Work Types Proposal

I’ll admit that I first scrolled through your post to read the final comments before having a closer look at the proposed work types :innocent:

Looks pretty solid to me, but I’m sure we’ll find more work types worth being added, even without leaving modern Western literature.
While you have covered many textual work types, visual work types are missing so far, for example. What comes to my mind first are graphic novels and comics. (For other “works” like standalone illustrations and photos, I’m not sure whether we should list them as separate work entities, while it definitely makes sense to allow photobooks as editions.)


Wow. Excellent work, @blackteadarkmatter! If I could add more than one :heart:, I would. :slight_smile:

Maybe also on screen?

In many cases, I don’t see a difference between this and short story, other than grappling with its authorship. I do note that many fables tend to be quite short. In your opinion, would they fall under this category?

I encounter songs, written in literature. I currently call them out as poems. It would be worth considering adding a subcategory.

I don’t deal with a lot of the following, so I naturally wonder how useful subcategories would be for them:

  • introductory text
  • letter
  • speech
  • scientific literature
  • periodical article

There are other work type I thought of while writing this proposal and then decided not include, because my idea here is to have a solid, logical base that can be expanded with less common types later. But… you are very right about “visual work types”, they should be there. And it’s not the first time you point this out, it seems you found a blind spot of mine.

I’ll see how best to include this kind of works, but I’ll have to ask you to look it over after.

1 Like

“Play” generally refers to theatre plays. Are you suggesting we should also include screenplays (scripts)? I suppose some have been published in books.

Play — Work consisting mostly of dialogue and intended to be performed by actors.

  • Stage play — Work in prose or verse consisting mostly of dialogue and intended to be performed by actors on a stage
  • Screenplay — Work consisting of the text that provides the basis for a film production. Besides the dialogue spoken by the characters, screenplays usually also include a shot-by-shot outline of the film’s action.

Would this be better, having specific types for stage and screen? I would prefer not to confuse them as they look very different on the page, theatre plays are (traditionally) almost just dialogue, screenplays include detailed descriptions of the action.

My idea is to use the “folk tale” type for the unwritten, orally transmitted story and “short story” for the written version. So Grimms’ Rapunzel can be a short story, but it is based on Rapunzel, a folk tale that should have [traditional] as its author. Works of this type should have only [traditional] as their author, not specific writers. This type can be used for any tale, i.e., story that was passed down orally. I know we didn’t really reach a conclusion before, so let me know if you think this makes no sense.

I would need examples of to have an opinion about this. There are poems that are called songs by the author, but aren’t part of a specific poetic form. We should only have poetic forms as work types if we can define them clearly.

Many of those are based on works I’ve personally added but didn’t have an appropriate work type for. Let me explain why I included those types:

This is meant as a catch-all for works of this type, a general category. Currently, we have an issue with these, we have “introduction” but no “preface” which leads people to add prefaces with different types (introduction, article). If we had a general introductory text option, people could just pick this. (“Author X wrote an introductory text for work Y” is better than picking some other type). I think I’m including most common types in this proposal, but certainly there will be a few that didn’t even come to mind.

Many authors have their letters published. Recently I was looking over Jack Kerouac’s and Neal Cassady’s, having only recently read On the Road. There’s at least one letter I added on BB, one that published as preface, but was an actual letter to the author. Maybe this isn’t the most common type, but it will definitely be needed.

Many public speakers have had their speeches published, from the Ancient Romans to Martin Luther King Jr., not forgetting Winston C. Personally I was also thinking of speeches as the category to which sermons belong, as I have added all least one of Father António Vieira’s sermons — often considered the greatest works of Portuguese baroque literature, and published countless times.

These two were “grandfathered in”. I’ve mentioned before we shouldn’t focus on scientific or periodicals, but BB already has “Article” and “Scientific paper” work types and journal/magazine/newspaper edition group types, and it was my goal to keep the types we already have. I still think we shouldn’t focus on those, but I’m just trying to organize them in a rational work type selection.


IMO, yes.

Given we have [traditional] author, I’m still wondering if this needs to be called out as a separate work type. If I look at the content, without considering its authorship, I would see no difference between a folk tale and another story.

The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling off the top of my head.

