To the Old Man Working at Starbucks

You sort of stand out. Most Starbucks employees are pink-haired, nose-ringed youngsters happy to have a first job that isn’t sitting behind a desk. I can say this because my daughter used to work as a shift-manager at a Starbucks right out of college. She was not pink-haired and nose-ringed, but she was young and happy to have a job that wasn’t behind a desk. She loved that job, although a marriage and three daughters later, she has moved on to—you guessed it—a job behind a desk.

But you, sir, you’re tall and grey-haired with glasses. You’re very distinguished looking. You have on the green apron and the headset. I’m at the cash register getting my chai and watching you heat up my blueberry scone. You’re staring into the microwave window as the scone circles. There’s a lag in the activity, a rare quiet moment for you in the day of busy baristas. You’re looking in that window, but you’re not seeing anything.

Image courtesy of Annie’s Eats, Flickr

Why are you here amongst these young bouncy extroverts? Do you have this job because you have to or because you want to?

Is this a job to get you out of the house because a beloved wife passed away and being alone at home all day is just too much?

Is this a job to give you some money because social security just isn’t enough to live on?

Did you get hammered in the stock market? Did your mortgage get under water? Is the economy taking such a hit on you that you have to be here taking latté orders with a shot of this or that?

I’m sorry. I want to come around the counter and give you a hug.

I want to tell you it’s okay that it takes you a little longer to get my drink or to heat my scone. I want to tell the flurry of baristas to just slow down a little.

After all, I bet you have a story to tell. Are you a veteran? What have you seen?

Were you at the top of your game—a CEO or an academic?

Were you a solid and loyal employee for a company that repaid you by downsizing or moving away?

Why are you here?

I could ask but I just think that would be rude. But I want to hear your story.

Why are you here?

And then I think about how I’m suddenly seeing so many older people in jobs where they shouldn’t be—at the checkout line at Walmart, handing me my burger through the McDonald’s window, mopping the floor in the grocery store.

All of them are someone’s mom or dad, someone’s grandpa or grandma. What if you were my dad? What if an impatient punk lit into him for taking an extra ten seconds to gather his thoughts and count the right change? I’d wanna punch that kid.

I really hope you aren’t doing this because you have to, but I suspect that isn’t the case. I wish the economy wasn’t tanking and COVID wasn’t turning everything upside-down.

Sir, I’m not sure why you’re here. I don’t know what circumstances led you to put on the green apron and headset and heat up my scone for me.

But I appreciate you. Whatever your story is, I appreciate you.

Love Letter Legacy

I won’t sugar-coat it. Christmas this year kind of sucked. I mean, it was good to be with family, but the gathering was because we knew my mom was not going to live much longer. My family and I arrived in the early hours of her 87th birthday, December 24, and that was the last day she was somewhat coherent and knew us (a blessing in itself). She breathed her last late in the evening of December 27th (although hospice confirmed it in the wee hours of the 28th, so that is her official death date). Her obituary is here. (Incidentally, this followed on the heels of losing my mother-in-law in October and brother-in-law in November.)

The blessing side was having family together to surround her. During those final days, she was never alone (whether she knew it or not). Between dad, my sister’s family, and my family, someone was always there to talk to her, read to her, sing hymns and carols to her. She died peacefully and entered heaven’s glory. What a blessing to know that fact and rejoice even in sorrow.

In the days following the funeral as we began to help my dad adjust to his new normal, he shared lots of fun stories. This one stands out and I simply have to share it, for it is the power of the written word and letters to begin a legacy of love that, for my parents, lasted for 67 years.

The power of the written word and letters begins a legacy of love that, for my parents, lasted for 67 years.

My dad shared the story that, home from college during his senior year, he went to the local roller rink for an evening. A lovely young woman caught his eye. He finally got a chance to skate with her and was able to get her name and city: “Reva Grover, Corry” (Corry, PA). Then she went home with another guy, saying he couldn’t take her home because she didn’t know him.

