Poetry Formatting: How to Correctly Format Your Book

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

You’ve written, re-written, and fine-tuned your poetry collection. Now it’s time to get it published. The next step you need to consider is formatting.

In poetry, where every word carries weight and every line bears significance, the way a poem is presented on the page can profoundly impact its reception. Proper poetry formatting is not just about aesthetics; it’s about enhancing readability, complementing the poem’s rhythm, and enriching the overall artistic experience for the reader.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of formatting poetry books. We’ll explore essential considerations and offer practical guidance for you in your quest to publish your poems.

How to format your poetry book

One thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t one specific way to format a poetry collection. For example, the poems of E.E. Cummings wouldn’t work if they were formatted the same way the poems of Walt Whitman were, and vice versa. Here are some essential formatting concepts to consider.

Spacing and shaping your poetry

White space is as much a part of poetry as the words themselves. Proper spacing and stanza structure can enhance the visual impact of a poem, guiding the reader’s eye and emphasizing key moments.

If you want help with interior text formatting for your poems (to ensure that they look the way you want them to in both print and in eBook), be sure to hire a professional.

BookBaby’s book formatting solutions ensure that each poem’s layout is optimized for maximum impact, with careful attention to line breaks and spacing to preserve the integrity of the poet’s craft.

Font selection

Your choice of font and text formatting can significantly influence the tone and style of poetry. Whether sleek and modern or elegant and timeless, the right font sets the stage for the reader’s journey through your words.

Here are some essential tips for choosing the right typeface:

  • Ultimately, you want people to look at your poems and start reading them — not to look at your poems and notice the font. Therefore, be sure to avoid anything that calls too much attention to itself. This will simply snatch attention away from your work.
  • To follow on that last point: Avoid novelty fonts at all costs. They’ll just make your work appear amateurish.
  • Pick fonts like Times New Roman that are easy to read both in print and on eReaders.
  • Generally speaking, you want to stick to the classics, or at least modern fonts that have been modeled after the classics.

Some fonts to consider:

Times New Roman is the classic choice. On the plus side, every single word processor and every eReader has it, so once you set it, you know exactly how your text is going to look. On the downside, it’s a bit boring. Then again, because it’s so universal and boring, that can be a strength. By not calling attention to itself, it will allow your poems to speak for themselves.

If you want something that feels just as timeless as Times New Roman but has a bit more personality, go with something like:

  • Baskerville for a clean and classic look
  • Century for something more old-school
  • Palatino that is highly readable

If you want to go the sans-serif route, choose something timeless and unobtrusive like Helvetica or Arial, or if you want something with a bit more personality that’s still readable, go with Gill Sans, Century Gothic, Optima, or Montserrat.

Choosing a title

A good title should intrigue and compel your readers to check out your book. It should also nicely sum up or hint at the overarching theme of your poetry collection, or if you had poems published elsewhere, be named after your best-known poem in the collection.

The table of contents

Don’t forget your book table of contents! You want your readers to be able to easily find their favorite poems of yours.

Page numbering and margins

Adhere to standard practices for page numbering and margin settings to ensure consistency and readability throughout the book.

Incorporating visual elements

Visual elements such as illustrations or photographs can complement and enhance your poetry, adding depth and dimension to the reading experience. Be sure to hire professional photographers or illustrators, as you don’t want your photos to look amateurish.

Special formatting considerations for poetry

Some poems may require special formatting considerations, such as concrete poetry book layout or intricate visual patterns. If you are doing your own formatting, be sure to test your poems on as many eReaders as possible to ensure consistency, but honestly, if you are writing concrete poetry, where the typographical effect of your poetry book layout is integral to the piece, your best bet is to hire a professional, like the pros at BookBaby, for formatting and book design.

How many poems are in a poetry book?

The typical range of poems included in a poetry book can vary widely depending on factors such as length and style of each poem, as well as the collection’s thematic coherence. While some poetry collections may contain a handful of longer, more elaborate poems, others may comprise dozens of shorter pieces. Ultimately, the number of poems in a poetry book is determined by your artistic vision and the theme of your collection.

Choosing the right trim size

The book trim size determines the dimensions of the book and plays a crucial role in its overall look and feel. While most novels are set in US Trade (6” x 9”) trim size, poetry books tend to be smaller, like Digest size (5.5” x 8.5”).

Of course, you can choose a non-traditional size for your poetry collection, too. Consider a Pocket Book (4.25” x 6.87”) if your poems are short, or maybe even a Landscape (12” x 9”) if you want to include photographs or illustrations.

BookBaby offers a range of trim size options, allowing you to tailor your book’s dimensions to suit your poetic vision, whether you prefer a compact volume for intimate reading or a larger format for expansive verse. See our comparison chart about various trim sizes and bonding options.

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Preparing for poetry book publication

Now that you’ve formatted your book, you have a few more steps and considerations before you can send it off for publication.

Proofreading and editing

Professional editing and proofreading are essential steps in preparing any poetry manuscript. It’s important to have your book edited after you have formatted it because any time you are manipulating the text, mistakes can creep in. BookBaby’s book editing services ensure that each poem is polished and error-free, maintaining the integrity of the poet’s voice while enhancing clarity and coherence.

Choosing the right publishing options

These days, poets have a range of publishing options available, from traditional publishing houses to self-publishing platforms. If you are looking to self-publish your poetry book, be sure to check out BookBaby’s self-publishing packages, as they include everything you need to publish and sell your poems all around the world.

Marketing your poetry book

Effective marketing is key to reaching a wider audience and maximizing the impact of a poetry book. BookBaby offers a suite of book marketing services to help give you the boost you need to promote and sell your book.

Bringing your poetry to life

In summary, proper poetry formatting is essential for enhancing the readability, aesthetics, and impact of a poetry book. With BookBaby’s expertise in printing, editing, and formatting services, poets can transform their manuscripts into professionally published works of art, ready to captivate readers and inspire audiences around the world.

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