Tag Archives: brian klems

THE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MIDDLE GRADE VS YOUNG ADULT

First Edition Design Publishing

Another great guest post at  Writer’s Digest

Categories: Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig Tags: Brian Klems.

OK, class. What sets a middle-grade novel apart from a young adult novel? If you said MG is for readers ages 8–12, and YA is for readers ages 13–18, then give yourself a check plus. But if you’re writing for the juvenile market and that’s all you know about these two categories, then I’m afraid you still need to stick around for the rest of this class. A book that doesn’t fit within the parameters of either age category is a book you won’t be able to sell.

In my work with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, I see my inbox flooded every day with queries for manuscripts that suffer from an MG/YA identity crisis. Like when a query says, “I’ve written a 100,000-word MG novel about a seventh-grader who falls in love and has sex for the first time.” Or when one states, “In my 20,000-word YA novel, a 14-year-old holds her first sleepover and learns the meaning of true friendship.” Both queries would earn a swift rejection, based on both inappropriate manuscript lengths and on content that’s either too mature or too young for the audience they’re targeting. Sadly, by not understanding what makes a book a true MG or a solid YA, these writers have hamstrung their chances for success, regardless of how well written their stories may be. It’s like they showed up to a final exam without ever cracking a book.

On the bright side, writers who study up on the many key differences between MG and YA will be able to craft the kind of well-targeted manuscript that will make both agents and editors take notice. Pay attention, because someday your manuscript will be tested.

*******************************************************
This guest post is by Marie Lamba (marielamba.com), author of the YA novels What I Meant…, Over My Head and Drawn. She’s also associate literary agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (jdlit.com).
******************************************************

Mg At A Glance

Age of readers: 8–12.
Length: Generally 30,000–50,000 words (although fantasy can run longer to allow for more complex world-building).
Content restrictions: No profanity, graphic violence or sexuality (romance, if any, is limited to a crush or a first kiss).
Age of protagonist: Typically age 10 for a younger MG novel, and up to age 13 for older, more complex books.
Mind-set: Focus on friends, family and the character’s immediate world and relationship to it; characters react to what happens to them, with minimal self-reflection.

Voice: Often third person.

Ya At A Glance

Age of readers: 13–18.
Length: Generally 50,000–75,000 words (although there’s also a length allowance for fantasy).
Content restrictions: Profanity, graphic violence, romance and sexuality (except for eroticism) are all allowable (though not required).
Age of protagonist: Ages 14–15 for a younger YA with cleaner content aimed at the middle-school crowd; for older and more edgy YA, characters can be up to 18 (but not in college).
Mind-set: YA heroes discover how they fit in the world beyond their friends and family; they spend more time reflecting on what happens and analyzing the meaning of things.

Voice: Often first person.

MG vs. YA Characters

When picking your hero’s age, remember that kids “read up,” which means they want to read about characters who are older than they are. So an 8-year-old protagonist won’t fly for the MG category, though it’d be OK for a younger chapter book or easy reader. For the widest audience, you’ll generally want your protagonist to be on the oldest side of your readership that your plot will allow. That means a 12- or even 13-year-old hero for MG, and a 17- or 18-year-old for YA (just remember your hero can’t be in college yet—that would push it into the “new adult” category).

MG vs. YA Readers

Middle-grade is not synonymous with middle school. Books for the middle-school audience tend to be divided between the MG and YA shelves. So which shelf do those readers go to? While there is no such thing as a ’tween category in bookstores, there are degrees of maturity in both MG and YA novels that’ll appeal to the younger and older sides of the middle-school crowd. A longer, more complex MG novel with characters who are 13 could take place in middle school and be considered an “upper-MG novel.” But the material can’t be too mature. It’s still an MG novel, after all, and most readers will be younger. Writing a sweeter, more innocent YA? Then it’s pretty likely that your readers will be ’tweens, that your characters should be around 15 years old, and that your book will be marketed as a “young YA.”

While it’s useful for you to understand these nuances as you craft your story and relate to your true audience, 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.

MG vs. YA Content and Voice

What’s cool to a fourth-grader differs from what a 10th-grader will idolize. Same goes for the way they speak and the way they view the world. Which is why if romance appears in an MG novel, it’s limited to a crush and maybe an innocent kiss, as it is in Shugby Jenny Han. A YA could involve deep, true love as well as sexuality, as in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Another key difference? Overall, MG novels end on a hopeful note, while YA novels could have less optimistic endings, as in Green’s tearful story. You could say that that’s youth vs. experience coming into play.

When it comes to content, here’s another important thing to keep in mind: There are gatekeepers between your book and your targeted audience. MG readers typically don’t have direct access to their novels. To get a book, kids first go through a parent, a teacher or a librarian. While you might want to have that gritty character in your upper-MG novel drop a few four-letter words, doing so will hurt book sales, so choose your language wisely.

Also, think carefully about your content. MG is not the place for graphic or persistent violence, but can it be scary and dark? Sure—look at Holes by Louis Sachar, where boys are threatened by a crazy warden and nearly killed by poisonous lizards. (Note, however, that book does have a happy ending.)

