• Bridges Washington

Anatomy of a book (part 1)

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

In my last post, I started to touch upon all the little details that go into building what has come to be known as a book. There are dozens of things that even the most avid reader probably doesn't even notice, that go into composing a book. I know I don't usually think about them, and that is a good thing. No author would want the packaging of their story to be the cause of their potential audience to pass it over. However, what goes into a book? I knew enough to go on the hunt for a source with some substance that might help me avoid some of the little "bones" of a book.

After quite a bit of trolling the web, I found two checklists that gave me enough information to avoid a bunch of embarrassing oversights. The first list would be available through the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). I was hesitant, at first, like many first time authors, I am sure. The era of digital publishing has flooded the market with many fresh faces, and as a result, there are thousands of new businesses out their offering services. The factor that seemed to make investing in the IBPA worthwhile is that their list of benefits included a bunch of discounts for services that I would likely use soon. So the math worked out to where my future cost savings would at least cover the annual cost of membership, and to date it has.

So the IBPA checklist has more than fifty line items that one should check off of the to-do list to produce a "book." Some of those line items were completely foreign to me. I mean ISBN, BISAC, LCCN, EAN, what? I know everyone loves throwing around acronyms these days, and many speak about them as though their use of that acronym is the only possible interpretation. Talk about living in a bubble. For instance, if I said, OC was a common acronym in one of my previous lives, what pops to mind? We all know that context controls these interpretations, but if your first language is French, and my first language is German, we will have problems communicating. So for the record, in the publishing industry, International Standard Book Number (ISBN), Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC), Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), and European Article Number (EAN) round out this list.

Ok, but what does all that jargon mean. The ISBN is nothing more than a unique numerical identifier for your title. Given all the titles available, it would allow someone to find yours in case you managed to duplicate an existing books name. So what is BISAC? It is a list of subjects and associated index numbers that help to identify which genre your book falls within. Sounds simple, however, in my particular case I could have listed a dozen codes for my title, as the scope of the issue I discuss is quite extensive. I did manage to limit my genres to four based on the most prevalent topics that I cover. Library of Congress Control Number should be reasonably self-explanatory. What is the European Article Number? In this case, there is a little crossover. The number itself is the ISBN that I have registered for the format of my book.

Wait; what? Yep, each format that you plan to release your book in has to be registered with a different ISBN. If you plan a paperback, you need one ISBN, and if you plan to do one of the many e-book formats, you will need another. Weren't we talking about EAN, why are we talking about ISBN again? The EAN is the bar code interpretation of your ISBN. We have all seen bar codes on the products we buy every day, well that's what you are trying to do, get someone to buy your book. The EAN is made up of your ISBN and the price that you set for paper copies of your book.

With the explosion of the e-book industry, some sellers do not require you to have an ISBN, and in a digital market, the bar code is not necessary for someone to "ring-up" your purchase at the cash register. Amazon is known for this with their very own ASIN numbering system. If you only plan to release your book for Kindle, you could skip this step, but if you plan to submit your title for consideration of one of the many book awards available today, this could prohibit your entry. Some of the awards require you to own the ISBN personally; this means that getting a "FREE" ISBN from one of those printing companies that offer an ISBN if you use their print-on-demand service could also get you excluded from consideration. More about that later.

So, we have gotten a bunch of the numbers out of the way, what is next on the list? I mentioned earlier that choosing the size of your book has a way of cascading its way down through everything you do. The first thing that most would think about is that snazzy cover that no one wants to be judged by, but then again we do. However, it is not only the front cover but the back cover and of course, the spine. The size of the front and back are straight forward, but what about the spine? Now that is perhaps the most complicated issue, that gets the least attention. This issue is not just about how many words are in your book, but the weight of the paper and all the other little formatting issues that might add to its appeal. Also, what about all those other things that are part of the anatomy of a book?

I will go into those next time when the story continues here.

Please let me know if this post gave you something to consider in the comments below. Good or bad let me know what you think, this is about starting a dialogue. If this post made you think about your own relationships or those of someone you know like and share it with them. If you are interested in other topics check out some of my previous posts and subscribe to get email notifications of new posts.

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