Friday, September 13, 2019

How to format your poetry book before you self-publish


Formatting a poetry book might not be as hard as it sounds, depending on the functions available in your word processing program. I use Microsoft Word, but I imagine Apple-based software has similar capabilities. For starters:

·         Decide what size of book you want. (My preference is 6x9, but 5x8 also works well for poetry books.)

·         Set the layout in Word or other word processing file to the actual size you have chosen.

·         Find an easy-to-read font in a style you like, preferably 11 or 12-point type with no flowery flourishes. If, however, you want your text described as “large print,” try a 14-point font.

·         Type each poem flush left on its own page. Poems centered on the page can be harder to read. Also, the lines will be more apt to skew when you upload them to a publishing program. To keep the individual lines of each poem from skewing, press "Enter" and "Shift" at the end of each to go to the next line.

·         At the end of each poem, space down, then click "Enter" and "Ctrl" at the same time. This begins a new page, and keeps each poem on its own page even if you go back later to revise.

·         For a print book, rather than e-book, consider your preferences in pagination, then go to “Insert” on the Word file menu to add a “Header” or “Footer” and “Page Number.” For example, I type the name of my book followed by a comma and the word “page,” then insert “Page Number.”

·         While still in the “Header” or “Footer” mode, go back to “Home” on the menu and place the text and page number where you want them to appear. For example, I like flush right at the top of the page but have used a decorative line at the bottom with the title flush left and the page number spaced across to flush right. 

·         Before the poems begin, set up a title page, copyright page, and dedication page. If you’re unsure what those should look like, leaf through books you have on hand to see what’s typically included. For example, you’ll need to have your name with ©year of publication beside it and the ISBN number somewhere on the copyright page. When self-publishing a book on Kindle, I use whatever ISBN number they assign for free, rather than purchasing my own, which is also an option.

·         If any of your poems have been previously published, add an “Acknowledgements” page. Alphabetize your list of published titles and say where and when they were published. Also, include the names of any people you want to thank.

·         An “About the Poet” page (similar to a short bio) can be added in either the front matter or, better, the back or omitted altogether.

·         After you’ve added the pages mentioned above and set your poems in place, read through the manuscript to see if you like the layout and your arrangement of poems.

·         When you’ve completed all changes for your print book, fill in the “Table of Contents” with the titles of the poems and the page numbers on which they appear. (Sorry, but I haven’t figured out yet how to do this on a e-book where everything changes!)

Your book should now be ready to upload, either as a .doc Word file or file you’ve “Saved As” pdf. Then just follow the instructions on the book publishing site of your choice. I’ve only used Kindle since it’s free and automatically places my book on Amazon. Thankfully, I’ve found it leads me through each step with no problem, which is a big deal as I’m technologically disadvantaged. So, bottom line: If I can do it, I know you can too!


Mary Sayler, ©2019


[NOTE: If you need professional feedback on your poems, contact me via the form on the right side of this page BEFORE you format your book! I'll critique the poems, correct errors in grammar or punctuation, and offer helpful suggestions on 5 pages of poems with the fee of $25 payable to me in U.S. funds via PayPal . Those few pages are usually enough to show any areas of strength or weakness. Then you can apply the suggestions to other poems you've written or those you have yet to write.  This lets you know what to expect from my input and saves you a fee for the full  manuscript, which involves many hours of editorial work. If, however, you still want a response to all the poems in your book or need a final proofing of the manuscript, use the Contact Form on the right to tell me what you need and when. Include your theme, purpose, type of poems, reading audience, and page length with each poem on a separate page.]



Monday, September 9, 2019

The Poetry Editor edits!


For almost six years, The Poetry Editor & Poetry blog has focused on all aspects of poetry with special emphasis on reading poetry, writing poetry, and revising poetry. Those features will remain, Lord willing, on the new website domain, which I hope you'll save as a Fav and pass on to your poetry-writing, poetry-loving friends.

As a poet yourself, however, you might have reached a plateau in your poetry writing or revising that you can’t seem to get beyond alone. If so, you may need input from a poet, poetry editor, or poetry instructor to help you elevate your poems to the next literary level.

In case that’s true for you, I’m boldly writing to remind you I’ve been writing poetry, getting my poems published, editing poetry, judging poetry contests, and instructing other poets for many years – first through my poetry correspondence course then my e-books and other online helps. And, I provide one-on-one professional feedback for the same low fees I’ve had for decades!

A good place to start is with a batch of 5 pages of your poems emailed to me with $25 sent via  PayPalMe. If you have questions or those links don’t work, please let me know!

