Making the Most of Your Book’s Title Page

The title page of a book announces identifying essentials of the book: title, subtitle, author, and publisher. It may also include more publishing information or descriptive text about the book. Illustrations can also be found on title pages.

While this page primarily provides book facts, it is commonly also the most decorative display page in a book. As the rest of the book is devoted to the author’s thoughts, here the page is often used for expressions of design and graphics.

This is of interest to publishers as well as self-publishers. In addition, authors who hire their own book designers and pay for their own book design will have something to say about the way that their books are constructed.

In fact, throughout history these pages have provided a way for printers, publishers, book designers and authors to express the meaning or contents of the book in a decorative way.

William Morris, who began the book arts revolution at the end of the nineteenth century, would create a woodcut look for his title pages that covered the complete page, from edge to edge. He worked the name of the book, the name of the author and the name of his press into the designs, which were often floral in nature, with leaves and branches intertwined over the whole design.

The first printed books didn’t have title pages. They began on the first page of the author’s writing and were identified by those initial words instead of by a separate title. This may be why some consider the this page somewhat irrelevant; however, it does provide considerable information, including:

  • 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 book’s tone

In addition to listing pertinent information about their respective books, title pages have also provided an opportunity for the author and book designer to paint a picture of what is to come in the body of the work. For example, the book designer may opt to include a ‘ghosting’ of a particular image reflected repeatedly throughout the book. Choosing typography for the title page that ties the cover and interior of the book together in subtle fashion results in a very atmospheric quality.

For a book updated regularly (i.e., a manual), the book designer may select a more modern typographic design that places emphasis in some way on the numbered edition of the manual. Besides being a clean, updated, professional image, it also immediately identifies the manual as the most current edition.

Make the Most of the Title Page – It’s Yours

While you as a reader may have taken the title page for granted, you as an author can utilize the title page in a variety of ways. Using the same book type fonts as for the title on the cover and the text of the interior helps integrate the various parts of the book, making for a more harmonious reading experience. And if you have illustrations, artwork for your cover, or thoughts of a bold typographic design, don’t hesitate to put them to use here.

In short, even though the title page is used primarily to share factual information about the book, take advantage of the opportunity to be creative. It’s yours!

Joel Friedlander has launched many self-publishers. Joel is an award-winning book designer, a self-published author, and blogs about publishing and book design. To learn more about self-publishing a book, book and cover design, and the intricacies of the publishing process, please visit Joel’s blog at today.