Posted by: nancyisanders | January 15, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book: The Bibliography


Recently, my husband Jeff and I did a couple of school assemblies where we taught students about facts and writing nonfiction. It was a lot of fun!

As we’re moving forward on our journey to write the first draft of an 800-word nonfiction picture book from beginning to end, now is a good time to get our bibliography under way so we can document the facts we find.

If you haven’t yet created a bibliography, start a brand new word document today. Label it BIBLIOGRAPHY. Save this file in the document folder you create for your nonfiction manuscript.

Type in the bibliography for any of the research books (both for kids and for adults) you plan to use. These are the books over these last few weeks that you’ve borrowed from your library or actually purchased to add to your own research library about the topic you’ve chosen.

One of the benefits of creating your bibliography BEFORE you start taking research notes and BEFORE you start the writing process is that you have this information all in one file at your fingertips.

When you’re taking research notes and typing them into the computer, you can just copy and paste the bibliography from which book you got what fact, simply adding the page number you found that fact on.

When you’re actually writing the manuscript itself, you can insert a footnote at the bottom of the page you stated a certain fact. Then in the footnote you can just copy and paste the bibliography from the book you got that fact, once again just adding in the page number.

It makes both the research process and the actual writing process go so much more quickly when you already have your bibliography typed up before you start.

And then, as you’re moving forward and you find more sources, it’s very simple to add those one at a time onto your bibliography and not lose your stride.

There are different formats some publishers choose to use. If you already have a favorite one or know which style your publisher prefers, use that one. If not, here’s the format most publishers I work with use for books and internet sources:

Barton, David. Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White. Aledo, Texas: Wallbuilders, Inc., 2004.

Buckley, Gail. American Patriots. New York: Random House, 2001.

Secord, Melissa. “USS Constitution Tour (Boston, MA).” Accessed November 20, 2013. URL here.

USS Constitution. “Constitution: America’s Ship of State.” Accessed November 20, 2013. URL here.

Wright, Kai. Soldiers of Freedom. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2002.

Here’s how that works for a book:
Author’s name, last name first. (List the bibliography in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name.) Title of book in italics. City or city and state where book was published followed by a colon: Name of Publisher followed by a comma followed by the date it was published.

Here’s how that words for an Internet source:
Name of organization or author who wrote the page you accessed. “Title of internet page or article in quotation marks.” Accessed month, day, year. URL.

When I make my bibliography, I consider this my “working” bibliography.

I try to include every book I think I might have the remote chance of using. I just pile up a stack of them and type in their bibliographies all at the same time. I include the bibliography for every internet site I visit.

I include personal notes underneath the info in [brackets] if I want to remember something special about it.

Then, when I’m all done with my manuscript, I create a second file called my “Selected Bibliography.” I delete all my personal notes or any sources I don’t think are important enough to include in the final one. But I keep my working bibliography intact. Just in case I need to find something I originally didn’t think I needed to include in this one.

And just a note about Internet sources. I usually try to print out at least 1 or 2 pages from each key site I’m using. And if it’s a primary source document I found from the 1700s or 1800s, I print out the entire thing or save it as a file on my computer.

Why? Because for the last two books I’ve had published, I had primary sources I’d taken from the Internet. But by the time the books came out, those sites had disappeared. Yikes! But I had the printed pages to refer to and also to verify my research.

So how about it. Have you created your bibliography yet for your nonfiction picture book? Go ahead and gather all the research books you’ve been reading and type the info in.


  1. Thanks, Nancy. I have finally decided on the topic for my picture book, so this is very timely. I have been told that the program Scrivener is really great for this kind of thing. I understand if you save a website in your file, it will actually take a screen shot of the entire thing and preserve that. I haven’t tried the program yet, so I am not sure of this. I always print out what I find on line rather than just take notes. That can be helpful.

    • Rosi, thanks for your input on Scrivener. I have actually downloaded it and am planning on giving it a free trial run! I know some folks really like it so am eager to explore it. The price seemed really reasonable, too, at just $45 I think.

  2. This is a GREAT tip Nancy, and that’s a FACT! 😉

    • You brought a smile to me today, Cathy!!!

  3. Do you send the Bibliography in with your manuscript? Or just keep it for your records?

    • It depends. Some publishers want you to submit it. Some want a selected bibliography with just the top 5-10 resources or so listed. Some publishers don’t require you to submit a bibliography at all.

      If you don’t know which is preferred, then just submit it with a “Selected Bibliography” or 5-10 most important resources. Also mention in your cover letter that a more complete bibliography is available if they would like it.

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