Welcome to Part 4 of Writing an Alphabet Book. I hope that the preceding posts have been beneficial as you’ve started to structure your book for submission. Last time I took a look at how to choose the specific words you want for your manuscript, and today I’ll talk about what to do with those words now that you’ve picked them.

Once again, this is where diligent research of both the publishers you want to pursue and their competition is going to pay off. Some publishers will have very specific styles that any potential ABC book must adhere to for publishing consideration. In general (I always have to say this because there are exceptions I will surely hear about if I don’t give this disclaimer!) you will find that the old style of “A is for Apple, B is for Banana” is long gone.

Publishers today are looking for a more sophisticated approach—one that really brings the alphabet to life for a young reader, or perhaps just helps that reader see it in a new way. One example is to make your way through the alphabet backwards. Another is to connect the alphabetical words in such a way that one logically leads to another. In my earlier sea creature theme, this would take the form of an Eel joining with a school of Fish to swim away from the Giant squid! Or something to that effect. Obviously, not every word can be joined, but you can do so in groupings of 3 or 4 at a time with some creativity.

Take note if other ABC books your potential publisher has are whimsical in nature, very straightforward, carry a certain rhythm, have a particular word or syllable count per page, have complete sentences (as opposed to phrases) for each letter, and so forth. Also make note of how much information is given about each word. This will largely depend on the reader age and level and whether or not the book follows a two-tiered format. Your ABC book may only offer the simplest description of a word, or it may give the reader several sentences of information. It’s important when submitting your manuscript to make sure that your style and depth of description coincides with what the publisher wants.

When studying the competition, look for creative and fresh ideas for how you can incorporate your letters. The more books you can read before diving into yours, the better your chances for hitting on something that will work perfectly for your book and the particular letters you have chosen.

Stayed tuned next time for Part 5—the final installation—where I will discuss how to properly format your book for submission and how to make sure that your presentation is as polished as possible.