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The upper MG market

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There's an MG  book coming out this month where all the marketing says "for ages 10-14 "

That kind of pushes the MG age bracket a little higher. And (since I often write for that age group) it makes me wonder if upper MG is becoming more of the crossover between MG and YA than it has sometimes been.

When you write MG do you target 8-12? 8-10? 10-12? And does 10-14 seem realistic when that ranges from grades 5 to 8--where kids change dramatically?
#1 - June 09, 2020, 09:08 AM

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This is tough, David. A couple of my friends write upper MG (mostly historical) but the responses from professionals has been so disappointing. I do hope to see more of this because, well, those manuscripts I've read need to be books!
A lot of my magazine work is solid MG 8-12, some skewing a bit older, like the stuff I wrote for Odyssey.
#2 - June 09, 2020, 09:13 AM
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10-14 used to be more common 20 or so years ago. Plenty of Horn Book reviews listed that age range. Lately, people on Twitter are trying to drum up renewed support for it, saying readers age 12-15 are being lost, which I believe.

Nothing's going to change unless publishers decide they can sell it. Until they do, it doesn't make any sense for agents to take it on. What's made available to the public is controlled by the houses, not agents or writers. I'm hoping publishing might listen to librarians on this. If editors start asking for it, then agents can start, and that'll open things up.

I figure getting published is so hard, and I've written more of my share of stuff that bucks the market ("too quiet", historical, too much faith element, etc.) that I'm no longer willing to build in for myself another obstacle. I make my MCs 12 years old. Making them 10 would make sense if you were aiming for the lower end of MG.
#3 - June 09, 2020, 09:35 AM
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I have an upper MG ms that has had a full request three times. Each time the response has been - really like the book, but it's upper MG, so pass. And here's the kicker - one agent said that the big problem was that book stores wouldn't know where to shelve it.  :faint

This completely baffles me. Although I think 10-14 is an odd age range (I like Marcia's 12-15 much better), I do think the upper MG group is being ignored. I have listened to the mothers of early teens ask repeatedly, "What should my child read now? S/he is not ready for YA."
#4 - June 09, 2020, 01:37 PM

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really like the book, but it's upper MG, so pass

That's depressing.
#5 - June 09, 2020, 01:54 PM

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My main characters for my MGs are 11 or 12.

Tween novels used to be popular and I hope they will be again--there definitely seems to be a need for more books geared toward the upper MG/lower YA combo.

I remember being surprised when a book with a MC of about 15 was targeted by the publisher as 10+ years ago, so it fell into both MG and YA.
#6 - June 09, 2020, 02:11 PM

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Didn't one of Gary Schmidt's books final for both a Newbery and a Printz? Too lazy to look it up right now.

Another possible answer, which has been talked about, is to make YA truly for teens instead of for the adult market that has been comprising most of the sales. That, too, should narrow the perceived gap, because it would make more YA accessible to younger teens. Finally people are beginning to admit that many 18yo characters in YA are more like 25.

Yeah, they won't buy if they can't see where it would be shelved. There's MG, and there's YA, and nothing between. They won't rep if they can't imagine their editor contacts buying.  This is all market-driven, guys. A good book isn't unimportant, but it's not enough in itself.
#7 - June 09, 2020, 03:06 PM
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I do think the upper MG group is being ignored. I have listened to the mothers of early teens ask repeatedly, "What should my child read now? S/he is not ready for YA."

My kids went pretty much straight from MG to adult like I did, with a few YA titles, including mine :grin3

This is all market-driven, guys. A good book isn't unimportant, but it's not enough in itself.

This.
#8 - June 09, 2020, 04:38 PM
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I actually have heard that upper MG is coming back, but who knows now if those rumors will prove out. So much has changed so fast. I'm hoping because my MC is 14 and intended to age up in the next book the way Harry Potter did. There's a 16 yo secondary protagonist, so maybe I'm at lower YA. It does not matter; it's the book I need to write.
#9 - June 09, 2020, 06:02 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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I agree that a 13 or 14 yr old MC would make it upper MG. I'm thinking of books mainly about 8th graders, or covering the summer between 8th and 9th grade. These books can cover more intense issues - in terms of racial violence, abuse, addiction, relationships....but still wouldn't cross over into the more graphic content and language in YA. I'm thinking Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhoades (the MC is 12), Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt - or are those books labeled YA because of content? Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee. So, not just the age but the content? A fantasy with a 13 yr old MC wouldn't be upper MG unless the character is dealing with issues at home that are more mature than typical MG.
#10 - June 10, 2020, 11:03 AM
EXTRAORDINARY ( Skypony Press  May 2015)
CALL ME SUNFLOWER (Skypony Press May 2017)
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It's been five years since I last submitted the ms I was talking about, so my information may be dated, but I still think there is a void. Filling a marketing void is a great profit maker. I don't understand why the publishing world doesn't embrace the opportunity.
#11 - June 10, 2020, 12:03 PM

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It's been five years since I last submitted the ms I was talking about, so my information may be dated, but I still think there is a void. Filling a marketing void is a great profit maker. I don't understand why the publishing world doesn't embrace the opportunity.

When you see a void, it's difficult to judge whether it's a true void or one that's because they don't see a market for. I have a PB ms that falls in a similar category about a topic I love but see a void and the response has been bleak--but the right editor has got to be out there! Don't give up.

#12 - June 10, 2020, 12:48 PM
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When you see a void, it's difficult to judge whether it's a true void or one that's because they don't see a market for.

This. I had a friend who was a kindergarten teacher. She was frustrated that librarians had a one-book-only rule for holiday books. She thought this meant publishers didn’t put out enough of them and decided to start writing to fill “the gap.” She didn’t understand the special market conditions for those books.
#13 - June 10, 2020, 12:56 PM
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