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Tips on Formatting Poetry Books

Lena Kovadlo is a writer for various content-sharing websites. She's an author of 12 books and helps other authors publish theirs.

Learn how to format your poetry nicely!

Learn how to format your poetry nicely!

Many of us who write poetry dream of publishing our very own poetry books. When doing so the best route to go is to self-publish as chances of publishing poetry books with traditional publishers are slim to none. And those publishing companies that will want to publish our poetry books usually end up being "vanity press" publishers charging us a hefty fee to publish our books with them, which is not right and should be avoided. When it comes to publishing poetry books, self-publishing is really the best way to go.

When you publish your poetry book, it is not enough to simply gather all your poems in a Microsoft Word document and publish them as is. You have to take your time and format the manuscript so it is presentable and attractive to the reader. Below are some tips on how to format your poetry manuscript before publishing your poetry book.

Break Up Your Book Into Sections and Title Them

If your poetry book focuses on only one topic then you don't need to break it up into sections but you may find that you can still break it up into sections if there are subtopics in your book. For example, if your book focuses on love and heartbreak you can have one section on love and another section on heartbreak. You don't have to do this though since love is a common theme in all of them.

If your poetry book has a collection of poems on different topics then it is best to break it up into sections where each section focuses on a specific topic. For example, if you have written lots of poems on nature, love, and loss you can have three sections in your book—nature section, love section, loss section. This will make your book more organized, more professional, and easier to follow. If you find that you have some poems on certain topics that don't fit into your existing sections you can group them together in a miscellaneous section.

Once you've broken up your poems into sections give each of your sections a title. Be creative when you do this. Don't just call your section Love Poems or Nature Poems, etc. Come up with a creative, descriptive name for it. Think of a title you would give a specific section in your book had it been its own book and use the title you come up with. For instance, you can name your love section Wings of Love and your nature section Nature's Hidden Treasures. Creative, descriptive titles, such as the ones I've provided as an example, sound much better and definitely will make the reader turn the page.

Page Breaks Are a Must!

Once you have gathered all of your poetry into one Word document (manuscript) make sure that each poem is on its own page. If you jumble the poems together on one page the book will look sloppy, unprofessional, and hard to follow.

To have every poem on its own page you have to insert a page break after each poem. Simply hitting the return or enter key until the next poem moves to a new page can work as well but it is not a good idea. Doing this not only wastes your time but it also doesn't guarantee that the poem will stay in place exactly as you want it to. Inserting a page break is the best way to go.

Adding a Horizontal Line

Instead of just having your poems left aligned on a page with a blank white background, which is quite unattractive and even boring, consider centering the poems (vertically and horizontally) on the page and then adding some decorations to it. You can add a nice horizontal line under the poem's title, which will automatically liven up the page. But don't just add a plain thin black line. Add a line that really pops and stands out. Microsoft Word has many different lines you can choose from.

Below is an example of a horizontal line you can use.

Adding a horizontal line after a poem's title.

Adding a horizontal line after a poem's title.

Adding Images to Your Poetry

You can add little flowers, butterflies, and/or birds around the sides of the page or any other small images that will make the page come alive. You can also add photographs or images that fit with the content of the poem. If you'd like you can even have your poem on an image. This will require you to have and know how to use a photo editing or graphic design software. It is not that hard to master.

Remember when choosing images for your poetry—whether you plan to place your poem on an image or simply add an image next to the poem—make sure that you are allowed to use it if it's not yours so that you don't run into copyright infringement issues. The best thing to do is to use your own images/photographs. You don't have to worry about copyright infringement and your work will be even more personal.

If you don't have your own images on hand there are plenty of photographs you can take with your camera. Just go outside and look around you. Something will surely catch your eye that may fit your poem. And perhaps something inside your house or someone else's home may work as well. Just open up your eyes to everything that surrounds you and you'll surely find something that will go along with your poem soon enough.

Below is an example of a poem with an image on the page.

Adding images to your poetry.

Adding images to your poetry.

Turning Your Poems Into Shape Poetry

Another great thing you can do when formatting your poetry manuscript is to turn your poems into shape poetry. Instead of having your poems be left-aligned or center-aligned on the page use the lines in your stanza to create shapes or an interesting design. Be creative here but make sure that the shape you create actually complements the poem. There is a lot that you can do here if you set your mind to it and let your creative side shine through.

Below are a few simple examples of formatting your lines to create shape poetry.

Turning your poems into shape poetry.

Turning your poems into shape poetry.

