works.

Black:  The shade of black used in black and white printing. 100% black (also known as “flat black”) means it contains no colors other than black.

Black and white:  Originals or reproductions in single color, as distinguished from multicolor. “Black & White” or “B&W” also refers to printing a book in black ink only.

Bleed:  When areas of a book’s design run up to or off the edge of the page, publishers call is a bleed. A bleed might be a colored box underneath a sidebar or cover image that goes all the way to the edge of the cover. The bleed area is printed but is then trimmed after printing. It gives the publisher some wiggle room when trimming the pages of a book. Setting up the book printing file with a bleed option ensures that the design elements and images are free of a white edge after trimming.  Publishers will give their own specifics on the size of a bleed area.

Bleed marks:  The marks or rules that define the amount of extra bleed area to an image outside the defined page size.

Blind folio:  A page number (folio) that is assigned to a page but not printed on the page. For instance, the blank page opposite a chapter heading has a page assigned but it normally not shown.

Body:    This is the main text portion of the book.

Book block:  The complete interior of a printed book after the individual signatures have been printed, folded and gathered together and before being covered with a paper cover or hardcover case.

Book manufacturing:  The entire process of typesetting a book, printing it, binding it, and then packing it for shipping.

Bulking:  The measurement of paper thickness expressed as how many pages it takes to equal one inch, as in “360 ppi” or 360 pages per inch. Lower ppi will create a thicker book, a higher ppi, a thinner one.

Bullet:  A typographic character such as dot or an diamond used to bring emphasis to a list of items on a page.

Casebound:  Hardcover books are created by creating a case from binders board and covering it with a cloth, leather or paper. This case is then wrapped around the printed book interior or book block. Hence the process is called “casing in” and it results in a casebound (hardcover) book.

Chronology:    Historical books sometimes include a chronological list of events to help the reader. It may appear as an appendix, but can also appear in the front matter, according the the author’s wishes.

CMYK:  An abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, which are the ink colors used in 4 color printing.

CMYK, RGB:  Different ways of representing color on a printed page. CMYK is used in printing and creates colors through a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks. RGB is used for electronic screen displays and creates colors through a combination of red, green and blue pixels. Books to be printed in color are usually done in CMYK colors.

Colophon:    A brief notice in the back matter of a book that describes the text typography and credits book’s designer and other people or companies involved in its physical production.

Color bars:  Small squares of color shown on the edge of a printed page that represent the CMYK inks and tints of grey (in 10pc increments). Printers use these marks to adjust ink density on the printing press.

Color Correction:  The adjustment of color in an image to match original artwork or a photograph. Color correction is usually done in CMYK color mode in preparation for process printing.

Columns:  A column is a vertical block of content positioned on a page; columns are bound by margins and separated by gutters. Columns are used to improve page composition and readability. The human eye finds it much easier to read shorter lines, so for example, in a wide 8x10 book, you would have at least two columns of text.

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

Copyright page:    Usually the back of the title page, this page carries the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloging data, legal notices and the books ISBN or identification number.

Crop Marks:  Marks that indicate where a printed page or image is to be trimmed.

Dedication:    A page on which an author dedicates his work to someone or something. If an author does include a dedication, it follows the copyright page within the book interior.

Dots Per Inch (dpi):  In a graphics program, this denotes the image resolution. Most books require images be 300 dpi, which means 300 pixels (dots) per inch. Screen images are usually displayed at 72 DPI on monitors, so ebook images are instead measured in pixels, and require specific height/width ratios. (1.6:  1)

Double truck:  An image in a book or magazine that extends over two pages and across the gutter.

Downrule:  This is a vertical line that is placed between two columns of text to clearly separate one from the other.

Em and En Dashes:  These are punctuation marks which are different from a hyphen. For the em dash, the length is the same as the type size; thus in 12 point type, the em dash is 12 points in length. An en dash is traditionally ½ as long as the em dash. The em dash is used to set off parenthetical thought, it is used in place of a colon, and in dialogue it is used when the sentence is stopped before completion. The en dash is used to connect numbers, and it is used in compound adjectives when one element consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds.

E-proof:  An electronic proof of your final files. POD companies such as Amazon ask you to look at an e-proof and verify the file is correct before they publish your book.

Epigraph:    An epigraph (a quotation) that suggests the book theme. It may be placed near the front of the book by the author.

Epilogue:    An ending chapter meant to close out the storyline of a book. It can be in either a character’s voice or the authors and represent what happened to the book characters after the storyline ended.

