Book marketing 101: a professional-looking title page, part III

Well, so much for predicting how tired I would be: the very day after I said I didn’t want to abandon you all in mid-title page, I found myself too wiped out to do my promised next post on title pages. Mea culpa — but I think I shall be taking the next few days off from posting, until I figure out how to integrate it with the masses of sleep I seem to need at the moment.

Let me move on to the second style of title page quickly, though, while I am fresh from a nap.

Last time, I mentioned that there were two formats commonly used in professional title pages. The one I showed you last time, what I like to call the Me First, is actually rather more common in submissions to agents than submissions from agents to editors, but it is certainly acceptable.

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


Elegant, isn’t it? And yet very market-oriented, because all of the requisite information is so very easy to find. Here is a downloadable version of the same, for those of you who would prefer to have it on hand.

I probably don’t need to walk through how to construct this little gem, but as my long-term readers know, I’m a great believer in making directions as straightforward as possible. I like them to be easy to follow in the ten minutes after an agent has said, “My God, I love your premise! Provide me with the manuscript instantly!” Call me zany, but on that happy day, I suspect that you’re going to have a lot on your mind.

So here’s how to put this little gem together. Set up a page with the usual standard format for manuscripts defaults — 1-inch margins all around, 12-point Times, Times New Roman, or Courier — then type in the upper right-hand corner:

Book category (If you’re unclear on what this is, are tempted to vacillate between several, or resent having to categorize your complex book at all, believe me, I sympathize — but please see the BOOK CATEGORIES category at right with all possible speed.)

Estimated word count (If you’re unclear on the hows and whys of estimation, please see the WORD COUNT category at right.)

Skip down 12 lines, then add, centered on the page:
Your title
(Skip a line)
(Skip a line)
Your name (or your nom de plume)

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

Your real name
Line 1 of your address
Line 2 of your address
Your telephone number
Your e-mail address

As you may see from the example, it looks nifty if the information in the top section and the information in the bottom one share the same left margin. Since some addresses are longer than others, using this format results in that left margin’s being set at different points on the page for different manuscripts. While Flaubert’s address is short, Edith Wharton’s is not, producing a cosmetically altered title page:


Again, there should be NO other information on the title page, just lots and lots of pretty, 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 two primary options you have, if you want your title page to look like the bigwigs’ do. And believe me, you do. Try formatting yours accordingly, and see if your work is not treated with greater respect!

After my last post, forward-thinking reader Christa anticipated my next point, so I have already covered the issue of whether you should include a title page in an e-mailed submission. Since the comments are less easily searched than the text of my posts, I’m going to go over the logic a bit here as well.

The answer, in case you were wondering, is yes — it is an excellent idea to include a title page with an e-submission. It’s an even better idea to include it as PART of the manuscript attachment, rather than as a separate attachment.

A bit perplexed? You’re not alone. Let me deal with the whys first, then the hows.

As Christa rightly points out, an agent who sends you an e-mail to ask for a full or partial manuscript, like one who calls after reading your first 50 pages to ask for the rest of the book, obviously has your contact information already. So why repeat it by sending a title page?

The first reason — and not the least significant, in an industry that values uniformity of format — is that every professional title page includes this information. It’s what agents and editors expect to see, and believe me, any agent who accepts e-queries receives enough e-mail in a day to render the prospect of scrolling through those received a few weeks ago a Herculean task. Make it easy for her to contact you, and she’s more likely to do it.

Second, even if the agent or screener scrupulously noted all of your contact information from your query AND filed away your e-mail address for future reference, agencies are very busy places. Haven’t you ever accidentally deleted an e-mail you intended to save?

I tremble to mention this, but most of the agents of my acquaintance who’ve been in the game for a while have at least one horror story about reading a terrific piece of writing, jumping up to show it to someone else in the office — and when they’ve returned, not being able to find the mystery author’s contact information.

Don’t let them tell a story like this about you: Millicent is unlikely to scroll through 700 e-mails to track down even the most captivating author’s contact information. And even if an agent asks for an e-mailed submission, he will not necessarily read all of it on screen — once it’s printed out, it’s as far from the e-mail that sent it as if it had come by regular mail.

Besides, do you really want to begin your relationship with the agent of your dreams (or editor of your passions) by deviating from standard format, even virtually? As every successful civil disobedient knows, you are generally better off politely meeting expectations in matters of little moment, so you may save your deviations for the things that really matter.

