Posted by: nancyisanders | July 28, 2008

ABC Adventure: Format

This next step is a very, very important ingredient in our alphabet book adventure. Following these instructions carefully will help guarantee that your manuscript has a better chance of receiving an acceptance and landing an eventual contract

This step involves researching the format of your manuscript.

Why is this step so important? It’s because not all alphabet books are the same. And often, most publishers prefer a specific format for their alphabet books to follow.

For instance, Sleeping Bear Press is known for their two-tiered format. They have a poem for each letter of the alphabet in the center of the page in larger font. Then along the edge of the page, they have a sidebar of information and facts for each letter. When I wrote my alphabet book for them, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet, I followed that exact format.

Some publishers may prefer more of a “word” book than an alphabet book. Chronicle Books publishes several books such as T is for Tugboat: Navigating the Seas from A to Z. On each page, they list several words for the featured alphabet letter along with pictures. There is no story or accompanying nonfiction text.

If I wrote my new alphabet book in a two-tiered format but submitted it to Chronicle Books, chances are it would receive a rejection letter. But if my target publisher was Chronicle Books, my alphabet book manuscript would consist of lists of words to match the format they seem to prefer at this time.

To research the type of format your target publisher seems to prefer, log into your local library’s online catalog. Request as many alphabet books from your target publisher as you can, then go to your library and pick them up when they come. Read through these books and see if you can detect a pattern or distinct format that this publisher seems to prefer.


  1. This is such great advice, Nancy….and so important for ALL writers in ALL genres! It can’t be repeated too often. I think of all the writers, myself included, who have sent out countless ms. through the years to publishers that seemed right and then were rejected and we didn’t know why. As you’ve pointed out, each has their own preferred, specific format, and a perfectly good ms. will be rejected because of these seemingly “small” factors. In all the classes, workshops, etc. that I’ve taken over the years, I’ve never heard this particular aspect mentioned. How great that you have “zeroed in” on it….and have shared it with us! Marge

  2. Marge, thanks for sharing this! Yes, the small nuances and format differences that are unique to each publisher make the difference! -Nancy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: