Yesterday, I waxed long, if not precisely eloquent, about what a difference a professional-looking title page can make to a submission or contest entry. I hit this point pretty hard, because I know from experience as both a freelance editor and a contest judge that many, many talented aspiring writers simply assume that they don’t need a title page — a misconception that definitely costs them presentation points.
So where do these sterling souls tend to place the title page information, such as contact information and the book’s title? On page 1 of the text, where one might expect to find it in a short story submitted to a literary magazine.
Trust me, this is not where a professional reader is going to expect to find this information in a manuscript — and in many contests, including requested information such as genre and target audience on the first page of the text, rather than on a title page, can actually get an entry disqualified.
(To address the most common reason contest entrants misplace this information: don’t worry about the title page’s adding to your page count; it is not included in the page total. In every type of manuscript, pagination begins on the first page of TEXT, not on the title page.)
In a submission to an agency or publishing house, a professional reader will expect to see pieces of information on the title page: title, author’s name (or nom de plume), book category, word count (estimated), and contact information. If an author has an agent, the agent’s contact information will appear on the title page, but for your garden-variety submission, the contact info will be the writer’s.
As I mentioned yesterday, it really is to your advantage to arrange your contact information precisely where an agent or editor expects to find it. You want to make it as easy as humanly possible for them to say yes to you, right?
That being said, as in so many aspects of the 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 which one she prefers.)
I like to call Format #1 the Me First, because it renders it as easy as possible for an agent to contact you after falling in love with your work. It’s the less common of the two at agencies, and it’s a trifle spare, compared to most title pages. Lots and lots of blank page space, which is catnip to writers. We long to fill it. But resist that urge:
For those who would like to have their very own copies, to see the formatting up close, here is a downloadable version. (Many thanks to clever reader Chris for suggesting this, and brilliant webmaster Brian for teaching me how.)
And here are the step-by-step directions. Standard format restrictions apply, so 1-inch margins, please, as well as 12-point type, and do use the same typeface as you used in your manuscript. However, unlike every other page of the text, the title page should neither have a slug line nor be numbered. As I mentioned above, it is not included in either the page or the word count.
In the upper left-hand corner, list:
Your phone number
Your e-mail address.
In the upper right-hand corner, list:
The book category (see how important it is to be up front about it? It’s the very top of the title page!)
Estimated word count.
Skip down 10 lines, then add, centered on the page:
(Skip a line)
(Skip a line)
Your name (or your nom de plume)
There should be NO other information on the title page in Format #1. Luxuriate in all of that lovely, lovely white space.
Why, you may be wondering, does the author’s name appear twice on the page? For two reasons: first, in case you are writing under a name other than your own, as many writers choose to do. It’s quite common for writers to use only their pseudonyms in submissions — which can cause some real confusion when a fictional person’s name appears on under the signature line on a contract.
Standard format eliminates any possible confusion by clearly delineating between the name the writer wishes to use on the title page (which appears, straightforwardly enough, under the title) and the one the writer would like to see on royalty checks (listed under the contact information).
(And no, for those of you who have been asking about it, Anne Mini is not a nom de plume, but the name on my birth certificate, believe it or not. My parents were so literarily-oriented that my father demanded to be led to a typewriter before they settled on a name, to see how each of the top contenders would look in print. The better to grace future dust jackets, my dear. And yes, there is a nonplused nurse out there somewhere who can swear that this is true.)
The second reason that the writer’s name appears twice on the title page is, as I mentioned above, to make it as easy as possible for the agent or editor to acquire the book. And that, in case you were wondering, is one reason that it is so very easy for the major US publishing houses to enforce their no-unsolicited-submissions-from-unagented-writers rule: the merest glance at the contact information will tell an editorial assistant instantly whether there is an agent involved.
Do not, under any circumstances, include a quote on the title page — and I wouldn’t recommend doing it on the first page of your manuscript, either. Many authors do this, because they have seen so many published authors use quotes at the openings of their books, to situate themselves amongst the pantheon of the published — and because, let’s face it, most of us read widely enough that we’ve collected a few pithy sayings along the way.
Trust me, the aptness of your quote selection isn’t going to wow the pros, for the very simple reason that 99.8% of them will just skip over it. They ask for submissions to read your writing, after all, not other people’s.
If you must use a quote at the opening of the book, center it on an unnumbered separate page that follows the title page. Or, better still, wait until after the book has been acquired by an editor, then have a heart-to-heart about it.
And remember, if you want to use a lyric from a song that is not yet in the public domain, it is generally the author’s responsibility to get permission to use it — and while for other writing, a quote of less than 50 consecutive words is considered fair use, ANY excerpt from an owned song usually requires specific permission, at least in North America. Contact the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) for assistance in making such requests.
Tomorrow, I shall go through the other title page style, which is my preferred method, the Ultra-Professional.
On a personal note, my posts will probably be shorter than usual in the weeks to come, and I may not be posting as often: I’ve recently found out that I have come down with mono, a rather nasty condition that apparently requires sleeping about twice as much as I usually do. The recovery time is rather lengthy — but I wasn’t about to abandon you all in mid-title page, was I?
So bear with me, please, if my responses are a bit slower than usual in the near future — and keep up the good work!