Self-Publishing Basics: The Elements of the Book Page

POSTED ON Nov 6, 2009

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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The post continues the Book Construction Blueprint, a series of posts providing reliable guidance to anyone taking on the construction of a book that must conform to generally-accepted practice.

We’ve already looked at the parts of a book, book pagination, the copyright page, the use of chapters and subheads, and now we turn to the elements found on the book page.

Running heads

Running heads play an important role in orienting the reader within the book. Any material that takes up more than one page should have a running head. In books with long chapter titles it’s common to shorten the title to fit on one line along with a page number.

In some cases running heads reflect the content of specific pages by using subheads as copy or another editorial scheme.

If subheads are used as running heads, some pages will have more than one subhead on them. In this case, use the last subhead on the page as the running head if the page is a recto (right-hand page) and use the first subhead on the page if the page is a verso (left-hand page).

Running heads are often omitted in novels, unless they are used specifically as a design element. They can be eliminated if they serve no particular purpose. When they are placed at the bottom of the page, they are called running feet.

When Not to Use Running Heads

Running heads are never used on display pages like the title, half title, chapter and part opening pages. They are not used on matter opening pages, like the first page of the Preface or the first page of the Contents.

Running heads are also omitted on pages that have only an illustration or a table on them. On the other hand, if there is any text at all, even one line, then running heads should appear.

If an entire section or run of pages contains only illustrations, running heads can be used to help orient the reader.

Front Matter and Back Matter

Like all other parts of a book, any particular element that is longer than one page should have running heads if they are used in the main body of the text. Ordinarily running heads in front matter use identical copy for both verso and recto pages.

Running heads in the backmatter, however, are quite the opposite. For instance, in a book with several Appendices, use the Appendix number as the verso running head and the Appendix title on the recto. Likewise if the book has more than one Index, use the Index name in the running heads.

In Notes sections, use the method employed in the text to decide how to organize the running heads. If notes are organized by page number, then the relevant page numbers should be cited in the running heads. On the other hand, if the notes are organized by chapter, use the chapter designations in the running heads.

In all cases, running heads act as guideposts for the reader, and the reader’s ability to orient himself to part, chapter, page and topic are paramount in the use of running heads.

Different Types of Running Heads

There are many ways to use running heads, depending on the type of book and the organization of the material within it. For instance, any of these possibilities are acceptable:

  • Verso = Part Name. Recto = Chapter Name.
  • Verso = Chapter Name. Recto = Chapter Subtitle
  • Verso = Chapter Name. Recto = Page Subhead.
  • Verso = Page Subhead. Recto = Page Subhead.
  • Verso = Author Name. Recto = Chapter Name.

Page Numbers

Page numbers, an intrinsic element of the book page, are covered extensively in the section on Pagination.


Notes become a page element when footnotes are used, either alone or in conjunction with endnotes. Endnotes appear at either the end of the chapter or in a Notes section in the back matter.

When footnotes are used they are placed from the bottom of the text block and allowed to expand upward as necessary. Notes are sometimes separated from the main text block by a short rule at the left margin, but are often separated only by extra space inserted between the note and the last line of text.

Very long footnotes may need to run over to the bottom of the succeeding page(s) as necessary, but every page in the work must have some text.

Typically footnotes are set in a smaller type size than the main text block. Although there are various schemes for identifying and sequencing notes, if there is only one footnote on a page, only an asterisk is used to annotate the text and identify the footnote.

Watch for the next installment in the Book Construction Blueprint, Cover Concerns

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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