Errata:    A notice from the publisher of an error in the book, usually caused in the production process.

Extract:  A short passage taken from a book’s content that can be used to discuss or write about the book.

Folio:  Publisher’s term for the page numbers in books. Page numbers located at the bottom of a page are referred to as drop folios and pages on which the page numbers are implied but not shown are called blind folios. Adding page numbers is be foliated.

Foreword:    Usually a short section about the book’s subject or author, written by someone other than the author. The foreword is always signed, usually with the writer’s name, place and date.

Format:  The size, style, type page, margins, printing requirements, layout and other elements of a book.

Formatting Tag:  A written tag inserted into your manuscript while it’s still a Word document that lets your formatter know something special needs to happen in your layout.

FPO (For Position Only):  A low resolution image set in a document that holds a space for the later placement for a high resolution version of the same image.

Frontispiece:    An illustration on the page facing the title page.

Gatefold/fold-out:  A gatefold or fold-out is a page which folds out beyond the edges of the publication. Maps and medical diagrams are frequently found as foldout pages. Children’s books and brochures often use gatefolds.

Glossary:    An alphabetical list of terms and their definitions, usually restricted to a book’s specific area of discussion.

Graphics:  Any visual representation such as an illustration, photograph, or symbol included on a page or within a document.

Grayscale:  A term for black and white graphic images. For book interiors intended to be printed only in black, all graphics should be grayscale.

Gutter:  The space down the middle of a book where the right and left page sides come together. Note that the gutter encompasses the space on both sides of the spread, so if the gutter is set at .75 inches in the document settings, the actual gutter space will be 1.5 inches wide. The gutter can also be the area that separates columns on the page, although this is also called the ‘alley’.

Half title:    This page contains only the title of the book and is typically the first page you see when opening the cover.

Head Margin:  The space above your main text on the printed page.

HTML:  HyperText Markup Language (used in websites and eBooks).

Hue:  The main attribute or a color that distinguishes it from other colors.

Imposition:  Books are usually printed on large sheets of paper which are subsequently folded several times and then assembled and trimmed on the outside edges. The arrangement of the pages on the large sheets is called the imposition.

InDesign:  The industry standard software used for laying out a book.

Index:    An alphabetical listing of a book’s salient words and content along with page numbers indicating where the information can be found within the book.

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.

Justification:  Describes how the left and right edges of a block of type are arranged by the typesetter. Flush left type is even on the left margin and ragged on the right edge as a standard amount of space is used between each word and lines are allowed to end wherever, creating a “ragged” appearance. Flush right is the opposite. Justified typesetting varies the amount of space between words (and sometimes between letters) to create straight margins on both the left and right sides of a block of type.

Kerning:  The adjustment of the letter spacing in a typeset document to account for the shapes of the letters and to make the type appear to be uniformly spaced.

Latin:  Publication mockups use Latin as a “filler” text. The Latin words mimic actual word and sentence flow without distracting one’s view of the content layout.

Layout:  The overall design of a book’s pages, including the arrangement of text, illustrations, graphics, title, page numbers, and font/typeface usage.

Leading:  The measurement of space between the lines of type, usually measured from one baseline to the next.

List of Contributors:    A work by many authors may include a list of contributors. This list can appear immediately before the index, but is sometimes moved to the front matter.

List of Figures:    In books with many images and/or illustrations), the author may choose to include a list of all figures, their titles and the page numbers on which they occur.

List of Tables:    Similar to the List of Figures, a list of tables can also be included in a book at the author’s discretion.

Margins:  Margins are the white space that surrounds the outside edges of the content on a page. The inner space where the pages of the book meet in the middle is called the gutter.

Notes:    Endnotes come after any appendices and before the bibliography or list of references.

Ornament:  A small decorative character such as an initial, capital letter, or a customized small design graphic used for dividing chapters or paragraphs. It can also be used to  decorate the beginning of a new chapter.

Page Layout (Interior Formatting):  The process a book designer uses to assemble all the text and graphic elements on a book’s pages.

Page, leaf, spread:  Terms for a printed book page. A page is one side of a leaf of paper. The basic unit of design in printed books is the spread, or two facing pages as you see them when a book is opened flat. In ebooks, pages and spreads have no meaning, since ereaders simply create pages as the text flows.

Pagination:  Dividing a book into pages, and the assigning of page numbers (folios) to the pages in a specific style of numbering.

pBook:  Print book.