I’m good with the top-level works you describe. What I’m less sure about is whether each of them needs subcategories.

an excellent list, my guy~ a couple comments on it though…

I don’t know about having the introductory text and conclusion types as subtypes of nonfiction, as I’d imagine there’s quite a bit of fiction that has some sort of introduction or conclusion, including the book I’m currently listening to, where the introduction, prologue, epilogue, and afterword are all fiction.

also, I’d like to second the inclusion of comics and give a few possible subtypes:

  • Comic strip: short, often multi-panel comics, often featured in newspapers or magazines. I don’t know if we want to seperate out single-panel and multi-panel strips. some examples:
    • K-ON! a four-panel manga
    • Calvin and Hobbes, an American comic strip
    • xkcd, a webcomic
    • Moonstuck (no Wikipedia link this time, lol), a reader-driven webcomic, most parts are contained in a single image
  • Comic books: multi-page comics, often seperate from other publications. some examples:
    • Bionicle, a comic book based off a Lego “theme” of the same name
    • Marvel Mystery Comics, a comic book series from the Golden Age of Comic Books
  • Graphic novel: a long-form work of sequential art. some examples:

some other miscellaneous examples I’m not sure how to categorize:

  • The Adventures of Tintin, I’m not too familiar with the source material, it’s possible this is mostly graphic novels
  • Axe Cop, this one might fall into multiple categories? because the early stuff is just a few panels or a single page, but the later stuff (Bad Guy Earth specifically) feels more like a cohesive comic book, even though I believe it was originally published a page at a time

if we are going to include screenplays, we probably want to determine how they are to be related (or not related) to a MusicBrainz soundtrack entity. since that work type is just the music, technically it wouldn’t be the same work as the screenplay, but I also think it would be kinda silly to keep them fully seperate…


Also, maybe a subtype under nonfiction for legal documents? I would imagine it would include:

  • acts
  • agreements
  • bills
  • briefs
  • certificates
  • codes (legal, penal)
  • constitutions
  • contracts
  • declarations
  • decisions
  • deeds
  • filings
  • patents
  • permits
  • pleadings
  • proclamations
  • rulings
  • subpoenas
  • treaties
  • warrants
  • writs

Added note: I am not suggesting these be subcategories in the taxonomy; merely suggesting that “legal” work type would be where these types of works would go.

This is my proposal so far:

  • Comics alias Manga — Sequence of panels of images, usually including textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia to indicate dialogue, narration, and sound effects.
    • Comic strip — A series of comics panels, generally arranged horizontally, designed in a narrative or chronological order.
    • Comics story — Collection of comic strips, usually in chronological order, that tells a story.
    • Graphic novel — Long-form, generally book-length, comics story.


  • Comics story because comic book can include multiple stories, but each one is its own work.
  • Manga as the same work as comics because, as far as I can see, the main differences between manga and comics are country of origin, tone and style.
  • Graphic novel is also used to imply that “the work is more serious, mature, or literary than traditional comics”, but that would be a genre distinction which is not relevant.
  • Comic books aren’t works, the comics stories they contain are the works.
  • Great Neil Gaiman quote in connection to the point above here: Neil Gaiman, in response to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, said: “I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”
  • I’m hesitant about adding cartoons, as those are single images, but it’s something to consider.

Besides my usual sources, I read:

Comments welcome.


I think probably those could just be called “comics”, the higher-order category. I’m not sure how you would even entitle some of those, if they are just illustrations without any accompanying text.

1 Like

My point is that a folk tale has no specific written form, but all written versions would be connected to it by a “based on” relationship. I.e., you could find all written versions of Rapunzel on the Rapunzel-as-folk-tale work. But if there is no support for this idea, I’ll remove it, hence the (?).

I checked the poems, but they don’t seem to be any specific poetic form. I imagine Kipling is implying those are songs from the fictional world of the Jungle Book. I don’t think we should be afraid of classifying poems simply as “poem”. Subcategories should be for specific and well-defined poetic forms — of which there are more, I wasn’t trying to be exhaustive.

I see. Maybe it’s better if you say why you think they are unnecessary? Some of the subcategories are already work types in BB, others I added thinking of works we already have.

1 Like

I was just thinking that, it would be a pain in the derrière to find a title convention for all of those single-panel cartoons — I’d say it’s not a priority at the moment.


As I mentioned above (I know, easy to miss in all of that),

Introductory/concluding texts should only be added if they’re not part of the main work. E.g. an introduction about a novel written by an expert is not the same work as the novel itself, but a prologue written in the voice of the narrator would be part of the work.