As Flaubert famously advised writers, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Okay, so he wasn’t talking about title pages. But the same principle applies here: a title page — or lack thereof — does make a strong statement about the professionalism of the manuscript, regardless of context.

I wouldn’t advise sending the title page as a separate attachment, though: because viruses can be spread through attachments, folks in the industry tend not to open attachments they did not specifically ask to see. Instead, insert the title page at the beginning of your manuscript file.

Do I see a raised hand or twelve out there? “But Anne,” I hear some quick-on-the-draw readers cry, “won’t including it in the document make the title page look wrong? Won’t it automatically have a slug line, and won’t including it mess up my pagination?”

Good questions, all, but these outcomes are relatively easy to avoid in Word. To prevent a slug line’s appearing on the title page, insert the title page into the document, then go to the Format menu and select Document, then Layout. There should be an option there called “Different First Page.” If you select that, you can enter a different header and footer for the first page of the document, without disturbing the slug line you will want to appear on every other page.

Don’t include a slug line (AUTHOR’S LAST NAME/TITLE/#) on the title page, or a page number. Just leave the header and footer blank.

To ensure that the first page of text (which will be page 2 of the document, right?) is numbered as page 1, you will need to designate the title page as 0. In Word, you do this by going to the View menu, selecting Header and Footer, then Page Number Format.

While I’m on the subject of formatting, and now that I know how to insert snapshots of pages into this blog, I think that next time, I shall take reader Dave’s excellent suggestion and show you what a page of text in standard format looks like. I have long been yearning to show how to format the first page of a chapter correctly.

And that’s the kind of longing I have when I’m NOT feverish; there’s no accounting for taste, eh? Speaking of which, my couch is calling me again, so I am signing off for today. Keep up the good work!

17 Replies to “Book marketing 101: a professional-looking title page, part III”

  1. Is it permissible to “right justify” the category/word count and contact information on the right side of the page? This is the one big difference I see between my title page and what you show in the examples. Somehow, from earlier, written descriptions, that is how I envisioned it. Let me know the next time you happen to be awake. (Get well soon!)

    1. It’s not usually done that way, Dave, but I can see how you got that impression. It wouldn’t look right to a professional reader’s eyes, though, An agent would make you change it so that the two pieces of information shared a left margin, but since the info was in basically the right place on the page, it probably hasn’t been doing your submissions much harm.

  2. Word count – is 65,000 wds. too short. I could stretch but I believe it would feel stretched. I’ve seen many short novels lately, is it okay now??
    Small point here Anne but when we search, such as search word count, many days of info are posted. Much reading is required whereas if it were possible to highlight the searching topic – well …
    Just a thought, not a criticism. Be well, Gordon.

    1. Gordon, if you know how to set the highlighting up for the Perfessor, I’m sure she would consider adding this feature -AFTER SHE RECOVERS from this very taxing illness.

      1. If I knew I wouldn’t have asked. If my query was untoward due to Anne’s unfortunate illness, I apologize. Are you retired militay by any chance Tom?

        1. I would appreciate any insight on how to do that, Gordon; I do not know if it is possible.

          The bulk within each category is a concern I’ve heard before. I think it’s inherent to the nature of a blog, which is by definition cumulative. It’s kind of hard to pick one post out of so many and cry, “Yes! This is the Platonic post on word count, and they should read no other!”

          Even if I could, there’s a strong probability that the later posts (which come up first in the category) would be the strongest, as I revisit topics after I’ve had the benefit of feedback from readers. However, later posts on a topic tend to be longer, for precisely that reason — which only adds to the problem you mention.

          I have been trying in recent months to add more categories to the mix, so I may freeze some to new entries. I think that’s been working pretty well, but at this point, I’m up to 88 categories! I’m not sure how many more I can add without making it too overwhelming to new readers (as some comments indicate that it already starting to be).

  3. Great instructions, Anne, thanks. Like Dave, I was right justifying the contact information. I might just add that in my version of MS Word (2003) in order to prevent the header from appearing on the title page go to file, page, setup, layout tab, different first page.

  4. First, I would like to wish you a speedy recovery.

    One simple question for nonfiction proposals that you might have already answered–using word, how do you have your title page, your proposal’s table of contents page, then start numbering with page one?