But dad couldn’t forget her. So from his dorm room at college 300 miles away, he wrote her a letter, telling us that the envelope had nothing more than her name, city, and state (this was pre-zip code days). He mailed it on the truly off chance that she would ever receive it.

And thank goodness for small towns, because the letter found its way to her.

The actual letter my dad sent with only my mom’s name and her city and state because that was all the information he had. Notice the cost of the stamp (3 cents!).

My daughter went to mom’s “hope chest,” which has been in their bedroom for my entire life. Sure enough, buried beneath various memories was a box of every letter she and my dad exchanged, starting with this one. We couldn’t believe we had the actual letter!

Of course, we wondered what in the world dad had said in this letter so, with his permission, we pulled it out and read it aloud. The letter began: “9/23/54 Hi, This is going to be a shot in the dark if I ever made one.”

Then, of course we wondered what she had said in return. Finding that letter, we pulled it out and read it aloud.

My dad, leaned back in his easy chair and said upon our finishing that letter, “Well, don’t stop now!”

So began an evening reading each back-and-forth letter as my parents, having only met once, began to learn about each other. They asked questions about family and about faith. There were local Corry football scores from mom; tales of fraternity life, final exams, and chorus travels from dad. The letters became more and more frequent with Thanksgiving being their next opportunity to meet. Clearly their first official date and time together went well, for the post-Thanksgiving pre-Christmas letters become more frequent, all the while both of them counting the days until Christmas when they would meet again (on her birthday, December 24).

Clearly, they had fallen in love over the Thanksgiving holiday and knew that Christmas was going to be very special.

Dad’s college photo on the left, mom’s high school photo on the right. Left bottom is the photo of mom pinning dad’s wings on him as he graduated Air Force ROTC from Colgate University in the spring of 1955.

Indeed, another set of letters from January to May surely lays out their future (we didn’t have time to get to those letters; dad said they were probably pretty mushy anyway). That next summer, after dad graduated from Colgate University, he proposed to mom and they were married in Corry, PA, on November 5, 1955.

Mom and Dad’s wedding photo.

Before she passed away, they’d had 66 years of marriage.

During those 66 years, they had also weathered a separation for eight months while my dad served his country in Viet Nam. Also buried in that hope chest are eight months’ of daily letters back and forth between them. A future task for me is to transcribe all of those letters, along with daily entries from my dad’s journal while he was there, as a legacy for our family.

I can’t help but feel that, in the future, we’ll be missing something of our heritage for our children and grandchildren and beyond without having physical letters. While I’m sure my dating parents would have been delighted by the technology of texts and phone calls without the prohibitive long-distance charges, I’m thankful they wrote (and my mom saved) these letters. It’s a window into their story.

A story that has become my own.

I Got a Book Contract!

Hey writing friends! I just have to share some good news.

I got a contract for another book and I’m so excited.

I’ll be working again with Bold Vision Books, who published my last book titled Word by Word: An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-editing Process (you can read more about that book here).

This will be a revised and expanded version of that book–probably incorporating much of what is in the current book but then bringing in everything that a writer should be doing in the process of preparing for publication. After all, the actual writing of the manuscript is only part of the process.

So I began an outline. See what you think. What am I missing?

  • Seeking an agent
  • Seeking a publisher
  • Building (or enhancing) your social media presence
  • Self-editing your manuscript (that part I have)
  • Going to writers’ conference and what to expect
  • Writing the book proposal
  • Writing the one sheet
  • Perfecting your pitch
  • Preparing for book promotion
  • Being confident in your work
  • Handling rejection
  • Handling acceptance
  • Understanding contracts and rights

As I have attended and taught at many writers’ conferences, I have begun to realize how much knowledge of the industry I take for granted and how much most people simply don’t know. A one-stop basic book for writers just putting their toes into the publishing waters will offer them understanding and confidence as they move through the process of trying to get published.

There is a lot to unpack here. If you have thoughts about something newbie writers should know but don’t — in other words, topics I should address in the book — please comment below or write to me. I would love to hear from you.

Help me make this happen!

