(My current bookshelf. I’m just waiting for one of the shelves to collapse.)
There are a lot of small parts of books that often pass unnoticed for most readers.
If you’re an aspiring book-creator, these can be good things to watch out for when you’re in the ‘read all the books for reference’ phase of organizing your career as a writer/illustrator. That’s because they give you little glimpses inside writing and publishing.
(I often think back into the days when there was no internet and these bits were all the glimpses readers got into publishing. Ah, youth!)
Thing 1: logos.
We’re starting with logos because they are an easy first thing to look at. They’re clearly visible! And they’re on multiple places on the book, including the outside spine, which is what you first see!
First Second’s logo helpfully spells out its name, but a lot of publishers don’t have a logo like that. So notice the logo on the books you’re reading — and if you’re like, ‘what does this penguin on the spine mean?’ check the copyright page to find out the publisher’s full name (hint: it’s pretty obvious).
If you find yourself liking a lot of books with a similar logo — that’s probably a publisher you want to keep in mind!
Thing 2: design credits.
Someone has to design a book, and do the cover art! In a graphic novel, it’s typically pretty obvious who has done the cover art — probably the person who did the interior — but on the back flap or on the copyright page, you’ll find a credit line that makes that explicit. When you get a book deal and are introduced to your book designer, it’s always nice to be able to say, ‘I loved those covers that you did and I can name them because I was paying attention!’
(Design credit from Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon’s Odd Duck)
Thing 3: dedication.
A lot of times, you’ll find that an author’s book is dedicated ‘to my parents’ or something similar, which is not helpful in your writing career, because you probably know how you feel about your parents already.
However, sometimes a dedication will tell you something about the author, about the process, or about particular people that were helpful to the author (always good to know).
(The dedication for Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers. Do you know who the Original Art Night Crew were? We do. You could probably find out with some googling.)
Thing 4: thanks/acknowledgements.
The thanks/acknowledgements page or line (sometimes it just runs on the copyright page) tends to be more interesting than the dedication, because it details every single person that the author wants to thank. Some of those people may be people that you know — which means you can potentially have a connection to this author. And some of those people can be people that you can get to know.
As an aspiring writer/illustrator, you should probably expect to recognize some of the people in just about every thanks/acknowledgements page — at least you should if you’re keeping up with authors, agents, editors, and publishers around the industry.
(The thanks/acknowledgements from American Born Chinese. Can you find his agent? What about his editor? What about his local comic store owner?)
Here’s another example of a thanks/acknowledgements page.
Take a look at the language in this one. Publisher/author relationships and author/agent relationships aren’t always the smoothest — can you tell if this author likes his publisher and his agent? That can be a helpful thing to know when you’re considering a book deal with a publisher or signing on with an agent!
What other things can you tell about this author? Where he went to school (helpful if you’re considering a comics education)? Where he used to work?
(thanks/acknowledgements from Dave Roman’s Astronaut Academy)
Thing 5: grants!
Take a look at the copyright page of the books you read, because they’re sometimes filled with interesting information! This one has on it that the author got a grant in support of doing this book. You might be eligible for that grant, too! Or there could be a similar grant program that’s applicable to you that you could explore.
(The copyright page of Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends With Boys)
Before or after you read, you can treat your book like a research project instead of/as well as treating it like a novel!