Trying to Get a Children's ABC Book Published
It was almost 30 years ago that the script of an alphabet book popped into my head-- most of it came to me over a period of a couple of days.
I began scribbling down the verses and drawing up some cartoonish sketches to go with each letter.
I was volunteering as a kindergarten teacher's assistant at the time, so alphabets, initial letter sounds, rhyme and alliteration were surrounding my thoughts each day as we worked to acquaint five-year-olds with the keys to reading skills.
Another ABC Book?
There have been tons of alphabet books published over the years.
The world probably didn't need another one, especially since they have sort of gone out of style, but somehow it seemed that I needed to get this on paper.
Polishing off the verses, making sure they fit some kind of meter and rhythm, seemed to work fairly easily.
The longer process was getting the artwork to . . . well , . . work.
I wanted it to be colorful, bold and fun. I wanted it to show other basic learning concepts.
What is Being Taught?
"Letterbug is a friendly, observant creature who enjoys his adventures of discovery.
His experiences may introduce or reinforce such concepts as : initial sounds, alliteration, rhyme and rhythm-- as well as a sense of color awareness and spatial relationships (under, by, over past up, down)."
Additionally, I hoped children would enjoy it just because it is fun.
So where did the bug come from?
The fact is, the bug is probably me.
When I was in high school some of my friends, perhaps thinking that my name was too long, began calling me Roach. (None of us had ever heard of that smoking thing-- so it had nothing to do with that.)
I wasn't too sure I liked the nickname, but thought it might disappear if I did not seem annoyed.
It didn't dissapear, so I began signing my name with a teeny cute cartoony bug beside it to make my "Roach" something cute rather than a disgusting, creepy pest.
This is where Alphabug came from. (It later turned to Letterbug, because I found out someone else was using the Alphabug name.)
I had a feeling that this might just be good enough to publish.
The teachers I showed it to, were quite encouraging and enthusiastic, but like my family, they were people who knew me. (You kind of expect your Mom to like it, when you do something like this.)
So I began to send it to publishers to see if anyone who didn't know me would like it.
I got a copy of Writers Market-- the one specifically for selling to publishers for children, and began studying the possibilities.
If you are searching for a publisher, Writers Market publishes a list in book form each year. You need the updated version because the publishers, their requirements, their editors and other marketing information.
Where Should I Send It?
Should I send to the big guys who get a ton of slush every day?
Should I send to a smaller publisher in hopes that they might not be so overwhelmed with other peoples trash submissions?
Should I send simultaneous submssions?
I made up a few copies of the script, a few "dummy books" with copied artwork and a few samples of original art and packed them all carefully with return envelopes an SASE's , and then began the mailing process.
Any of you who have tried cold-selling unsolicited manuscripts or art work know it takes a painfully long time to get any response.
Painful weeks, painful months . . . and then you get a painful printed form card with a standard non-personal rejection slip attached.
All of them include the phrase "does not meet our editorial needs at this time".
I got back a bunch of those over a period of about two years.
THEN I got a nice personalized two page letter from a very large prestigious publisher (everyone would recognize the name) which explained in fairly good detail why they liked it and thought it was educationally sound.
They used phrases like, "attractive original art" and "worthy of consideration for publication".
They also said they had several alphabet instructional materials and didn't think it would be "fair to their published authors or you to undertake another piece of work in this particular field".
At that point I wasn't thinking about "fair? who cares". I could accept "unfair", if that's what it took.
On and On, but....
They gave additional details about why they could not accept it.
They were currently into producing series of educational books of a certain format and system, which this" did not quite fit".
They also thought it might need a few additional pages, but that could be handled with some reviews, or educational exercises.
But they did wish me well, and it was, at least a big step UP from the usual formula rejection card.
OK-- so even with an almost positive response, perhaps the timing was not right. I put the book away.
Over the years I would pull it out to sharpen up some of the layouts and graphics. All of the time I had a feeling that it still might happen years and years later, in fact I felt sure of it.
So if any of you know an agent or publisher who might be interested, have them contact me, I will send the art and manuscript in a bug's blink.
My owl book. This one was self-published. Available on Amazon.
Marketing and producing your own book is difficult and expensive, but if you can get it listed on Amazon, you at least get some credibility. After about ten years I'm still selling a few. Amazon takes a big cut, but at least they make it easy to ship.
You print packing slips and mail labels online when they request more books.