    I was able to do it one time, and now I can’t remember how I actually got that numbering to work properly.

    I appreciate your help.

    1. It seems to me that I used to know a way to do this, too, Emily, but my brain is working rather more slowly than usual at the moment. So until I can recall, I’ll pass along the simplest way: don’t include the table of contents in the proposal document; have it be a separate document, so you can print it up and slip it into the final proposal.

      Yes, it would be nice to have everything in the same document, but actually, it’s not very common for agents to submit book proposals to editors via e-mail, anyway, because of the problem of press clippings. (Which often need to be separate attachments.)

      If you are asked to submit electronically, I would just leave the table of contents for the proposal out of the document. Personally, I’ve never seen an e-mailed proposal that has included one, probably because in a Word file, it’s easier use the Find function than to scroll ahead, anyway.

    2. Emily,

      In case you’re still trying to put this into one Word document (which is what I do), here’s how you do it: Anne must be feeling really bad, because she’s told me how to do this before.

      Hope you feel better soon, Anne!


  5. I may have asked this or something similar once before. When we are to skip down “12 lines,” are we speaking of single or double spaced lines? Does the “12″ include the two lines we have used for catagory and word count? I ask because if I do it that way, the entire title page is on the upper 3/4ths of the page, with about 10 lines left. If I double space, the title page will end up as two pages. Would it be better to say that the category and word count go on the top two lines, in the upper right hand corner, the contact information goes on the bottom most five lines in the lower right hand corner, and the title and author (double spaced) are centered, left to right and top to bottom, in the center of the page? That is certainly the impression I get from the written description of the ULTRA-PRO title page, and from your examples, it appears to be true. But skipping down 12 lines just doesn’t work for me. If you add all the used and skipped lines up, it only comes out to 37, and single spaced (with 1 inch margins) I have 47 lines to a page.

    A final item you don’t mention in the posts but show in the examples is the inclusion of the word “contact,” 2 lines above that information. Is it required?

    Hope you are feeling better!

    1. I think you are overthinking this a little, Dave — the goal here is not to fill the entire page, but to make the title page look professional. If you can make yours look like the samples, I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s not as though anyone in the industry is going to take a ruler to see if you actually got your last line precisely an inch above the bottom of the page.

      To answer your specific questions, though, I have been using the term “line” in the sense that it would be used on a typewriter: single. (I didn’t mention this specifically, because I thought that the visual examples made that pretty clear. 12 double-spaced lines would have been most of a printed page.)

      The contact information does not need to be at the absolute bottom of the page, although I think it looks better that way. Your suggestion for rewording would work if the address happened to be precisely the number of lines used in the examples, but for addresses outside the United States, there is often an extra line or two — as indeed, there was for the Edith Wharton example here.

      The contact line is not required — but as it would be a title page for a book represented by an agent (where, obviously, the contact person would not be the author), it just looks a trifle more professional.

      But again, if you can make it look basically right and include all of the necessary information, that’s what counts.

      1. I sure didn’t mean to overthink this. Usually I don’t think enough on certain matters. I was pretty sure you meant single spaced lines. I was no doubt wondering if the exact number of lines skipped was more important than the over all appearance. And yes, now that I have changed from “right justify” for the right hand information, my title page(s) look exactly like the examples.


  6. Anne,
    This bout of “mono” must really have you under the weather, it now being a good two weeks since you’ve posted. I do hope that you are getting the rest you need and that you are progressing to eventual recovery.

    I do have one question for you to consider when you are back to posting, and when you are delving in to a related subject. The question is this. Many stories are divided into several parts, each with a number of chapters. How does an author indicate “parts” in a manuscript? Or is that strictly a publisher’s decision?

    I’d also like to point out, for those contemplating sending a manuscript somewhere, that recently in Wal-Mart I saw a “document” mailer. It’s a fold and snap together box, length and width just fractions of an inch bigger than the size of standard paper. It’s also a little over two inches deep, and should be able to hold at least one complete manuscript.
    Get well soon,

  7. Anne,

    Hope you are taking care of yourself and while you are resting, good things are moving along with your projects.

    I’m getting ready for Surrey so I’m looking through old posts to see I have all my materials in order for that fun weekend. Maybe I’ll get a bite this time.

    Take care.

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