As my Part 2 follow-up to researching potential publishers for your ABC book, today I’d like to discuss how to choose a topic for an alphabet book.
At first glance, coming up with a topic isn’t all that hard. The difficulty comes in choosing just the right angle for your topic. A lot like writing a magazine article, you need to find a niche for your topic that will make it unique, interesting, and of course, marketable. For example, writing an ABC book on food has been done a million times, but what about foods from around the world, where each letter could stand for a food from a different country?
Finding such niches can be challenging, and writing an alphabet book that is now constrained to such a niche is even more challenging. By doing so, however, you’re giving a publisher something fresh and unique, which is what everyone is looking for.
To start this process, I recommend looking at recent ABC books on the market (within the past 5 years). Find out what’s selling and why. This is a good question for your local librarian! While researching books, ask yourself (or your librarian) questions such as: Are most of the current ABC books rhyming or written in verse? What are the most popular topics? Is there a current trend (like having 2-tiered books for different reading levels), or does anything go? What is the typical word count range?
The answers to these questions will ultimately affect how you will structure and write your book. Many of these answers will come from the individual publisher’s guidelines as well, especially when it comes to word count and rhyme vs. verse.
When choosing a topic, look at other popular children’s books, aside from ABC books, to get ideas as well. Discover what some of the current themes are. One good example of this is the environment. Regardless of which side of the political fence your views fall on concerning being green, one thing you can’t deny is that the topic is showing up everywhere, even in children’s books. Take advantage of such popular topics and use them as a basis for your alphabet book. Just because you don’t see a book on a particular topic doesn’t mean that the topic has been rejected by publishers. It could very well mean that no one has thought to write about it yet!
In general, the more specific you can get with your topic, the better. Instead of animals, choose a particular category of animals, such as those that live in a certain region, or those you might find at a zoo. Another general rule is to think globally. More and more, publishers are trying to reach an international audience, or, at the very least, are trying to pull their readers into a global awareness. The more you can include other cultures and regions around the world, the more marketable your book will be viewed by publishers.
It’s important to spend adequate time researching your potential topic to make sure you can actually write a complete alphabet book on it. “A” though “D” may be easy, but what about “X” through “Z”? This, of course, is the downside of choosing a too-specific topic. But that’s where more research comes in, and that’s what we’ll talk about next time. After all, if these books were as easy as ABC, everyone would be writing one!
I was hoping to be able to cover the choosing of specific words this time around, but it will have to wait until next time!