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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.]

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