February 4, 2019– A lot of aspiring authors get confused when asked by publishers who their novel is for. It can be tricky to differentiate between middle-grade novels and novels for young adults, so I thought that we would explore that topic today and clear things up.
For ages 8-12
Length is 30,000 to 50,000 words
No profanity, graphic violence, or sexuality. Romance in middle-grade novels is limited to first kiss or crush.
Age of protagonist is 10-13 (ten for the younger MG and 13 for the older readers)
Focus on friends, family, and the immediate world of the main character and their relationship to it. The characters react to what happens to them with zero to minimal self-reflection.
Voice is usually third person.
For ages 13-18
Length is 50,000 to 70,000 words
Profanity, graphic violence, romance, and sexuality (except for eroticism) are all allowed thought NOT required/necessary.
Age of protagonist is 14-18 BUT NOT yet in college/university. Young adult protagonists can be 14-15 years old for the younger reader, with safer content aimed at the middle school crowd. For older and edgier young adult protagonists, the can be up to 18.
Focus on how they fit into the world and what their place is beyond their friends and family. They spend more time discovering who they are and reflecting on the choices they make. They are analytical with the meaning of things.
Voice is usually first person.
This is a quick and easy way to know which group your novel fits into. Happy writing! X LLB
February 1, 2019– Things come in waves around here and I think that it’s kind of funny; sometimes all I’ll receive is middle-grade manuscripts, then the next time I’ll receive sci-fi submissions, and lately everyone seems to be sending me their ideas for children’s books. Since I’ve had such an influx of kid’s book submissions, let’s talk about how to better your chances of getting a picture book deal with my house.
There have been a ton of incorrectly submitted kid’s book queries and manuscripts in their entirety sent to me as of late (we’ll talk about queries in another post) so I thought that I’d be very specific on what to submit.
Time– Know that if you do get a deal signed with me, your book (any book) will take 2-5 years to hit the shelf. If this is too much time for you to wait then you have bigger problems and this industry will eat you alive. Patience is of the essence and great things take time. We are not in the business of rushing a book, throwing it on the shelf, and hoping for the best. Every single thing is calculated beforehand in terms of a marketing plan, securing the best illustrator for the project, editing the manuscript, obtaining dates for book signings, and cover design. If you’re not in this for the long haul and don’t have a ton of patience, you’re going to be in trouble.
Word Count– Is your picture book between 250-800 words? My personal preference for this type of book is 600-800 words. I prefer this length because it gives us time to get the story across and create a compelling character without leaving any loose ends.
Character– Is your story character driven? Is your character relatable? Does the character participate in a universal childhood experience? If your story is none of these or only one of these, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Don’t bother submitting because you aren’t ready and you don’t understand your market.
POV- Which point of view is your story told from? There’s only one that matters and it’s the child’s point of view. Don’t make mom or dad the main character. Kids see the world from their perspective and not ours. This means that if they’re in a grocery store for example, they probably won’t be able to reach a box of cereal from the top shelf. Or maybe it’s a mass of people in the store and the child comes to eye level with everyone’s butts. You get the point (of view).
Fresh-Is your story something new, fresh, and from a different angle? Let’s use the universal childhood experience again; picky eater books all read the same except for the very good ones. Dragons Love Tacos is a perfect example of a good one because it deals with foods that kids hate, but it puts a fresh and fun spin on it. Sure, making tacos for dragons may not be a universal childhood experience, but not liking certain foods is! Another awesome example of a fresh, different angle kid’s book is The Day the Crayons Quit. Talk about genius!
Kids-And perhaps the most important question of all is, will your book appeal to kids? They are the target audience and if they don’t like it, you can believe that their parents won’t buy it for them. If you’re not writing with kids in mind, then you shouldn’t be writing for kids in the first place.
There you have it! Before sending in your work, know the rules above and I promise that you’ll better your chances of working with us. X LLB
November 12, 2018– As a traditional publisher, I get a lot of questions about guidelines when writing. Sometimes I’ll receive a manuscript submission that doesn’t have the appropriate amount of content, and unfortunately for that writer, it means that it’s a no from me for picking up their script.