In Defense of Proofreader Marks

I recall it vividly. I was just out of college at my first job working for a small publisher (ETA–Evangelical Training Association that does basic books about the Christian faith). The company hired me as an assistant editor. I was green, knew nothing about the publishing industry, and very little about editing and proofreading.

(Now, after forty years in the industry, I teach everything I didn’t know to my Professional Writing students so that they don’t have the same experience I did. I want them to hit the ground running in any new job with solid understanding of what’s needed.)

But I digress.

Mind you, this was the mid-1980s. No computers and fancy Microsoft Word programs. No fun little “comments” added to Word documents. No squiggly lines on a document pointing out misspellings and potential grammatical problems.

No. This was printed galleys (long printed pages of a book on big sheets of paper) and red pens.

This was where I learned on the job.

As I began proofreading our galleys, revising a sentence to update it meant dutifully crossing out the offending sentence and then writing the revision neatly in the margin. (Thankfully, I have neat writing.) So far so good.

Deleting a stray comma meant marking out the comma, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “delete comma.”

Removing a word meant crossing out the word, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “delete word.”

Capitalizing a currently uncapitalized word meant circling the offending letter, running the red line across to the margin, and writing “capitalize.”

Two words that should be one meant circling the word, running the red line across to the margin, and explaining that “the two words should be one word.”

I’m sure you’re seeing a theme … lots and lots of red lines, lots of explanatory words.

Here’s what I remember vividly. After I had been working on my first set of galleys for several days, the office manager / editor / person-who-knew-more-than-me stepped into my office with a sheet of paper. She had seen my proofreading pages and was coming to the rescue.

She handed me a sheet of paper neatly laid out with what I came to discover were proofreading marks. A squiggle to delete. Three lines to capitalize. Carets from above or below for insertions. Sideways parentheses to close up the space between words or letters. A hashtag symbol to insert a space. She patiently explained to me that these magical marks would replace my explanatory scribbles.

Smooth, clean, easy.

I’m attaching a sheet with proofreader marks that I use in my classes. It’s free for you to download here.

And yes, I still teach my students how to read and use proofreader marks. Is that a waste of time? I don’t think so for a couple reasons:

  • Not everything is copyedited or proofread electronically (either as Word documents or PDFs). Knowing proofreader marks allows you to quickly and easily show what needs to be done if you’re handed physical copy to work with.
  • Sometimes you’ll be working with older folks who know these markings and maybe not the Microsoft Word tools. If you’re handed a physical copy with these markings all over it and it’s your responsibility to incorporate them, you’ll know exactly what to do. (I once had a student message me in a panic. He was at his internship and his boss had done just that — handed him a proofread piece all done with proofreader marks, and it was his job to incorporate the corrections into the Word document on his computer. “Can you send me that sheet of symbols?” he asked. I like to think I saved the day.)

And if you’re interested in a little fun, enjoy these “lesser-known editing symbols” courtesy of Brian A. Klems. The photo below is from his post. (And seriously, sometimes these are just what a proofreader needs.)

All credit to Brian A. Klems

So yes, I still think proofreader marks are valuable to know and valuable training for anyone who seeks to become an editor.

Let’s Get Tech-y: How to Create Style Tags

Hey you guys! I did a thing! I created a YouTube video on my very own YouTube channel that now has exactly ONE video!

It’s taken a while, but YES, YouTube!

In many of my previous tech-y posts, I’ve talked about how to work in Microsoft Word in order to prepare a manuscript to the industry standards. Agents and acquisitions editors are pleased when clients understand some of these basics and can put together a manuscript that has the key elements (as I noted in this post and various posts thereafter).

A feature of Microsoft Word that is somewhat unknown is style tagging. Word has a powerful way of either messing up your documents (despite your best-laid plans) or making them consistent and beautiful. You just need to know the process.

The purpose of this video came from my designer/typesetter friend who has been trying to explain to his clients why style tags are so necessary in the process of designing and typesetting books. He knows this is my wheelhouse, so he wrote and asked me to “please find a way to explain the why and how of style tagging!”

