Self-Publishing Basics: The Title Page

by | Feb 1, 2010

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.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit