Self-Publishing Basics: The Title Page

by Joel Friedlander on February 1, 2010 · 15 comments

In an earlier post about the parts of a book, I briefly discussed the title page:

Title page—Announces the title, subtitle, author and publisher of the book. Other information that may be found on the title page can include the publisher’s location, the year of publication, or descriptive text about the book. Illustrations are also common on title pages.

But title pages are more than a dry listing of facts. They are commonly the most decorative display page in a book, and are often used as the only location really suitable for expressions of design and graphics, since the rest of the book is devoted to transmitting the thoughts of the author.

Some consider the title page one of the least important parts of the frontmatter. This may be because the first printed books did not have title pages. Typically, the text would begin on the first page, and books were identified by their first words, rather than by a separate title.

Here are elements that are found on the title page:

  • Full title of the book
  • Subtitle, if any
  • Author’s name
  • Editor’s name, in the case of anthologies or compilations
  • Translator’s name, for works originally in a different language
  • Illustrator or photographer’s name, for illustrated books
  • Number of the edition, in the case of revised editions
  • Series notice, if part of a series
  • Name and location of publisher
  • Year of publication

Setting the tone for the book

Stay by Moriah Jovan

Click to enlarge

But title pages have often been the canvas on which authors and book designers have painted a picture of what is to come in the body of the work. Here’s a title page from Mariah Jovan’s Stay, designed by the author.

Here we see all the required elements of title, author, note that the work is part of a series, publisher name and location. In addition, the typography helps to tie the cover and the interior together. The designer has also given this page a subtle resonance with the cover by “ghosting” the image of the buildings in the background. This lends it a very atmospheric quality, like a fine perfume.

Following it is a different style of title page, from the Chicago Manual of Style. This is a lovely and modern typographic design that emphasizes the fact that the Manual is updated regularly:
Chicago manual of style

Click to enlarge

All the same elements are present, but used in a completely different way. The large number “15” in the background is critical to regular users of the Chicago Manual, since the most recent version is usually preferred. This allows the book to be instantly identified as the 15th edition.

It’s Your Title Page—Make the Most of It

I’m going to collect some title pages from different eras and different design philosophies for a future post. But you can see already that, when it comes to title pages, you have a lot of leeway for creativity. If you use the same type fonts that are used for the title on the cover, and the text of the interior, you will help integrate the various parts of the book, making for a more harmonious reading experience.

But if you’ve got illustrations, artwork for your cover, or an idea of a bold typographic design, this is the place to use it.

Takeaway: As long as your title page conveys basic and necessary information, it can be an opportunity to set a visual tone for your book. Be creative.

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    { 11 comments… read them below or add one }

    Don Darkes October 14, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Aha. The difference between plagiarism and research is with plagiarism you steal the ideas of one author, with research you steal the ideas of many. This page gave me a lot of great ideas, from many different sources- so I guess it qualifies as research and I can therefore use them! Thank you. and well done – some great ideas.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander October 14, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Love that quote, Don, “research” away.

    Reply

    Marie Miller April 5, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Just want to thank you Joel for all the wonderful helpful info that you submit to us….you are a gem… am reading thru and utilizing what pertains to my needs at the moment…

    Reply

    Steph January 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Just to know how I cite the name and year of publication from books and journals

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Steph, the resource I use to figure out how to cite sources is the Chicago Manual of Style. Luckily, it’s now available online at http://www.ChicagoManualofStyle.org

    Reply

    C. JoyBell C. June 15, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Joel,

    I just discovered your blog today, through clicking a link in an email sent to me by CreateSpace. I’ve been browsing through some of your articles and I just wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude for you, for what you do, letting us in on all these magnificent secrets! Thank you so much, Joel! With the use of your blog, I can educate myself!

    C. JoyBell C.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I’m really please you’re getting something from these article, thanks for the feedback!

    Reply

    Joel February 6, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Hey Moriah, love that avatar! Your title page was lovely, don’t you think? I liked the atmospheric effect. You’re pretty good, you know. Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply

    Moriah Jovan February 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Hey! RJ sent me the link today. I’m famous! Or infamous.

    Thanks so much, Joel. I got the idea when I was re-reading the Little House books to cram as much nuance into Vanessa as I could. I wanted Vanessa’s Whittaker House counterpart to Eric’s Missouri state Capitol building. :)

    Wow again and thanks again!!!

    Reply

    Joel February 1, 2010 at 7:19 am

    RJ, you’re welcome. “Stay” definitely looks intriguing. I’m really glad you and Mariah have published your own books. Why deny readers the pleasure? Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply

    RJ Keller February 1, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Thanks for this!

    (BTW, I enjoyed “Stay” very much.)

    Reply

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