This can be helpful whether you’re a college student writing papers and trying to have consistent subheads or an author preparing your manuscript to be typeset.

(Note that this is sort of a step beyond what most people need to know. If you do all of the steps I’ve outlined in previous posts, you’ll be good to go.)

If, however, you’re considering self-publishing your book and creating it yourself, or if you hope to work in the publishing industry one day, understanding this part of the process of prepping manuscripts for typesetting (flowing the Word document into an InDesign program, for example), will show that you really know your stuff.

I teach style tagging to my Professional Writing students for that very reason.

And this process is much more complex than my previous posts where I could do screenshots; hence, the video. If this part of the process intrigues you, well here you go.

As I have time, I’ll go back through all of my tech-y posts and add an accompanying video.

Do you have any particular issues with Microsoft Word or with creating a manuscript that you have questions about? I’m happy to help, or at least try to find the answer for you. Let me know in the comments below, or write me through the contact form.

Let’s Get Tech-y: Ordering Your Front Matter

After you’ve created your title page, copyright page, and table of contents (as explained in the linked previous blog posts), you may have other pieces that you will need or want to include in the front matter. Here is Chicago Manual of Style’s order of front matter.

  • Title page (must have)
  • Copyright page (must have)
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents (standard in nonfiction; optional if fiction)
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments (if not part of the Preface or in the back matter)
  • Introduction (if not part of the text)
  • Prologue

In this article I want to focus on everything on this list except title page, copyright page, and table of contents.

Dedication

If you want to include a dedication, this should be placed after the copyright page and before the table of contents. Create a new page, then center the material vertically and horizontally. Choose your dedication carefully, and word it carefully. Remember that this is an honor to the person or people to whom you are dedicating your book and will remain as a memorial—even long after your book goes out of print. It can be touching or funny, but remember that it is also timeless. You aren’t required to include a dedication. This is totally up to you.

Foreword

A foreword (not a “forward”) is written by someone else. This person might be a celebrity or someone well known in the field about which you’re writing. This person tells your audience why your book is valuable and worth their time to read. It amounts to an endorsement.

Preface

A preface is written by you to acquaint your readers with some interesting information about you, how you came to write the book, or other interesting circumstances surrounding the book’s creation. This could also include information such as “How to Use This Book” if that is necessary. However, realize that many times your readers will skip both the foreword and the preface. Don’t give any significant issues regarding the content. If you need to do that, then do it in the introduction, or do an introduction instead of a preface.

Introduction

An introduction gets into the content of your book (and may be used instead of a preface). You want readers to read it because it sets them up for what is to come. If your potential reader is standing in the bookstore and has lifted your book from the shelf, he or she is going to look at the cover, read the back cover copy, and then open to the introduction. You want to explain to the reader exactly what the book is offering. The introduction should provide information that leads right into the first chapter.

Prologue

A prologue is similar to an introduction and can do the same thing as the introduction—except that if you have a prologue at the beginning, you also need an epilogue at the end. So think both ways: If you think your book will include an epilogue to provide information to the story after the official end of the book, then you’ll need to include a prologue in the front matter. The prologue and epilogue are like bookends.

Your editor will thank you if you take the time to both understand and create the front matter material in your manuscript. Stay tuned for more on creating your back matter.

Let’s Get Tech-y: Building Your Table of Contents

If you’re writing nonfiction, you will definitely need a Table of Contents (TOC). If your book is fiction, you may or may not include one.

You can prepare a TOC a couple of ways. While Microsoft Word does offer an automated feature, it can be a bit cumbersome to use if you don’t understand how to add style tags and use them on chapter titles. (I will be making a video on style tags next, and will also then show how to build a TOC this way.)

For now, if you want to not be overly tech-y and still get the job done without jumping back and forth in your manuscript, you can make use of the “Split Screen” feature. After the copyright page (or the dedication page if you included one), insert a page break, start at the top line and type “Contents” or “Table of Contents.” Insert a return. Place your cursor where you want to type the next entry that appears in the book (such as Acknowledgements, Introduction, Prologue, or Chapter 1, along with the name of the chapter if it has one).

