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Lower MG, Upper MG, Middle MG?

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Hello Everyone:

I have finished up a middle grade manuscript.  In my query I simply state that it is a middle grade novel.  My critique partner thinks I should be more specific and say if my work is upper or lower MG.  I feel like it is a mix of both.  I guess that would be considered middle middle grade? But that sounds strange to me.  Do you think it's okay to stick with the phrase "middle grade" in my query?  Or should I try to be more specific?

Thank you. :)
#1 - August 24, 2014, 05:30 PM

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Yes, just stick with "middle grade." The other terms are things writers may use among themselves, but the only useful term to an agent is "middle grade."

Bookstores need to shelve the books somewhere, and they don't make such fine distinctions. Neither do agents.
#2 - August 24, 2014, 06:34 PM
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#3 - August 24, 2014, 06:44 PM

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In case anyone else wants confirmation, here's an article by literary agent Marie Lamba, in which she says, "...when it comes time to submit, don’t go so far as to define your novel as upper MG or younger YA in your query. That’s already pointing to a more limited readership. Instead, just stick to calling it either MG or YA when you submit, and let an interested agent draw conclusions about nuances from there."

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult

(The whole article is worth a read - "The Key Differences Between Middle Grade vs Young Adult")
#4 - January 17, 2015, 06:54 PM

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That's a great article, Jennifer--lots of valuable reminders.  Thanks for sharing!

Laura  ::-)
#5 - January 17, 2015, 08:11 PM
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Glad you found it helpful, wolfie712! I like to re-read it whenever I'm doing a revision, just to get a refresher and make sure I'm really nailing my age group.
#6 - January 18, 2015, 01:54 PM

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Just wanted to say thanks for reinforcing this info. I was wondering, too, and this helps.
#7 - March 16, 2015, 11:19 AM
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What if your self-publishing and not hiring an agent? Wouldn't you still need to know the term?
#8 - March 22, 2015, 04:57 PM
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Sarah,

You need to know your audience. The more broadly you can define that group, the better. If your book is truly niche, you should focus marketing on that niche. You need to know whether older or younger matters for your manuscript for marketing purposes. So, yes, but limiting yourself by putting the more specific term out there can have the effect of turning off some readers who would love the book.
#9 - March 23, 2015, 08:37 AM
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I actually don't totally believe in older or younger, I was just curious. I wish more philosophical younger MG were more common could make my question moot.
#10 - March 23, 2015, 01:25 PM
You can find my stuff at: uggc://plorephyg.bet/~fnenu/oybt.ugzy

I've had the same problem:  "Lower" middle grade would be closer to easy chapter books, just plain "Middle grade" would be regular 50K MG stories, but most of my stories were in a sort of transitional period where a 12-14 character has to start thinking serious thoughts, but is too young to be YA--
YA stories tend to be pessimistic and put the character at odds with a complicated world, MG is more optimistic, and has the character trying to get ahead and accomplish something cool....Anything in between, I tend to term Upper Middle Grade.
#11 - April 04, 2015, 12:26 PM
« Last Edit: April 04, 2015, 03:20 PM by EricJ »
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Well like in my situation, it's darker subject matter like the goosebumps books, yet is not quite that length. It's sitting around 18,500 words. That sits between chapter book and early middle grade.

I've read the current chapter books (like Spiderwhick), but I still can't rationalize "going to the netherworld" in such an early middle grade, especially if it's depicted in a serious fashion and not like cartoony. I kind of feel like the Grim Reaper should be depicted as the Grim Reaper, not your friend.
#12 - April 05, 2015, 03:08 PM
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I only use MG, YA of PB.  The  editor/agent will know immediately from your voice which end of MG the book falls -- and in many cases it won't matter as the reading level may vary but the audience is wide. I just hd a father praise my MG that he read to his 10 year old and say it was appropriate enough for young kids that he thought his 6 year old might enjoy it.

So I agree with others who have said to keep it short and simple -- don't give them an extra reason to say no before reading further.
#13 - April 06, 2015, 06:35 AM
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Well like in my situation, it's darker subject matter like the goosebumps books, yet is not quite that length. It's sitting around 18,500 words. That sits between chapter book and early middle grade.

I've read the current chapter books (like Spiderwhick), but I still can't rationalize "going to the netherworld" in such an early middle grade, especially if it's depicted in a serious fashion and not like cartoony. I kind of feel like the Grim Reaper should be depicted as the Grim Reaper, not your friend.

I always thought of Goosebumps as chapter books, not middle grade. Of course, that could be me.

The Spiderwick books are ten years old now. Perhaps, try to find some that are even more recent. They say you shouldn't go back more than five years. Of course, I'm totally drawing a blank because every series I think of started more than ten years ago, is based off a licensed property, or developed from picture books or novels.
#14 - April 06, 2015, 07:54 AM
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I've read the current chapter books (like Spiderwhick), but I still can't rationalize "going to the netherworld" in such an early middle grade, especially if it's depicted in a serious fashion and not like cartoony. I kind of feel like the Grim Reaper should be depicted as the Grim Reaper, not your friend.

Err....are we talking about your book, or Spiderwick?     :huh

Maybe a specific description of what you're working on would help isolate the direction to take.
#15 - April 06, 2015, 08:01 AM
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Although word count can vary, 18K is shorter than the average midgrade, more like Clementine which is considered a chapter book.

Some classic midgrade books like Sarah Plain and Tall and Baby (look up Baby-amazing book) are very short.

I agree it's best to study the most recent books, though. Also I'd focus on the most recent books by newer authors as a Newbery author like McLachan can create her own genre. And books by newer authors are good examples of a first sale that found an editor.
#16 - April 06, 2015, 08:11 AM
Author of SNOW DOG, SAND DOG, THE SEER, DEAD GIRL, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB & in 2016: CA$H KAT
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Err....are we talking about your book, or Spiderwick?     :huh

Maybe a specific description of what you're working on would help isolate the direction to take.

Specifically the one I edited a while ago is supposed to be a darkly Gothic yet hi lo novella for those in later middle grade with reading difficulties, not yet ready to move onto grade level books. Thus the tone is more suited to that older age group.

Also Goosebumps is chapter books? That's fascinating, I didn't know that. It makes sense, so they're so short.
#17 - April 06, 2015, 01:33 PM
You can find my stuff at: uggc://plorephyg.bet/~fnenu/oybt.ugzy

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