Combining the Above Formatting Tips

You can combine all the things above when formatting your poetry manuscript. That is you can turn your poetry into shape poetry, add a horizontal line after your poem title, and add an image to the poem. And while you are at it you can add a wavy line on both sides of your page numbers and change your text font to something interesting like Tempus Sans for instance.

Below is an example of all this formatting.

A combination of different formatting ideas.

A combination of different formatting ideas.

Adding Color to Your Poetry Pages

Another way you can format your poetry manuscript is to add color to your poetry pages. You can have your font be a color other than black and your images be colorful rather than just black and white. This will liven up your poetry book even more but the downside is that creating a poetry book that's in color probably will cost more to manufacture and therefore will result in higher book prices. So before you do your book in color make sure that the manufacturing cost is not too high so that you can keep book prices reasonable while still making a good enough profit per book sale.

Creating the Perfect Book Cover

Creating a book cover for your poetry book is important since that is the first thing that readers see before they even pick up the book and start reading. Your image has to be unique and stand out. Make sure that your book cover attracts the eye before you publish your book. If you are making your own book cover ask others for feedback. If they love it and you love it too then go ahead and publish your book. If you are having doubts about the book cover then work on it some more. If you are not satisfied with your book cover then chances are that the book cover won't attract your readers and your book will sit idle on the online shelf.

Self-Publishing companies, such as lulu (lulu.com) for example, have a gallery of images or cover templates you can use for your book cover. While the images are great and may fit your poetry book chances are that someone else has already used that image for his/her book or will use it in the future, making your book cover not unique. So use your own image(s) for the book cover. If art is not your strong suite don't hesitate to ask your friends or people you know for help. You can even hire a professional to do a book cover for you but the fee could be rather pricey so be sure you are willing to lash out big bucks for your cover.

You shouldn't have a problem doing your own book cover. All you need is the right image. If you stay attuned to your surroundings you are sure to find something that will make a great image for your book cover that will stand out among a sea of online books.

I Wish You Luck!

I wish you luck in publishing your poetry book and hope that you have found my tips useful in some way.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: When formatting a poetry book of 14-line sonnets, where on the page should the sonnet appear? How far down the page? Centered? Right justified? Please assume title and underscore but no artwork or shaping.

Answer: Usually, I prefer to vertically and horizontally center poems on a page. That's what I would do with the sonnets. But it's really a preference of the poet how it's done. There is no right or wrong way to do it in my opinion.

Question: When formatting a book of poetry, what do you think about having poems only on one side of the page, versus on both sides of the page?

Answer: I would utilize all pages for the poems. No reason to have blank pages between poems.

Question: How can I create an even flow of a poetry book that has multiple groups of poems on various topics?

Answer: I would break up the book into sections, each section featuring poetry on a specific topic.

© 2012 Lena Kovadlo

Comments

Barbara Lewter-Speller on May 26, 2020:

Thank you for your comments, they were so very helpful. I'll come back and let you know how my book turns out.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on June 21, 2019:

It is better to have one poem per page. If you have very short poems (haiku, senryu, limericks) you may want to have more than one per page to make the book a bit smaller than it would be if all were on their own page. But otherwise, one per page looks much better.

Farida Syed on June 20, 2019:

What format is used when one poem takes up half a page while others cover 2 1/2 pages. Will a short poem take up one page or can another poem begin below?

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on December 15, 2018:

If you self-published it you can always re-publish, no? Or at least publish a second edition...

Celine on December 14, 2018:

I recently self published my first poetry book, and I wish had seen your article before.. Now I'm feeling like I could've done way better :(

Mark Tulin from Santa Barbara, California on October 16, 2017:

Thanks for the advice.

Sonia Sylart from UK on October 11, 2017:

I will certainly be bearing all this in mind in the near future - both interesting and doable. Thank you for sharing your knowledge in this area.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on December 05, 2013:

ajwrites57 - Thank you for commenting. Glad you find it helpful as that is my goal here.

AJ Long from Pennsylvania on December 05, 2013:

Interesting tips and helpful! Thanks lovebuglena!

nicolaward on September 29, 2012:

Very helpful and useful. Thank you.

Lena Kovadlo (author) from Staten Island, NY on September 28, 2012:

I thought it would be useful and beneficial for others to share this... And I hope that's the case.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on September 26, 2012:

Voted up and useful. Thanks for this very informative and useful hub. Many great tips and images to go by. Been thinking of doing up a poetry book. Passing this on.

rauffray from BC, Canada on September 25, 2012:

More great advice, Lena; one can tell you've done this and it is kind of you to share. You really are great at these hubs.

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