Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Do Books Ever Start on the Same Page Number?

Book Questions: Who decides on what page number books start?

Have you noticed that books often start on random-seeming page numbers?

My favorite historical fiction author is Julian Stockwin. In Victory, he begins chapter 1 on page 9, which is nine printed pages in from the front of the book. Chapter 1 of Pasha, his most recent age-of-sail book, begins on page 15, which again is fifteen pages from the front of the book. His paperback version of Seaflower begins chapter 1 on page 1, even though there are printed pages beforehand. In the uncorrected advanced proof of Stockwin's Tyger, to be released in October, chapter 1 starts out on page 1, even though there are printed pages beforehand - I have no idea how the final printed version of the book will paginate.

It's not without precedent. My paperback version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird begins the story in chapter 1 on page 3, with man printed pages beforehand. Mitch Album's best seller Tuesdays with Morrie (1997) begins the story on page 1. Yann Martel's Life of Pi begins on page 3.

My favorite humor author, Christopher Moore, begins such stories as LambFluke, and The Stupedist Angel on page 1, as would I expect him to do in his new novel out August 25, Secondhand Souls. "I always start with 1. It's how I roll," he says.

However, there are book style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, that recommend that the first page of text be page 1 (except for excessive front matter like forewards, which they prefer lower case roman numbers).

So who gets to make the decision about which page number starts the book? "Book layout is down to the designer chosen by the publisher," says Stockwin, whose books publish around the world. "Generally the meat of a book will begin on page 1 but this can vary, depending on house style of a particular publisher."

(c) 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

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