Opening a chapter without page number

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Book design question: My editor wants the author bio before the text. I’ve been pondering various solutions, and came up with the attached PDF. The bio texts are rather long, and I don’t want to push the title too far down the page.

There’s two navigational issues: A: The title of the chapter is on the left page (which makes browsing harder then necessary). B: The first page of a chapter omits the page number (ditto).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you know any other examples of books where the author bio is the first element in the chapter?

chapter_opening.pdf47.79 KB
Frode Bo Helland's picture

“The title of the chapter is on the left page”. E.g. the running head.

Birdseeding's picture

Why don't you want to push the title too far down the page? Chapter titles a third or even half-way down the page are not uncommon.

That would help solve the major issue with your layout, which is that the biography text looks way too similar to the main text – it looks like a hangover block quote from the previous chapter (compare the next page!) and its nearness in style (especially in terms of left margin) gives it a slightly-off, disharmonious, unintentional impression. (You know, the old maxim of making things that are different singnificantly different.)

With more space, or even without it, you could do any number of things to make it less similar to the main text. Set it futher left. Add a right margin. Switch typeface (to a sans?). Set it in bold or italic. Give it more space above the title. Set it in a shaded panel. Etc. etc.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Why don't you want to push the title too far down the page?

I think the pages looks unbalanced when the title is too far down. Anyway, fair points.

Birdseeding's picture

Fair enough. :)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Forgive, I made a mistake in the PDF. The line spacing is different for the smaller text, which helps separate it slightly better from the body copy.

riccard0's picture

Some semi-random thoughts:

  • The navigational issues you mention are pretty usual. Except maybe the fact that it’s more common to have the book title on the verso and the chapter title on the recto. Losing also the page number is unfortunate, but in a book it happens in several places, for a variety of practical or traditional reasons.
  • There is a range of length for the bios? Otherwise, a particularly lengthy or short one could break things apart.
  • What distracts me in your example is mainly the setting of the running head, which in places (see page 4), interacts a bit too much with the main text.
  • Finally, echoing Johan’s advice, you could try to differentiate more the bio text from the main text, maybe also tightening the leading. But what I mainly would try to do is creating a hierarchy inside the page:
    1. Author
    2. Title
    3. Text

    For that you will probably need to highlight in some way the author’s name so that the bio text would be supporting it in its role.

riccard0's picture

Re: line spacing, I’m a seriously slow typer...

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Some additional information from the editor just made my initial example mute, but in general it is the hierarchy I’m struggling with here. I want the biography to appear less important than the text, while still being at the top. I could take a number of different routes to get there (cursive, smaller size, contrasting typeface), but none of the ones I’ve tested so far feels right. Hence, I’m interested in seeing how others may have solved similar problems.

riccard0's picture

Grey text for the bio? (Author’s name still in black)
Or, perhaps counterintuitively, to achieve a similar effect, you could use the title font Arnheim Fine for the bio text too.

PublishingMojo's picture

The chapter-opening page numbers are the ones referenced in the table of contents, so chapter openers should always have a folio (page number).
When the standard placement of the page number is at the top, on the chapter-opening pages you can put the page number at the bottom. This practice is sufficiently well-established that there's a name for it in graphic-design jargon: It's called a drop folio.
The author biography does dominate the layout too much as it stands. I suggest you increase the indent for the author bio and reduce the point size and leading a bit to compensate for the shorter line length. And try making the chapter titles larger and/or bolder (unless you have some very long chapter titles).

Frode Bo Helland's picture

drop folio

Thanks. My thoughts exactly, but not ideal. Better to put the pagination and running headers at the bottom of the page, to avoid confusion with the bio text. (And hopefully get the editor to shorten them a little bit.)

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