I want to discuss some word count guidelines in this post, but please keep in mind if you are deciding to self-publish, you can bend these rules a little. What’s that old saying? You have to know what the rules are before you break them? Sounds about right!
Children’s Picture Book– The industry standard for children’s picture books are 28 pages of interior, illustrated pages. There are 32 pages in total, 4 of the pages are left for the first interior cover page, the copyright page, and two blank pages. The 28 page count is usually 13 double spreads (the same scene happening across 2 pages) and 2 single illustrations (where a different scene is happening on each of the two pages). 13×2=26+2=28+4 blank pages= 32. Average word length is 400-800 words and up to 1000 words maximum.
Middle-Grade- The industry standard for middle-grade novel word counts is from 20,000 – 55,000 words, depending on the age range and subject matter, however, the word count of these books has been trending up in recent years. When writing longer works that are aimed at 12-year-olds and could be considered “tween”, using the term “upper middle grade” is advisable. With upper middle grade, you can aim for 40,000 – 55,000 words. These are books that are similar to young adult in subject matter and storytelling but still tend to stick to tame themes and avoid hot-button issues. With a simpler middle-grade idea rather than a complex one, aim lower- 20,000 to 35,000 words is acceptable.
YA (Young Adult)- The industry standard for young adult novels is pretty flexible. 55,000-79,999 is a good range for word count. The books seem to be trending on the longer end currently which is to say that you could write well into the 85,000-word range and still be ok. Just know that you better have a good reason for going that high! Higher word counts tend to show publishers that the writer does not know how to edit their work or themselves. Don’t go lower than 47,000 words on the low end of things.
SCI-FI and Fantasy– The industry standard for Sci-fi and fantasy are exceptions to word counts because the categories historically run long. It really has to do with the world building and descriptions used to set the scene. With both of these genres 100,000 – 115,000 words is a perfect range. On the low end, 90,000 to 99,000 is also acceptable with the ideal range being 100,000.
Adult novels: Commercial & Literary– Here are some industry standards, again, we are talking about ranges so keep that in mind. Between 80,000 and 89,999 words is the range to aim for. This word count is the perfect range for literary, mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller, and horror. Anything in this word count won’t scare off any agent anywhere. You can have as few as 71,000 words and as many as 109,000 words.
80,000 – 89,999: Best
90,000 – 99,999: Safe
70,000 – 79,999: All right
100,000 – 109,999: Okay
Below 70,000: Too short
110,000 or above Too long
6. Memoir– The industry standard for Memoir writing word counts is the same as a novel which is between 80,000-89,999 words. Keep in mind that most people don’t know how to edit their work, and this is especially true for memoir writing. People tend to write down every little detail because after all, it did happen! On the low-end aim for 70,000-79,000 words. This shows that you know how to focus on the meat of your life and are only telling the most interesting parts!
There you have it! The more you know before submitting your work to a traditional publisher, the better your chances of getting a book deal. Here’s to your success!
November 3, 2017- There seems to be a lot of confusion around three little words…Middle-Grade Novel. Let’s dive into the basics and explore what elements make up a middle-grade novel.
Middle-grade books are for kids in grades 4, 5, and 6-ages 9,10, 11.
This is a diverse group of readers, and the middle-grade word counts are as follows: books for younger kids are 20,000-25,000 words and the books for the older kids usually contain 35,000-40,000 words.
These books are usually large print, fast reads. A great example of a younger middle-grade novel is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a great example of an older middle-grade book is our very own Unfrogged by Tamara Botting.
Middle grade interests include the following things:
PEERS– I capitalized this word because it’s the single most crucial thing to middle -graders and it’s important to know that kids care what their friends think above anything else at this age!
Family-The child is the main character, the child is in the middle, and everything revolves around him or her. For example, parents are getting divorced what does that mean to the child?
Self Concept– How do I belong? Who am I? Kids at this age are just starting to figure this out and ask the questions that will eventually shape them into adults.
Puberty-Looks, development, gender, opposite sex and relationships.
Future-Upon who does the future depend?…It depends on the main character of course!
So if you’re planning on writing for middle-graders, keep the above things in mind!
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