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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:

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