What Is Middle Grade?

We here at the Middle-Grade Mafia take the term, “Middle Grade” in stride.  We use it every day, in our blog posts, our tweets, our Facebook updates and even in our (#MG) hashtags.  But I’ve found that when I meet someone who isn’t in the publishing industry and tell them that I write Middle-Grade fiction, they get confused. So what IS Middle-Grade fiction?

Loosely speaking, Middle-Grade fiction is written for children between the ages of 8 and 12. The protagonist is almost always in that age range, and while middle-grade books can deal with serious issues, they are usually less graphic. The vocabulary is appropriate for middle-schoolers, and other than fantasy or notable exceptions, middle-grade books are usually shorter, topping out around 50,000 words.

Within the Middle-Grade label, you’ll find books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wonder, Harry Potter, George, The One and Only Ivan, The Crossover, and Holes. You can see why some people (okay, me) say that MG is the new YA!

If you want to write middle-grade books, you should READ middle-grade books. Any of the above are a great way to start.

I recently ran across the first email I received from my agent, Susan Hawk. She’d requested pages based on my query but the email chain revealed that the person who’d read the first lines had added “Says YA, but is MG.” Yep, I’d made Lou, my protagonist in LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS, thirteen. Thankfully, Susan liked what she read and I was able to change the age easily, but the gray area is not where you want to be. The booksellers need to have a place to put you and right now, there is no MG.5 at Barnes and Noble.

If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the Middle-Grade market, come on in. The water, and the books, are fine!

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