Thanks. Happy writing!



Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Worse metaphors ever!


A well-known poet once compared ice cream to cold paste to which I say, “Yuck!” Though not very poetic sounding, icy pudding could work as a comparison or maybe creamy snow, but the idea of paste as a delectable dish doesn’t work for anyone beyond the preschool age of paste-tasting.

As an avid reader of the Bible, I find a wealth of workable metaphors in its pages, particularly Psalms, because we cannot picture God without some kind of comparison to present the Unknown as the known.

That thought led me to metaphors frequently used for Jesus as “Lion” and “Lamb” – “Lion” for royalty, dignity, and strength and “Lamb” to represent obedience (in this case, to God the Father), meekness (as opposed to arrogance or self-centered willfulness), a warm covering, a supply of lanolin, and a nurturing source of food. Therefore, the connotations make a reasonably, relevantly good fit for things we want to say about Jesus.

In biblical times, a lamb was also used as a blood sacrifice for sin. So was an ox. So was a goat, but can you imagine those last two metaphors working? Not!

Metaphors need to make fresh connections.
Metaphors need to make sense.

Take the moon, for instance, and think of the ways people have tried to describe it in various stages – like a fingernail moon or the grin of a Cheshire cat. But when I tried to arrive at a new metaphor, I couldn’t think of a thing, so that’s where I began. Then, as I wrote, a poem about the process of finding metaphors for the moon came to me instead:

Sonnet Written Blankly in Stone

The moon says nothing new to me.
Its fullness does not harvest pumpkin
pies nor make a flat dinner plate to hold
a small round of Gouda. It would please
me to offer you a sphere of cheesecake
with blueberries as dark as dusk. If you
insist on paying, collect those opaque
coins from the money tree plant whose
real name I forgot. Or send me a card
of black paper with a white dot to mar
the middle at which each eye must stare
and stare. Everywhere I look, angels roll
away a big round stone as white as a full
moon hurled back to hold a pitch black sky.

Mary Sayler, ©2017, from Lost in Faith


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim



In Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim by Tim Bete, who kindly sent me a copy to review, a collection of accessible poems takes us on a tour of the seeker’s life in Christ. As is common with many of us, the life-themes fall into one of four sections:

Departures such as “After the Fall” and “Where is My Heart?”
Journeys with “Wheels Down” and a “Bus Trip to Pope Francis”
Sojourns into “The Church” and the “Divine Office of the Shovel”
Returns of feeling “Orphaned” or looking “Over My Shoulder”

In the “Preface,” the poet says, “When I read poetry, I often wonder what inspired the poet to use a certain metaphor or phrase. At the end of this book, I’ve included notes that provide a few thoughts on some of the poems.”

The back matter also contains a few thoughts “About the Author,” who happens to be Poetry Editor for the Catholic Poetry Room on the Integrated Catholic Life website and, therefore, undoubtedly reads poems on all levels of spiritual and/or literary quality. In addition, the poet belongs to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, a family of men and women around the world who focus on “being” and, like Mary, pondering or contemplating thoughts of Jesus.

For instance, in “The Word”:

I read the Word
and the Word in my soul
called back – an echo
reverberating;
a heart beating;
and I knew the Word lived.

Besides the faith illustrated in these poems, readers will likely connect with the doubts and honesty expressed, for example, in this last quatrain of “The Overseer”:

Such an amiable God,
who willing watches the mundane
parts of my life – parts that sometimes
don’t interest even me.

Unexpected humor also arises, for example, in “Lost Things,” which opens with these words:

St. Anthony of Lisbon,
patron saint of lost things,
did not answer the prayer
to find my lost youth.

In case you’re not familiar with St. Anthony, who was born in Lisbon, Portugal, the poet included an explanation for “Lost Things” in the “Notes” section at the back of the book. Or, if you’re like me and had heard of St. Anthony as the patron of lost things but didn’t know why, the poet tells us:

“He has this title because a novice who left his community took with him St. Anthony’s Psalter (Book of Psalms). Anthony prayed for the return of the book and eventually the novice rejoined the Franciscan Order, bringing with him Anthony’s book.”

As one who often prays head-on, I’m drawn to this way of praying small for what’s little and lost to be returned and letting God bring largely more than anything asked or imagined.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer

Click to order Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim, paperback edition.

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Find poems to love in anthologies



Every now and then, poets who are ready to step up their level of poetry-writing ask me to recommend poems they might study and emulate. No, not to mimic someone else’s voice or style, but to discover their own preferences and improve their use of technique.