Pica, point:  The printer’s standard unit of measure for typography and layout. The pica is now standardized as one sixth of an inch. There are 12 points in every pica. Used most commonly to denote type size and leading, as in “12 point Minion on 15 points leading.”

Pixel:  Screen images such as those on an ebook are usually displayed at 72 DPI on monitors. Instead of using DPI or dots per inch as a printed book image would, ebook images are instead measured in pixels, and require specific height/width ratios ( for instance, 1:  1.6, or 1600 pixels to 2560 pixels).

Pixelate:  A term used to describe an image that has been enlarged to a point that the viewer can see the individual pixels that form the image. When this happens, the image is useless for conveying a sharp visual. Hence pixelated images are to be avoided in print and on screen, and is the reason why printed images must be at least 300 dpi.

POD:  Print on demand. Digital printing enables the economic printing of short runs. True print on demand is the ability to print single copies to order.

POS:  Point of sale.

Postscript:    From the Latin post scriptum, “after the writing” meaning anything added as an addition or afterthought to the main body of the work.

PP&B:  Paper, Printing, and Binding. Accounts for the bulk of the total cost associated with manufacturing a book.

Preface:    Written by the author, the preface often tells how the book idea was born. Prefaces are included in the book’s front matter before the first chapter, and often signed with the author’s name, place and date.

Prologue:    In a novel of fiction, the prologue sets the scene for the story and is written in the voice of a character from the book. It is usually placed in front of the first chapter.

Pull quotes:  A pull quote (lifted out quote or a call out) is a quotation or an excerpt from an published piece. Typically, it is set off with a larger typeface or a colored box on the same or opposite page. Pull quotes can highlight a key topic for the reader.

Recto:  The right-hand page of the book. Most books are designed so that the sections or chapters will begin on a right-hand page.

Registration marks:  Small “targets” or crosses outside the page area for aligning the different CMYK separations in a color document.

Revision:  Any changes made in a finished book document.

Running headers/ running feet:  Page elements that show the reader where they are in the book. Running headers are shown at the top of the page. Running feet are shown at the bottom of the page. Either can include the book title, author name, part title, chapter title or subject headings, per the book designer and author wishes.

Sample Chapter:  A single, formatted chapter (or portion of a chapter) of your book created by the book designer before the full interior goes through layout. The sample chapter is used to determine exactly how to format the rest of your book.

Scaling:  Determining the proper size of an image to be reduced or enlarged to fit an area. Scaling a small image to a large print or viewing area can introduce pixelation.

Second Half Title:     If the front matter of a book is long, a second half title page (identical to the first) may be added before the beginning of the book body.

Serif, sans serif:  Serif typefaces have little feet or upstrokes at the bottom of the letters (Times New Roman is a serif font). Type designs such as Calibri don’t have these flourishes. They are called sans serif.

Signature:  Books are printed in multiples of 8, 16 or 32 pages on large sheets of paper. Once the paper has been printed and folded to the size of the book it becomes a signature. If each printed sheet holds 16 pages, the book is said to be printed in “16 page signatures.”

Sinkage:  The extra white space a designer puts at the top of a chapter opener to distinguish it from the rest of the pages.

Slug:  This is an area that gets printed but will be completely removed when trimmed. It is useful when generating proofs that need a sign off box printed, or the slug can contain additional notes/instructions for the printer.

Source Files:  The “native” files of a document, from which the rest of your project is built. For a book’s interior layout, this would be a fully packaged InDesign file.

Spread:  A spread is a set of left and right book pages viewed together, such as the two pages you see whenever you open a book or magazine.

Table of Contents:    Also known as the Contents page, this page lists all the major divisions of the book including parts, if used, and chapters.

Title page:    This page is always either the first or second page of a book, and announces the title, subtitle, author and publisher of the book.

Tracking:  An type adjustment that makes the overall spacing between letters either tighter or looser. It is often used by book designers to fix areas of text that look smashed together, or for paragraphs that need tightening to fit the final sentence of the paragraph on the same page, so as to avoid an “widow/orphan” sentence.

Trim area/trim size:  The trim area is the final size of a printed book after the publisher prints and trims the book pages.  Most mass paperbacks, for instance, are a standard 6”x 9” inch trim.

Widow/orphan:   The first or last line of a paragraph left at the bottom or stranded at the top of a page, usually considered an aesthetic defect in better typography.