Q: I just finished writing the first book in my new trilogy. How do I format the name of the series on the title page?
A: There are a few different ways to go about including a series title on your book’s title page. How you format the title will largely depend on how you want the book to be referenced. That is, do you want the book to be identified first and foremost as a singular work, or as a part of the series?
If you think your series works better or makes more sense as a cohesive unit, then it’s smart to assume it will be referred to by the series title. A good example of this is The Lord of the Rings. The books have individual titles, but the entire story is more commonly known by the series title, because any one of the books would not function as well on its own. In this case, the series title should be italicized, because it’s being used in the same way as any other title. This is also a good option for books with short or ambiguous titles. A book titled Courage, for example, would be difficult for a reader to track down, due to the sheer quantity of existing titles that will include the word. Courage, book 2 of the Deadly Values series, by contrast, gives the reader much more specific information to use when searching for or telling others about your book.
On the other hand, if the book can stand alone as an individual story — say, if the books share a theme but tell their own stories in each — then it’s more likely to be referred to by the book’s title. In this case, the series title acts more as additional information, characterizing the nature of the series without explicitly titling it. An example of this use is found in the Harry Potter series: the series is not technically known by this title, but can be used to offer additional information about any of the books for identification and grouping purposes. In this case, the name of the series would not be italicized, because it is not being used as a formal title.
A good gauge is to ask yourself if a reader could pick up one book in the series without having read the others and still understand and enjoy it.
* * * *
Jacki has been editing professionally since completing her study of the English language at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. She has been an Inkwell Book Co. editor since 2013. From memoirs to fiction to fantasy, she can’t resist a good story, and can usually be found at her rural Virginia home with her nose in a book and a cat in her lap.