If you’re writing a YA, you don’t have to worry about those gatekeepers as much. But while YA authors cover just about anything in their novels, keep in mind that gratuitous sex, foul language or violence won’t fly in any great literature. And do remember that school and library support can really catapult a YA title to success. While dropping a ton of F-bombs is OK if it fits with your characters and setting, be prepared for your book to be perhaps on fewer school shelves as a result, and make sure it’s worth that risk.

Exceptions to Every Rule

Like any rebellious teen can tell you, rules are made to be broken. Word counts often vary from the suggested norms. Just don’t deviate too low or too high, especially for a debut. I know what you’re thinking: J.K. Rowling.
True, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came close to a whopping 200,000 words, but her debut novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was roughly 77,000 words—which is still long for the genre, but not outrageously so for an MG fantasy. Hey, once you get as popular as Rowling, you can write doorstopper-sized tomes, too.

Content can also stray from the stated guidelines, with good reason. You might, say, choose to have an MG with a swear word, or with a more edgy storyline. Whatever norm you do stray from, just make sure you do so for a specific and valid purpose, that your book still fits your audience’s point of view, and that you understand what deviating from the norm might mean for your book’s marketability.

Whether you aim to write a YA or an MG novel, there is one thing you absolutely must do: Tell a story that is meaningful to your intended reader. And to do that, you must first know who that reader is.

So which shelf does your book belong on? Know that and your book will surely graduate with full honors, moving on to a long and happy future in your readers’ appreciative hands.

First Edition Design Publishing

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

8 UNEXPECTED LESSONS FROM WORKING WITH A LITERARY AGENT

Ebook Publishing Design Edition First Graphic Aggregators Ebooks Publishers Distribution POD Designing Approved Aggregator How Services Academic Distributor Chapter Submission Professional Firsteditiondesignpublishing.com published book market

Publisher – Aggregator – Master Distributor

Another great guest post at Writer’s Digest
| Brian A. Klems

With self-publishing becoming more widely accepted and Amazon waging wars with publishers, more and more I get the sense from aspiring authors that they don’t think landing an agent means as much as it used to.

They believe “traditional” publishing is going the way of VCRs and none of the old rites of passage apply anymore. That’s fine if you think that, but, in my experience, it simply isn’t true.

I signed on with my agent, Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, in September of 2010 for my first (unpublished) young adult, suspense novel and it has solidified some valuable lessons.

******************************

MyLastKissBethanyNeal_headshot copyGuest post by Bethany Neal, who writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

My Last Kiss is her first novel. You can connect with her online atwww.bethanyneal.com.
*****************************

Searching for an Agent

The beginning of this journey started with little more than a polished draft of my manuscript. I started simply by researching agents through Literary Marketplace, which is a massive tome that sits behind the reference counter at most public libraries.

Some of this research was review because I had previously queried a paranormal YA trilogy that ended in 32 rejections.

Having revived my search, I made a shortlist of reputable agencies looking for YA. I browsed their sites and found agents within each agency looking for my specific flavor of YA. I write a little on the dark side—somebody is almost always dead—and I write a lot of kissing. Not everyone wants to represent that, and that’s fine.

I think the most important part in the agent search is reading every agent’s bio and only querying those you feel a connection with and who are interested in not just your genre but also your style. My agent, for instance, at the time was looking for darker YA projects with a strong voice. That’s my writing in a nutshell.

[Get Query Help: Click here for The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter]

Landing an Agent

I had two full manuscripts and one partial out with various interested agents when I got the email.

The email that said Stacey read my manuscript and wanted to set up a time to discuss it. I’d been rejected by 14 other agents already, so I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Then I got the call.

Thus began a string of very important lessons for my writing career.

1. Look before you leap.

My agent told me what she liked about my writing and the story and answered every single one of my questions.

I was so out of my mind excited that she wanted to represent me. So I told her I didn’t need to wait to hear back from the other two agents interested and I wanted—needed her as my agent.

This is my one regret in my agent search. I should have given myself a day to regain sanity and speak with the other two agents. I don’t regret signing with my agent because she’s been an enormous support throughout the years, but it’s something I know I should’ve done for peace of mind.

Take that day to pause before you jump on the first agent who smiles at your manuscript.

2. Prepare to move.

Almost immediately, my agent was requesting more information.

Stacey asked me to send her an author bio and a synopsis for the other novel I’d written, then emailed me an agency agreement that stated DGLM exclusively had the right to sell my novel for one year.

Right out of the gate there were deadlines. This one at least was a soft deadline, but it stoked a sense of urgency.

We went back and forth on revisions for a few months and ended up pushing back the submittal date so she could feature my novel in DGLM’s Upcoming Projects newsletter to generate interest with editors.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

3. Anticipate nice, bad news.

After about a month being out on submittal, she sent me an email chocked full of the most positive, helpful, optimistic rejections I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was the best of a worst-case scenario I could have hope for.

I made revisions based on feedback and we made a round two submittal, but the basic consensus was to move on.

