Standard format for title pages

Yes, I know: title pages seem pretty straightforward, right? Surely, if there is an area where a writer new to submissions may safely proceed on simple common sense, it is the title page.




Believe it or not, the title page of a manuscript tells agents and editors quite a bit about both the book itself and the experience level of the writer. There is information that should be on the title page, and information that shouldn’t; speaking with my professional editing hat on for a moment, virtually every manuscript I see has a non-standard title page, so it is literally the first thing I will correct in a manuscript. I find this tendency sad, because for every ms. I can correct before they are sent to agents and editors, there must be hundreds of thousands that make similar mistakes.


Even sadder, the writers who make mistakes are their title pages are very seldom TOLD what those mistakes are. Their manuscripts are merely rejected on the grounds of unprofessionalism, usually without any comment at all. I do not consider this fair to aspiring writers, but once again, I do not make the rules, alas.


In fact, properly-formatted title pages are rare enough that a good one will make your manuscript (or your excerpt, if an agent asks to see the first chapter or two) shine preeminently competent, like the sole shined piece of silver amidst an otherwise tarnished display. It is well worth your effort, then, to make sure that your title page does not scream: “This writer has never sold a book before!”


In the first place, the title page should be in the same font and point size as the rest of the manuscript – which, as I have pointed out before, should be in 12-point Times, Times New Roman, or Courier. Therefore, your title page should be in 12-point Times, Times New Roman, or Courier. No exceptions, and definitely do not make the title larger than the rest of the text. It may look cool to you, but to professional eyes, it looks rather like a child’s picture book.


“Oh, come on,” I hear some of you saying, “the FONT matters that much? What about the content of the book? What about my platform? What about my brilliant writing? Surely, the typeface pales in comparison to these crucial elements?”


You’re right — it does, PROVIDED you can get an agent or editor to sit down and read your entire submission. Unfortunately, though, this is a business of snap decisions, where impressions are formed very quickly. If the cosmetic elements of your manuscript imply a lack of knowledge of industry norms, your manuscript is entering its first professional once-over with one strike against it. It may be silly, but it’s true.


Most of my clients do not believe me about this until they after they switch, incidentally. Even queries in the proper typefaces tend to be better received. Go ahead and experiment, if you like, sending out one set of queries in Times New Roman and one in Helvetica. Any insider will tell you that the Times New Roman queries are more likely to strike agents (and agents’ assistants) as coming from a well-prepared writer, one who will not need to be walked through every nuance of the publication process to come.


Like so many aspects of the mysterious publishing industry, there is actually more than one way to structure a title page. Two formats are equally acceptable from an unagented writer. (After you sign with an agent, trust me, your agent will tell you how she wants you to format your title page.) The unfortunate technical restrictions of a blog render it impossible for me to show it to you exactly as it should be, but here is the closest approximation my structural limitations will allow:


Format one, which I like to call the Me First, because it renders it as easy as possible for an agent to contact you after falling in love with your work:


Upper left-hand corner:


Your name


First line of your address


Second line of your address


Your phone number


Your e-mail address


Upper right-hand corner:

Book category

Word count


(Skip down 10 lines, then add, centered on the page:)


Your title


(skip a line)




(skip a line)


Your name (or your nom de plume)


There should be NO other information on the title page.


Why, you may be wondering, does the author’s name appear twice on the page in this format? For two reasons: first, in case you are writing under a name other than your own, as many writers choose to do, and second, because the information in the top-left corner is the contact information that permits an agent or editor to acquire the book. Clean and easy.


If you are in doubt about which category your book falls within, read one of my last three postings.


Word count can be approximate — in fact, it looks a bit more professional if it is. This is one of the advantages of working in Times New Roman: in 12-point type, everyone estimates a double-spaced page with one-inch margins in the business at 250 words. If you use this as a guideline, you can’t go wrong.


Do not, under any circumstances, include a quote on the title page. Many authors do this, because they have seen so many published authors use quotes at the openings of their books. Trust me: putting your favorite quote on the title page will not make your work look good.


While the Me First format is perfectly fine, the other standard format, which I like to call the Ultra-professional, is more common in the industry. It most closely replicates what most agents want their authors’ ultimate manuscript title pages to look like:


Upper right corner:


Book category


Word count


(Skip down 12 lines, then add, centered:)




(skip a line)




(skip a line)


Your name (or your nom de plume)


(Skip down 12 lines, then add in the lower right corner:)


Your name


Line 1 of your address


Line 2 of your address


Your telephone number


Your e-mail address


Again, there should be NO other information, just lots of pretty white space. After you sign with an agency, your agent’s contact information will appear where your contact information does.


That’s it, my friends – the only two options you have, if you want your title page to look like the bigwigs’ do. Try formatting yours accordingly, and see if your work is not treated with greater respect!


Having trouble picturing this? Completely understandable. You’ll find visual examples here. Keep up the good work!


— Anne Mini


4 Replies to “Standard format for title pages”

  1. Question: what do the numbers mean at the bottom of the title page for a book that’s been published? i.e. 1o 9 8 7

  2. I’m a trifle confused by the question, Jon. Do you mean the numbers on the BACK of the title page? If so, which set of numbers?

  3. The short answer is yes, Jocelynn. You’ll find page-shot examples in this post.

    And thank you, by the way, for reminding me that I should post a link on this post to those examples. I didn’t use illustrations for the first few years.

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