Many poets, like other artists, enjoy defying convention in their written work. Instapoets like Rupi Kaur use images to illustrate their poetry and defy classic font usage in the genre. However, when you create a manuscript that you intend to publish, you should be professional, and page numbers are part of a publishing-ready poetry manuscript.

Poetry books need to have page numbers in order to appear professional and allow readers to locate specific poems and discover the size of the complete text. Page numbers also enable readers to create a citation of your poetry on a particular page of the numbered manuscript. 

An essential part of formatting is providing page numbers in your manuscript. Stick around if you wish to know why page numbers are so important in poetry books.

Why Poetry Books Need Page Numbers

With so many poets vying for so few publishers, presenting potential publishers with an edited and correctly formatted manuscript is imperative. Page numbers are an essential part of a properly formatted poetry manuscript, and without them, your work might go straight to the slush pile.

Other reasons include:

  • Easier reading format: Page numbers allow readers to locate a particular poem, should they choose to read it once more. Unlike novels, poetry readers are likely to read poems several times, and page numbers make it possible to locate a particular poem.
  • Citation purposes: If one of your poems is chosen for review or used for university purposes, your manuscript will require a page and line number. If people quote your work without citing the reference, it would be plagiarism.
  • Indication of full-text size: Often publishers will scan the last page of text to ascertain the full length of the manuscript. The page numbers indicate whether your manuscript would fall into the chapbook (20-40 pages) or full-length poetry manuscript category (50-100 pages).
  • A professional impression: Editors respond more positively to writers who respect the industry standards and are more likely to read correctly formatted poetry manuscripts. Poetry books need to have page numbers, otherwise known as folios, to create a publishable and professional-looking manuscript.

Where To Place Page Numbers on a Poetry Book

Choosing the location of your page numbers is not written in stone. Typically a professional manuscript requires numbers written in the upper right-hand corner and should be vertically centered in the top 1” (2.54-cm) margin and right-aligned.

Other page number options include:

  • Lower right-hand corner: In this option, the number is vertically centered and right-aligned in the bottom 1” (2.54-cm) margin.
  • At the bottom of the page: The number is vertically centered in the center of the bottom 1” (2.54-cm) margin in this placement. 

How To Arrange Numbers on the Page

The publishing standards require that there should always be odd-numbered pages on the right-hand page (otherwise known as the recto). Even-numbered pages should appear on the verso or left-hand page. 

This traditional format will make your manuscript appear more professional when approaching a publisher

Page Numbers on Poetry Ebooks

Ebooks are typically paginated much the same way as their printed book counterparts. Reading devices such as EPUB also display numbers that vary from device to device depending on the display size and the selected font size, which makes citation more problematic.

Amazon solved this problem by creating a location number in the margin of the text that shows where you may locate the page in the printed version of the book

What If I Submit Poetry Without Page Numbers?

If you submit poetry without page numbers, your potential publisher may disregard the manuscript out of hand. Editors are busy, and manuscripts that don’t follow basic formatting standards suggest that the poet has not shown due diligence.

Poetry is a notoriously difficult niche to break into, and the competition is fierce. 

Unless you are an Instapoet spouting a plethora of self-conscious babble, you will need to put your best foot forward when approaching potential publishers.

Part of preparing your poetry collection for publishing involves following the correct formatting procedure. With so many poets and little publishing space, editors may reject a collection without page numbers. 

Poorly formatted manuscripts are seen as a sign of disrespect for industry standards and may bias an editor from closely reading your work. If you wish to create a professional poetry manuscript, below we have outlined some other basic formatting requirements.  

Other Formatting Requirements For Poetry Manuscripts

Poets should take note of the following formatting guidelines:

  • Font: Typically Times New Roman 12-point font is the industry standard with poetry manuscripts.
  • Title page: Title pages should consist of a capitalized title midway down the page with the poet’s name beneath the title.
  • Margins: Typically margins are 1” (2.54 cm) all around, but poetry manuscripts may use 2.5″ (6.35 cm) margins.
  • Odd and even page numbers: You should place page one and all other odd-numbered pages on the right-hand page of your manuscript. 
  • Table of contents: Each professional poetry manuscript should begin with a correctly formatted table of contents.
  • Indentation: Poets should indent lines that would otherwise continue across the page or alternatively align all text left. 
  • Spacing: It would be best to single space each poem with a double space between each stanza for ease of reading.
  • Poem placement: Writers should place each poem on a single page for clarity and ease of reading. It also looks much more professional when your poem is placed properly.

Closing Notes 

Page numbers are part of the basic industry standard for poetry submissions, and you’ll want to place folios on your poetry manuscript. Page numbers make life easier for those who read or edit your work and allow writers to cite your text should your poetry achieve success. 

Editors are notoriously overworked, and incorrectly formatted poetry manuscripts without page numbers may end up in the dustbin. After all, you deserve to present your hard work in the most professional manner possible, and pagination is an essential part of making your manuscript ready to reach your readership. 

Categories: Poetry

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.