Welcome to the 5th and final installment of learning to write alphabet or ABC books. I hope that you’ve picked up at least a couple of helpful nuggets along this journey. On this post, I want to discuss how to format and package your alphabet book to send to publishers or agents.
Please take the time to carefully review all submission guidelines that the publisher or agent has put forth on the website. They will tell you exactly how your manuscript should look, and it’s in your best interest to not deviate from these rules. The following are some general guidelines that will typically apply to formatting an ABC book:
1. Manuscript should be double spaced with all margins set at 1″.
2. Use a simple, readable font at the equivalent of a Times New Roman 12 point size.
3. Add a header to each page (starting on page 2) that includes the book title (you may shorten this to the first 2 or 3 words if the title is lengthy), then your full name, then the page number. Some publishers may request that you add your phone number or email address to your header as well.
4. On the first page in the top left corner, add your full contact info, including physical address, email, and phone number (s). In the top right corner, write “Picture book,” then the age range for your book (e.g.: “Ages 4-7”), then your total word count. Place each piece of information on a separate line (see below). Then, type your title half way down the page, with your byline under the title; both lines should be centered.
Renee Gray-Wilburn Picture book
123 Main Street Ages 4-7
Colorado Springs, CO 80919 250 words
Both the right and left columns should be justified to the outside margins, and you can single space these lines (this wordpress program will not allow me to do that and keep my columns straight!)
5. Because ABC books are types of picture books, you need to think in terms of page spreads. Unless the publisher states otherwise, there will only be one alphabet letter per page. Since standard picture books are 32 pages long, and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, those extra pages will be devoted to front and back matter.
6. You won’t know exactly which page the publisher will start your book on, so it’s acceptable when formatting the manuscript to begin with page 1. Your title page will most likely be page 3 or 5, with your first letter (“A is for…”) starting on the following even-numbered page.
7. Type: Page 1, double space, then “A is for Apple.” Double space twice to separate the pages then continue in this manner throughout all 26 pages. It is also okay to omit numbering the pages as you go, and instead simply write the text for each page with 2 double-spaced lines in between the alphabet letters.
As always, there may be some deviations to these formatting guidelines, especially if the publisher has specific requests. But this is a very standard and professional way to format an ABC book.
Now, on to packaging…
There are a variety of pieces of information a publisher or agent may ask for in your submission package. These include:
Cover letter–a 3-5 paragraph letter (no more than one page!) explaining what your manuscript is (an alphabet book that takes the reader on a journey through the oceans to meet all sorts of interesting sea life), who your target market is (this book is appropriate for early readers, ages 4-7), why you believe your book will be a perfect fit for this particular publisher’s current line (An ABC Swim through the Seas will make a great addition to your “Wild Animal” alphabet book series), and finally why you are qualified to write this book (having taught science to kindergartners for five years, having authored two other animal picture books, etc.)
Like a query letter, the cover letter is all about selling your project to the publisher. They should finish reading your letter excited about diving into your manuscript.
Resume–a one-to-two page (depending on your amount of experience) account of your writing or otherwise relevant experience. If you do not have much writing experience, add other work or volunteer projects that may be relevant to your book’s subject matter. Also include any formal writing training you’ve had. For more information on developing a writer’s resume, please see my two previous posts on this subject: Part 1 and Part 2.
Clips–articles, book excerpts, online pieces, or any other published work that you have. If you have several pieces of published work, select those that are most relevant to the manuscript you’re submitting. If you do not yet have any published material, you may send a writing sample in its place. Make it clear that it is a sample and has not been published, and make it as relevant to your manuscript as possible. In the case of an ABC book, you would want to provide a sample geared to the same target age of your book.
The publisher or agent may ask for a hard copy, mailed submission or an electronic submission sent as an email attachment. If you do submit via regular mail, include a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage for your manuscript to be returned.
Finally, be sure to send the publishing house just what they ask for–no more and no less! And, as usual, proofread everything at least twice before sending it off, and make sure that everything you submit is as aesthetically pleasing and professional as possible.