Now you need to split the screen. Navigate to the “View” tab. On that ribbon, you’ll see a button about halfway across that says “Split.” If you click that, a bar will appear that splits your screen.

The split screen allows you to scroll in one part of the screen while leaving the other part in place. Thus, you can keep the TOC page intact to keep typing and adding to while you scroll through your manuscript, stopping at each chapter and including the chapter title. This also helps make sure your TOC matches the actual titles in the manuscript itself. (I can’t begin to tell you how many times these don’t match in books I’ve proofread.)

So keep the top window intact and viewing the TOC page, while you use the bottom window to scroll through the document. Scroll to the start of the first item that should go in your TOC (as I have below, Acknowledgements). Type the title into your TOC. Start the next line in the TOC, and drop to the bottom screen and continue to scroll until you have included all the front matter pieces and all the chapters. Also include any back matter pieces (such as an Index, Bibliography, etc.).

When you’re finished, hit that same button (which now says “Remove Split”), and the split will disappear.

You can include the page numbers from the manuscript in your TOC as you go, or you can include only the chapter titles. (Realize that page numbers really mean nothing because when the book is typeset, the page numbers will need to be readjusted to match the actual book pages.) But if you want your manuscript TOC to reflect the page numbers in the manuscript, just include the numbers from each page right after each TOC entry. Place your cursor in the bottom half of the screen, then read which page number you’re on by looking at the bottom left. This will tell you which page. In the photo below, the bottom half of the screen is page 10, so I put the number 10 in my TOC page beside that chapter name. (You have to be sure that your cursor is in that bottom half of the screen to give you the correct page number.)

There you have it! After your TOC is completed, do another page break before the next page (which would be the first entry in your TOC) and you’re good to go.

Watch next time for an understanding of the various other front matter pieces you can include and the differences among them. And watch for notification of the style tagging video, soon to come!

(This article, without visuals, originally appeared in The Christian Communicator magazine.)

Thank You, Dr. Leax, for Your Inspiration (part 2)

I am recently inspired by a book that I randomly picked up in a dusty resale shop in Marion, Indiana. You know how it goes — at least if you’re a reader or writer — the first stop is in the back where castoffs unsold at garage sales or lugged from overflowing home libraries rest precariously on makeshift bookshelves or in unorganized piles.

I’m usually looking for classics, memoirs, or books about writing, although our own overflowing bookshelves force me to try to be selective. But that day, I found a treasure. In Season and Out is a book by John Leax, my writing professor from Houghton College, whom I’ve written about before. A bonus is that the lovely illustrations are by a dear family friend, Roselyn Danner, now in heaven.

The book is simple, beautiful, lyrical. Divided into four seasons beginning with summer, the entries are dated and chronicle Dr. Leax’s woodcutting, vegetable gardening, teaching, and small town living. This passage, in particular, resonated with me:

Last night while walking Poon, I suddenly realized I had walked past nine houses within one quarter mile and did not know the occupants of any of them. I can rationalize my ignorance. The generation gap accounts for part of it, most of the houses are occupied by elderly couples or widows who keep to themselves. The cultural gap figures in it too; college English profs are not easily assimilated into the daily life of a small rural town. And the inevitable knowledge gap between old and new residents finishes it off; I’ve only been in this town nine years — I’ll never possess the local knowledge of those who go back generations.

(In Season and Out, Zondervan, 1985, p. 41)

My husband and I take a twilight walk. We’ve been in this tiny country town for almost exactly three years, slowly remodeling our 110-year-old house. We don’t know most of the 986 occupants of Swayzee. Fortunately, we do know most of our direct neighbors along our street, but any conversation quickly uncovers the truth that no matter how long we live here, we will always be newcomers who will “never possess the local knowledge of those who go back generations.” Folks here grew up together, went to school together, and lived around one another as they married, had children, worked, and grew older.