Prologues and epilogues are usually written in the voice of the narrator, so they are part of the novel itself, not a separate work. If the introduction/conclusion are fiction, the same rule applies.


This makes sense in terms of etymology, but I’m sure most users browsing or editing in this area would appreciate being able to separate/group these. They are all stories told via sequential pictures, yet worlds apart (more so than some of the other sub-types listed tbh).


I think rewording this to “generally arranged horizontally or vertically” would work better, as horizontal comics seem to be a western standard, see my K-ON example below, which is Japanese and vertical. I even remember seeing vertical formatted comics in our local newspaper (Blondie, I think)

I also think having “Yonkoma” as a subtype of Comic strip might be in order? according to Wikipedia, there seems to be a named specific structure to this type of strip.

I don’t know if I agree with the wording here, as a comic book or story doesn’t have to be in the form of multiple comic strips, in fact I rarely have seen such examples. more often they’re a sequence of images and/or frames meant to be read in order. the current wording makes me think of books which are a collection of comic strips, like this one for Calvin and Hobbes.

some visual examples for clarity

the form of these two types of work are quite distinct in my opinion, so I think a better wording would be something like:

Comic story — A short form of sequential art, longer than a comic strip. Traditionally sold as comic books, but comes in many forms.

note: “Sequential art” is a term I’ve seen as an alternative to “Comics”, as not all comics are comedic. I only heard of it after a bit of research (reading Wikipedia), so I don’t know how common the term is in the real world. I do think the term “Comic Book” should be somewhere in the definition for Comic Story, as that’s a much more common term for the concept.

another addition, under Reference work, Cookbook. however, there might be an argument to be made for having individual recipes as works? I’ve got no real opinion on that one way or another…

  • Comics alias manga, sequential art — Sequence of panels of images, usually including textual devices such as speech balloons, captions, and onomatopoeia to indicate dialogue, narration, and sound effects.
    • Comic strip — A series of comics panels designed in a narrative or chronological order.
    • Comics story — Multiple-page work consisting of comics panels, usually in chronological order, that tells a story. Comics stories are typically published in comic books, which can contain multiple stories.
    • Graphic novel — Long-form, generally book-length, comics story.

Thanks for the pointers and examples, @UltimateRiff. Let me know what you think of my revised proposal.

“Sequential art” is a term proposed by Will Eisner, but it doesn’t seem to be much used outside of comics studies, so I don’t suggest using it instead of “comics.” Still worth mentioning, though.

I don’t disagree with what you said, but the work types we are trying to define are work forms, not styles, genres, countries of origin, etc. Manga just means comics, it’s the word Japanese people use for Western comics as well as Japanese ones, without distinction, and I can’t think of a definition that wouldn’t in effect be “same, but Japanese”. Maybe this is a distinction for a future Folksonomy tag system?


Yes, I think the works here would be the recipes. Recipes are independent, and the same can be published in different cookbooks.

Yes, I think that many of those could be added as work types — but that list dump requires some proper organization.

That seems reasonable to me.

But… I would like to ask, regarding all these proposed work types, are you planning to add editions with these work types? There are many other types I can think of, but I’m not trying to add all possible types, only the ones we already have or are likely to have soon. My idea is that this should be a bit like instruments on MB, there may always be more to add, but they should be added as they are needed — or this initial list will never be complete.

If you are actually planning on adding this kind of works, that’s good enough for me, I’ll start thinking about how to include these in the list above.

1 Like

Or, we just have “legal” as one type for now. We can always try to add subtypes as we see enough works to warrant its own distinct subtype?


If this work list was Japan-centric, then yes, but the terms are not interchangeable elsewhere. I could not use the term ‘manga’ to describe a Superman comic.

But, since I’m not really editing BB at the moment, I wont bog you down - more can always be added later!


I just realized I just made a ton of work for anyone adding a cookbook to BookBrainz… eventually we’d get hundreds of works for chocolate cake, all which are different but perhaps very difficult to disambiguate…

I don’t know how soon, but I do have books with most of the works I’ve proposed (save for graphic novels and cookbooks) which I’ll be adding eventually. haven’t gotten too deep into adding my book collection to BookBrainz yet tho…


Cookbooks. :person_facepalming: