Pub Rants

What Editors Have Bought Recently – Young Adult and Middle Grade

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STATUS: I have often said on this blog, Thank God It’s Friday. Today, I really really mean it. What a crazy week. But all good stuff.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME BY NOW by Simply Red

So editors have been seeing a lot of crap but they’ve also been buying stuff. So instead of answering the question: What is an editor looking for? I thought I’d delve into what they’ve bought recently.

Here you go!

1) A young adult thriller
2) Gothic retelling of a classic–in this case, The Island of Dr. Moreau
3 young adult straight fantasy (as opposed to a bent one! *grin* In other words, a traditional not contemporary fantasy)
4) a time travel young adult novel
5) realistic contemporary young adult
6) animal character middle grade fantasy

Editors have not seen a lot in middle grade (it’s the hardest content to find) but what they have seen included science fiction for the younger reader and Aliens in space or similar that target boy readers.

I’m out. Literally. Like I’m now going to sleep….

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24 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I know from a fact that many editors are passing up some very good middle grade fiction. The content isn’t hard to find; editors need to learn what their target audience wants to read and stop looking for books of interest to girls in their teens. That’s the problem. A twelve-year-old boy doesn’t think or respond to the same material as his older sister. Unfortunately, that’s all these editors know how to buy. They are clueless when it comes to middle grade boy books.

  2. DragonDork said:

    Hmm. Well, if quality middle grade is hard to find, that might be a good thing for the (good) middle grade authors. The good stories will stand out from the bad ones more clearly when there are more bad stories to compare them to. You know, that sentence sounded a lot better in my head…

  3. D.J. Cappella said:

    Kristin thank you so much for all your notes on what the literary world is looking for. You are a touch stone for all of us writters in the world. It is interesting that we are seeing less and less paranormal romances out there. Not sure what will be hitting my night stand now.

    D.J. Cappella

  4. Paddy Kelly said:

    Hello Kristin. I have a question for you, one that many of your readers perhaps haven’t considered.

    As an Irish writer, I write in British English. If I want to submit something to an American agent, would I need to go through the book and change it to US English?

    Are American agents okay with it, as long as it’s pointed out to them? Or will it make them explode in apoplectic rage? Because I’d really like to avoid that.


  5. JeffO said:

    @Anonymous – I’m not trying to pick a fight, I’m just curious how you know what editors are passing up. A void in the market isn’t necessarily because editors are passing up quality. I’d also suggest that most editors do know the different between twelve-year old boys and, say, sixteen-year old girls in terms of likes and dislikes; but they can’t publish what they aren’t getting, and they do have to keep sales potential in mind.

  6. Anonymous Author said:

    Anonymous, I had several editors interested in my middle grade novel for boys. It sold quite quickly.

  7. Michael Price said:

    I am writing a fantasy book but it is YA to Adult reading. My wife read chapter 1 and said it was very interesting but had too much information. Her and another close friend are my pre-editors. I took all the advice from them and others and I am rewriting and condensing things down. Better to start with too much info than not enough. You can always subtract things that were fillers than to add key components to the story. Thanks for all your post and info KristIn. I enjoy your rants and read them a lot.

    I have several ideas for middle grade boy books but they are on the back burner for now. I am enjoying the story that I am writing now.

  8. Stephanie McGee said:

    Yea!!! YA traditional fantasy! (As an author who has one near to query-stage and a slew of other ideas in this genre, I am thrilled.) Thanks for the update!

  9. Anonymous said:

    Middle grade animal character fantasy? Someone actually bought one?


    Guess it’s time to start querying that one again! 😀

  10. Anonymous said:

    I’m querying a middle grade sci fi focused on boy readers now. I just sent it to 4 agents and of course you are one of them.

    Fingers, toes and anything else I can cross – crossed.

  11. Joseph L. Selby said:

    It’s nice to be querying something on the list rather than in the middle of writing something on the list. It always feels like my ideas come to fruition right after something got hot. I was already writing that! D’oh!