As much as I love our small town, I mourn the boarded-up and vacant buildings, the cafe someone bought to remodel and never finished, the houses unkempt or uncared for, the closed-up hardware store still full of supplies, the empty downtown building that fell (literally fell) because of neglect. At one time, this was a vibrant town — now the biggest news is that we watch a field outside of town slowly transform into a Dollar General.

But there is splendor here, splendor in the ordinary. The open fields, the sunsets, people’s care for one another, the annual rummage sales, the tractor day parade, the parks, the elementary school kids lugging their backpacks, the fresh wind bringing the scent of a new harvest.

Dr. Leax’s book inspired me to spend my summer writing about my small town, our butterfly gardens, our slow remodeling progress, our attempt at growing vegetables, my preparation for fall classes — all of which he touches on. I want to celebrate my very ordinary life, capturing its splendor as best I can.

I am not trying to get this published. I am writing to sharpen my skills and voice, to keep doing what I teach my students to do.

I owe it to my old prof, forty years later. Once again, Dr. Leax, thank you for your inspiration.

Let’s Get Tech-y: Adding the Copyright Page

As I noted in this previous post, the key must-haves in your manuscript include your title page, your copyright page, and your Table of Contents (standard in nonfiction; optional in fiction). That previous post covered creating your title page; now let’s talk about creating the copyright page.

Copyright page

After you’ve finished the title page, insert a page break (go to the Insert tab, and on the far left in the Pages menu is a button to click called Page Break). Now begin your copyright page. On the first line, type the word Copyright and then “parenthesis C parenthesis.” By default, the program may automatically give you the © symbol.

If it doesn’t, navigate to the Insert tab, and on the far right of that ribbon is the Symbol button. Click on the down arrow. That will open a series of possible symbols. (you can actually see that the copyright symbol for me is right there on the second row. I could just click and it would insert).

If you don’t see the copyright symbol there, click on More Symbols. That will bring up another couple menus. Click on Special Characters, and then the copyright symbol.

After you have entered that symbol, put the current year and your name, like this:

Copyright © 2021 by Linda K. Taylor

One quick note: Don’t put this information on the cover or title page. It is understood in the industry that the very fact that you created this piece protects it with copyright. You need not worry about someone stealing your work if you don’t put a copyright symbol on the cover page (in fact, if you DO put it there, you’re going to look like an amateur—like you don’t really understand the industry. Don’t do that).

Instead, I’m having you create this copyright page for your manuscript because the publishing house will add it anyway, but you can add the material for the sources you used.

For example, on this copyright page you include the copyright lines of material from which you have (or obtained) permission to quote or use artwork or illustrations (this could be any number of sources depending on what you’re writing). Often, for Christian writers, this may include Bible versions. And while you don’t need to request permission to quote verses from Bibles, you still need to include the copyright lines of all the Bible versions you quote throughout the text.

As you wrote your document, you kept track of your source(s) for Bible verses—that is, what Bible version you were quoting from (you did, didn’t you?). Perhaps you just typed the verses from your well-worn Bible. Or maybe you quoted from several different Bible versions because you liked the nuances of the way various versions translate your key verses.

For the copyright lines for your copyright page, look at the copyright page in the Bible from which you’re quoting. For example, in my New Living Translation, it says: “When the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, is quoted, one of the following credit lines must appear on the copyright page or title page of the work.” Then follow three options. The first is used if all of the verses you quoted were from the New Living Translation. In this case, the NLT says to write the following on your copyright page:

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

If the NLT is your default and the only version you used, you would type the above exact line onto your copyright page.

Perhaps the NLT was the main one you used, but you sprinkled in a couple other versions, such as the King James Version. In that case, you do need to make sure that KJV is noted at that reference. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1 KJV), and on your copyright page, you will choose this line from that NLT copyright page:

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from . . . (etc.)

and then you’ll also include a copyright line from the KJV Bible.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version . . . (etc., with the copyright line from your Bible)

If you used a variety of versions, make sure that after every reference throughout your entire manuscript that you note the Bible version—for example: (Genesis 1:1 NIV) and (Romans 5:8 NLT) and (Philippians 1:5 KJV). Then, on the copyright page, you need to include the copyright lines as noted on the copyright page of each Bible.