Luckily, I’d been writing away during all this waiting and close to finishing a draft of my new project that editors were eager to read because they remembered liking my first novel. That new project is titled MY LAST KISS and was published by FSG/Macmillan on June 10, 2014.

I didn’t expect to feel encouraged by rejections, but aligning with an agent allowed me to receive bad news in a way that turned out positive.

4. You’ll idolize your agent a bit.

It’s strange waiting with bated breath for someone’s email while also kind of loving and worshipping them even though you’ve never physically met them. I don’t think I could ever do online dating because it was weird. I’ve since met (and loved even more) Stacey in person.

I wasn’t anticipating, though, how many emotions I would wrap up in whether or not I heard from her.

5. You will hurry up and wait.

There is a lot going on, but the process from signing with an agent to publishing is a pretty drawn out experience.

I had no idea how long every step would take. It took us five months to get my first novel revised and ready to get out on submittal. It took another couple months worth of waiting to hear back from editors. And there’s more waiting once you get published. You can make good use of the time spent waiting though. For me it became an opportunity for uninterrupted writing time, which is invaluable.

[Learn important writing lessons from these first-time novelists.]

6. Expectations will drive you mad.

The biggest, dirtiest little secret about getting an agent (and being published) that no one tells you: Expectations, albeit mostly self-imposed, will drive you mad.

You start worrying about what will sell. Don’t. It will lead you down a dark, dark path—like Van Gogh, cut-your-ear-off dark.

Do yourself a favor and don’t go there because it’s extremely difficult to climb out of that pit of author-ly sorrow. You can’t predict the market and what will or won’t sell. The sooner you accept that, the saner you will be.

7. Agents breathe fresh life into your work.

An incredibly positive, unexpected bonus to finding my agent is how insightful and willing she is to collaborate on revisions.

Stacey will send me an email with literally one sentence asking something about my manuscript and it will enlighten me to the exact issue I’d been trying to fix for eight months. Having access to an expert with a keen eye is invaluable.

8. An agent is a partner in your journey.

On the warm and fuzzy side, how much she believes in me and my writing is something I couldn’t have anticipated.

Being an author still feels like this soap bubble that might burst at any moment. Even after having my first novel published, that insecurity hasn’t gone away. If I didn’t have my agent to give me pep talks and reassure me of my talent when the chips are down, I don’t know where I’d be.

Being a writer is hard work. Getting published is even harder work. Having an agent can give you a much needed hand. Just know that there are some surprising twists and turns along the way.

First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts, formats and submits Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and scores of additional on-line retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company also has a POD division, which creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. The company is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with both Apple and Microsoft.

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

5 THINGS WRITERS SHOULD ASK POTENTIAL AGENTS

First Edition Design Publishing

 by:

Categories: Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig Tags: Brian Klems.

questions-to-ask-an-agentAn agent has offered me representation, but I don’t know how to tell if she’s right for me. What are the most important questions a writer should ask an agent before signing? —Anonymous

There are hundreds of questions you could ask an agent, from the sensible “What attracted you to my book?” to the slightly less sensible “When will you net me my first million?” The key is to choose the ones that will get you the most important information you need to make an informed decision.

Here’s a list of the five most crucial questions you should ask any agent before agreeing to join her client list.

1. Why do you want to represent me and my work?

The agent should be able to answer this easily. Agents generally take on projects that they not only think will sell well, but that they personally admire. This question gives the agent an opportunity to express her interest to you.

[Want to land an agent? Here are 4 things to consider when researching literary agents.]

2. How did you become an agent/get your start in publishing?

You want an agent who has a history in publishing, whether as a junior associate at a well-known agency or perhaps as an editor with a small imprint. You need to be assured that the agent knows the business and has the contacts necessary to give your book its best shot. You might also want to ask if the agent could refer you to one of her clients in your genre as well; getting the perspective of a writer who is in the role you’re about to step into can be invaluable.

3. What editors do you have in mind for my book? Have you sold to them before? Will you continue to market to other editors if you can’t make a deal with your first choices?

This is more of a three-part question, but it’s the overall answer that you want. By asking these questions, you’re checking to see if this agent has connections, and you’re also clarifying her overall game plan. This is key. You want to make sure your expectations are aligned.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. What books have you sold recently?

This indicates whether the agent has a track record of selling books in your category or genre.

5. Why should I sign with you?

You’re about to enter into a partnership that neither party should take lightly. This is an opportunity for the agent to pitch you, just as you’ve pitched her, and convince you that she’s the right person to represent your work.

You’ll have additional questions more specific to your work, so don’t hesitate to ask them. They’ll simply show the agent that you’re savvy about your book’s target market. Agents are used to these inquiries, so they are unlikely to be surprised by any questions you may have. And if an agent refuses to answer anything on the list above, that should be a red flag that something is amiss.

2014-guide-to-literary-agentsGet the #1 guide to finding contact information, 
“How to Submit” submission guidelines and more for nearly 
every literary agent there is with the Guide to Literary Agents
Order now from WD and get a steep discount.

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Edition Design eBook Publishing

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com