    Also, traditional fantasy is the subgenre most often ignored. If an agent breaks down their preference from fantasy to the many subgenres, they traditional and contemporary often get forgotten. There’s more than just urban and epic out there!

  12. Anonymous said:

    Question – How long to we wait to resend our query letter if we haven’t heard from you?

    Your submissions tab says 7-10 for a response.

    I sent it on May 7th.

    Just wondering if I should re-send.

    Thank you.

  13. kisatrtle said:

    I appreciate the information. Is it wrong to admit that I was actually excited to hear that my contemporary YA manuscript doesn’t need a vampire added to it…

  14. A. M. Perkins said:

    I am always interested in lists like this, yet they drive me slightly insane.

    If I see a category similar to my novel’s I think, “Oh no! They won’t want to see another book in that category!”

    If I don’t see a category similar to my novel’s I think, “Oh no! No one’s interested in books in that category!”

    I’m thinking I should just start avoiding these lists 😉

  15. Maureen said:

    I wouldn’t know how to begin writing middle grade. I guess it’s not very appealing to a lot of authors, now that I come to think of it… With YA fiction, you have a much larger audience. All those huge franchises are YA books, really. They definitely aren’t middle grade… kids want to be seen as adults as soon as they hit puberty (which is probably about as soon as they put down their MG book). They then can’t possibly be seen reading a book for KIDS. Series in the MG section would be particularly hard, because kids might not want to be seen with MG books long enough to finish the series. So unless the books grow with the reader, like HP did (or Percy Jackson I suppose), you have to wrap it all up very quickly.

    Personally, I would find MG too challenging. I wouldn’t know how to get the voice right… you don’t want to sound condescending, but you don’t want to blow over their heads either. And I guess most people want to write something profound, where the MC’s view of the world changes drastically.. which it wouldn’t that much in a MG novel.

    I think to write good MG, you have to be really in it with all your heart… and not for the fame and the rain of money. It’s probably also a category that a lot of authors aren’t very much in touch with on a regular basis, so they might not come to think of writing it.

    Good luck to everyone subbing MG right now, anyway! 🙂 It’s a lovely thought that one of your books could be the one that makes a person love books for the rest of their life.

    Also, if there’s an answer to Paddy Kelly’s question concerning UK vs US English with US agents, I’d love to know.

  16. Heather Hawke said:

    In reply to Maureen – you make a lot of good points but I will quibble about MG books’ characters world views not changing much. Very often, I venture to say most times, that is the whole focus of the book. Think A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, A Secret Garden – I mention these because most people are familiar with them, but modern MG is much the same.

  17. Adrianne Noel said:

    I write women’s fic, so I’m just asking out of curiosity, but, can anyone name some MG books? I’m assuming the “tree house” books would count. What about The Chronicles of Narnia?

  18. Trisha_Hall said:

    The list for middle grade readers is pretty extensive, but here are a few examples: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; The Borrowers by Mary Norton, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney; Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery; Redwall by Brian Jacques; The Giver by Lois Lowry.

  19. Suzanne said:

    Kate Messner, Laurel Snyder, Rebecca Stead, Nova Ren Suma – all amazing MG contemporary authors, and their characters all experience growth throughout their novels as they face and overcome their obstacles. MG voice may be challenging, but a talented writer will always be a talented writer. It’s just a matter of what genre and age are the right fit to your style of writing.

  20. Maureen said:

    Heather: You’re probably right about the world views changing, but I think it happens in a different way. A lot of YA novels are about growing up, and stepping into the adult world, whereas the MCs of MG novels get to stay kids/teens for a bit longer after the conclusion of the story. Most of the YA struggles have to do with sudden responsibilities or stuff like magic happening to the MCs that relates to puberty.

    I think I’ve been out of MG for too long to properly judge what this is like there though, and it’s very possible that I’ve entirely missed a bunch of trends…