If you’re using a source such as Bible Gateway for your Bible verses, note that the copyright line for any version you choose is given to you, as here:

If you use other Bible software, look around for the copyright information on the Bible versions.

After you have put in the copyright material for Bible versions, also include some standard information such as this:

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is for your manuscript submission. When your book is published, the publisher will take care of adding their boilerplate copyright page information, their Library of Congress information, the printing numbers, etc. You just need to provide these basics.

If you’re self-publishing, you need to include this page as part of your book. Here are a couple of article links to help you create a copyright page when self publishing. Here’s a how-to guide and another guide with helpful info.

Great work! Next we’ll talk about creating your TOC (Table of Contents).

(This article, without visuals, originally appeared in The Christian Communicator magazine, May-June 2018.)

Let’s Get Tech-y: Creating Your Title Page

Part of delivering a pristine manuscript is to make sure all the pieces are in place. This includes your book’s front and back matter. Whether you’re delivering your book to an editor or preparing to self-publish it, make sure all of the front and back matter (referring to material that comes before and after the text itself) is included and in the correct order.

In case you wondered, there is a certain order for all those pieces as determined by the Chicago Manual of Style. You generally won’t have all of these items in your front matter. The only two you must have are the title page and copyright page. A nonfiction book will generally also need a table of contents; you may or may not have that in a fiction book.

Front matter can include:

  • Title page (must have)
  • Copyright page (must have)
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents (standard in nonfiction; optional in fiction)
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments (if not part of the Preface or in the back matter)
  • Introduction (if not part of the text)

In this article I want focus on the first piece of the front matter—the title page.

Creating your title page

If you so desire, you can use one of the Cover Page options that Microsoft Word gives you. Click at the start of your manuscript, probably at your first chapter number or title (if you haven’t done any of the front matter yet–in any case, at the very top of your manuscript), and click Insert on the ribbon, then the dropdown arrow in the top far left corner that says Cover Page.

This will open up a window of several design options for the cover page of your manuscript. Scroll to see all of them. Keep in mind that some of these are created to be for academic papers or for other purposes. Don’t be overly fancy. And it’s best not to use one that has a lot of deep color (such as the full page of blue or black) because if your manuscript is being printed by various readers, using all that ink makes them annoyed. (Just sayin’.) When you click on one, that design of the cover page will be inserted. You can then add your title and name.

You can also just do this old school and very simply without using one of the templates. Go to the top of your manuscript and hit Insert and then Blank Page (the Blank Page option appears right below that Cover Page option in the visual above). You can then type in your title and your name by just visually centering the material vertically (go to your View tab and in the Zoom menu click on One Page so you can see the entire page). You can then do return-return-return to scoot the title down to be basically near the center of the page. (I know I told you not to do this between chapters in this earlier post, but since this is the title page and nothing will come before it, it’s okay.)

If your title and name are appearing flush left on your page, you want them to be centered, so use the centering button (Home ribbon, Paragraph menu) to center your lines horizontally. You can see there that you have buttons for flush left, centered, flush right, and justified (meaning straight edges both left and right). Highlight the words on this page, then click on the centering button to center everything horizontally. You can play with your returns to make sure all of the material looks good when you see it in single page view.

On the title page, include your title, subtitle, and your name (as you want them to appear). Do not type a copyright symbol with your name on the cover page; it is not necessary to “protect yourself,” and you’ll look amateurish if you include it.

If you are submitting to an agent or a publisher, look carefully at their submission guidelines. They may ask that you also include your address and other contact information on the title page as well. Be sure to follow whatever guidelines they give you.

Next time, we’ll talk about other pieces of the front matter.

(This article, without visuals, originally appeared in The Christian Communicator magazine, May-June 2018.)