Art students do this all the time. i.e. They typically study and copy the masters in order to find out what works and why. Then, having discovered a wide assortment of useful tools and techniques, they go on to find their own creative methods of working.

Conversely, I’ve found that many poets give little thought to poetry forms, styles, techniques, tips for revision, or precision in their choices of words. Worse, many poets don’t read poems by other poets, which handicaps them without their knowing it as they have few options except for what comes to mind.

Since we have centuries and centuries of beautifully expressed poetry to draw from, you can find all sorts of anthologies that collect poems around a central theme, subject, or form. Also, The Norton Anthology of Poetry aims to put together as many poems in English as possible.

To give you other anthologies I recommend with poems worth studying and enjoying, here’s a list of ones I’ve reviewed in the order shown:




Villanelles anthology 



As publishers send me new copies of poetry books and anthologies to review, I’ll let you know of engaging poems and anthologies I’ve found that connect well with readers - including you and me!

Remember: We're first readers of poetry. Then, Lord willing, we become poets prepared to write poems that other people will want to read.




Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Ballads: The Story Poem Form



Recently a poet asked if I could identify the form she had used in writing a story poem. I wasn’t sure! A first draft with no pattern in mind is not likely to plink onto a page and come out true to form, but that’s okay. That’s even to be expected because traditional poetry usually results, not from writing in form, but from revising lines to fit a particular pattern.

Ideally that form will shape up what’s there. So, the more forms or poetry patterns you become acquainted with, the more options you’ll have as you revise. (Like, why try to reinvent countless centuries of pattern choices?)

The story poem I just mentioned had end-line rhymes and roughly four beats per line. The poet had then divided those lines into groups of four, making her narrative poem a four-beat poem (accentual verse) set in quatrains (four lines per verse.)

Is that a problem? No! That intuitive pattern has frequently been employed by poets, who enjoy playing with words, images, and rhythm. Most often, the resulting quatrains have four beats per line, although some have three or five. But this poem had something more than a regular beat and specific line-breaks. It had story.

When we think of narrative or story poems, book-length epic poetry such as Beowolf might come to mind. However, far shorter narratives can introduce heroes, legends, Bible stories, or personal tales with which readers can relate.

With a little tweaking, quatrains with a 4/4/4/4- beat can be revised to fit a ballad form aka literary ballad aka folk ballad aka hymn ballad, each of which often has an alternating beat of 4/3/4/3 for each quatrain.

If you’d like to know more about the ballad or other form, type the one you want in the Search box on this page. For instance, searching for the word “ballad” should bring up the previous post “Writing a Ballad.

For more in-depth discussions and examples of poetry forms (and free verse tips too), consider the Christian Poet’s Guide to Poetry Writing e-book (formerly my poetry home study course.) Or, make learning super easy and lively with the e-book, the Poetry Dictionary For Children &For Fun -- for yourself and/or creative kids of any age!




Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Poetry titles and Table of Contents


A poet just asked if her poetry book needs a Table of Contents and/or an Index, and I thought this conversation might interest you too.

Whether you publish a book of poems yourself or send the manuscript to a traditional or indie publishing company, yes, you need a Table of Contents (TOC) in the front matter of the book.

Typically, the format for a TOC places the title of the poem on the left side of the page with its corresponding page number on the right – no matter what size the book. If, however, you plan to self-publish, be sure to set the “Page Layout” of your book’s word-processing file to the dimensions you prefer for the actual book. (For me, that’s apt to be 6x8 or 6x9.)

If you plan to submit your poetry manuscript to a poetry book publisher, you can go with the above or stay with a regular typing paper size (8.5x11) before applying pagination. Either way, you need to include the Table of Contents once your book is done.

Indexing comes after the manuscript’s completion too, but a traditional or indie book publisher will make that decision based on the company’s preference.

For self-published works, you can add an index in the back matter of the book if you have several themes. If so, type each key word or phrase as a heading such as “Faith” or “Grief” or “Joy.” Then alphabetize the poems by titles arranged under the most relevant theme or topic. Or, if you don’t want to bother with an Index, you could divide the poems into key themes, group them together in a separate section for each topic, and include that information in the Table of Contents, which is what Cladach Publishing did for my book of poems and contemporary psalms before publishing PRAISE!

Either way, this information helps your readers quickly find the poems they especially want to read again. More important, the list of titles in your Table of Contents will either entice readers or discourage them from buying your book.

For tips on titles, these previous posts may help: