picture book poetry

Guest Editor Bobbi Katz re: Formatting a Poetry Collection Submission


Dear Editor…

My writing partner and I have a collection of poems we want to submit. What we can’t find anywhere is how to format the poems. Should we include a list of the poems in the order they are being presented? Should each poem have line or word counts at the top of the page? Should the pages have a header with the overall title and page numbers? Should each poem simply be presented with its own page number since they might be moved around by an editor? We can’t find any information anywhere to guide us.

Dear Rosi…

I’ve done collections of my own poems and anthologies, plus I’ve been an editor. That said, my way of preparing a manuscript may not be to everyone’s liking. My system is to make life as easy as possible for the reader/editor.

After deciding on the order of the poems, I create a title page with, of course, the title in caps and the authors’ names and contact info on the lower right. Each poem should be typed on a separate sheet and be 1.5- or double-spaced. Once you’ve established a working order, number the pages in the lower right corner with a circle around them. If any of the poems has been previously published in an anthology or magazine, print the credit on the page. I usually use a different font and smaller type for that. Then I create a (tentative) table of contents page. In most of my books there is an order created by the subject of the poems. In my anthology Pocket Poems, for example, I used poems to create a day for an elementary child from waking up, getting dressed, going to school, etc., until bedtime. Sometimes just the opening and ending poems act like book ends. That’s the case with a collection of my own poems, A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems. All the poems contain onomatopoeic words. I just tried to imagine which poems might go together very loosely by seasons ending with the palpable silence of a “Snow Scene.” Poets order each collection differently, of course. You’ll have to decide what’s best for your current project. These days I believe that editors receive so much material that the less they have to do to see the possibility of creating a book from a manuscript, the better your chances are. Do not staple the manuscript. A sturdy paperclip is best so that the editor can move the poems about easily. Include an SASE when you do a hardcopy submission via regular mail, but be sure to check the agency’s/publisher’s website for their submission guidelines, as they may prefer electronic submissions or have formatting/SASE preferences.

You and your partner have written a collection. I imagine that these are either poems you’ve worked on together or poems by you and poems by your partner. A brief cover letter to the editor is a must. In a few words explain the collaboration. You may mention that while a few of the poems have appeared elsewhere, you control all the rights, if indeed that is the case.

I wish you the best of luck in finding a home for the collection.

-Guest Editor Bobbi Katz

Bobbi Katz has written picture books, chapter books, and even a biography about her hero, Nelson Mandela, but she is best known for her lauded collections of poetry and rhyming books, such as A Rumpus of Rhymes: A Book of Noisy Poems, Once Around The Sun, Trailblazers: Poems of Exploration, Nothing But A Dog, The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme, We the People, Partner Poems for Building Literacy, Pocket Poems, and More Pocket Poems. Bobbi conducts poetry workshops for children, teachers, and librarians. Her classroom workshops make students and teachers comfortable with reading and writing poetry and discovering the joy of language. For more about Bobbi, visit her website www.bobbikatz.com.