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Many poets dream of one day publishing a full collection of poetry, whether it’s a traditionally published best seller or a self-published manuscript shared with family and friends. But before you try to get your poetry book published, there are some important first steps you’ll need to take.
Whether you’re submitting your poetry collection or preparing to self-publish, here are some essential elements your poetry manuscript should have. As always, when there’s a question of proper formatting, follow the specific guidelines of the publisher or company in question.
Title: You might have a title in mind for your poetry collection before you even start compiling poems, or you might want to lay out your content and choose a title based on the poems you’ve included. Either method is fine, as long as you decide on your title before you approach a publisher.
Author Name: This might seem obvious, but if you’ve ever used a pen name when publishing individual poems, keep in mind that potential buyers are more likely to purchase your book if they recognize the name of the author.
Check With Your Publisher: If you are submitting your poetry collection to a contest or publisher, you probably don’t need to worry about copyright. If you are working with a traditional publisher, the publisher will most likely take care of copyright registration for you.
But if you’re self-publishing, this can be a tricky issue. Some self-publishing companies specify that they cannot be named the publisher in the manuscript. If you use your own ISBN (see more on that below), you’ll actually be the publisher. If you use the self-publishing company’s free or discounted ISBN, that company’s publishing imprint will be the publisher of record.
Publication Date: If you’re self-publishing, include the month and year that you publish your book. You won’t know this at the onset of your journey, of course, but remember to update before publishing.
ISBN: The ISBN is an important tracking number that identifies your published book. If you self-publish, we strongly recommend purchasing your own ISBN from Bowker (the only direct source for ISBNs), rather than accepting a free or discounted ISBN from the company producing your book. Check out the Bowker website to read more about this issue and decide what’s right for you.
NOTE: If you’re submitting for consideration at a traditional press, you don’t need to reserve your ISBN in advance.
Saying Thanks: Whom do you want to thank for the part they played in your journey? You’ll want these acknowledgments to be well-written and not leave anyone out, so be sure to give this a lot of thought. That being said, this page isn’t mandatory, so you can skip this step if you choose.
Important Note: Remember to credit the literary journal that first published each poem, if applicable. Create a page of credits at the beginning of the book, outlining where each poem was first published.
Table Of Contents
Arranging your table of contents might seem like a quick step, but we encourage you to think carefully about this “big picture” view of your manuscript. It’s much easier to move things around in your word processing program than it is to swap poems from one page to another once you’re further along in the publishing process.
The order in which your poems are read is an important part of the overall experience. Be sure to consider how readers will react to the presentation. Do you want people to move through a steady emotional progression, or experience constantly shifting moods? If each of your poems tells part of a larger story, they should be in the proper sequence. Or, if you have several related poems, you might want to group your poems into sections by topic. The more you experiment, the more you’ll see your vision come to life.
About The Author
Tell your readers a little about yourself, and include a professional photo if you like. This bit of information (usually a short paragraph) can be modified from your cover letter bio.
To see formatting examples, check out one of your favorite poetry books at home. Or you can browse some of your favorite titles on Amazon.com and use the “Look Inside” feature to see the title page, copyright page, and table of contents.
Be careful, do your homework, and be sure to review your final poetry collection many times. Then, ask others to review it for a second opinion. And don’t forget to enjoy the process—you’re publishing a book!
Photo by Erin M