Great Middle Grade Reads discussion

GROUP BUSINESS > Increasing the Middle Grade Energy Level

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message 1: by W. (new)

W. Scott (ladystar) | 2 comments What can we as middle grade authors do to put some energy in this group and in our market? Speaking as someone with more than seven years of experience trying to sell middle grade fiction, I'm here to tell you the sound of the crickets here and on Amazon is getting overwhelming. There are threads in this group almost as old as my first book that are getting an average of nine views a month.

I think there are a lot of authors like myself who have a lot to offer, but are getting more than a little confused by the fact every demographic except middle grade is invited to the "my book is selling wheeeeee!" party while the rest are ushered out to stand by the patio furniture.

Here's a good example: Amazon has a wonderful program called "Freetime Unlimited" that is chock full of activities for kids.

You know, our future readers? Those kids? Do middle grade authors have access to this area set aside for our future readers? If not, why? Isn't that where our books belong? Because I'm pretty sure they aren't going to sell any better sitting between vampires-with-guns urban fantasy and aliens-ate-my-planet military sci-fi.

What can we do to get some energy and some momentum and some volume going for middle grade fiction? Can we organize and start making some noise? I say this with some urgency because if you look around you'll see a future where middle grade readers (and their phones) are drifting further and further from literacy, and I'm pretty sure when speaking to a group full of authors and teachers I don't have to explain how that book ends.

message 2: by Lyn (new)

Lyn Davis (lynrdavis) | 4 comments Wow, this is an impressive assessment and identification of concern. It's a little debilitating that it has been seen only by me in Oct 2018.

Did you come up with any ideas to create a 'play zone' for Middle Grade readers that will then become a place to promote books?

I pick up most of my new MG books from Bookbub.

I am not on Goodreads all that often. So sorry this is so delayed.

message 3: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Jaeger (jsjaeger) | 173 comments I also just noticed this (thanks for LR's comment) and agree with your concern. We]don't have an answer but are trying to find one. Middle-grade is definitely one of the hardest markets to reach. Throw in being indie published and it feels like climbing Mount Everest.

message 4: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1299 comments Mod
Oh, it's been viewed plenty of times.

message 5: by Susie (new)

Susie (susiepurdue) | 4 comments I don't consider the Amazon Unlimited to be a great program. To me, it looks like another excuse for electronic babysitting; "spend a minimal amount, and we'll occupy your kid"

I think social media is the way many hear about middle level literature. The word of mouth generated via teachers and librarians, the #nerdybookclub community, twitter chats, facebook groups, etc is how I hear about a lot of books. Of course, there are more and more middle schools without librarians now, so that opportunity is lost. Some teachers are well-versed in current literature, but not all.

message 6: by Kim (new)

Kim | 1 comments I have found a surprising number of MG writers on twitter using the #writerscommunity or #writingcommunity tags. I feel like these books are gaining ground and from what I read from publishers/agents, there is a growing call for new voices. Maybe I'm being over optimistic. I'm querying atm so first things first...

message 7: by Benjamin (last edited Feb 04, 2019 09:14AM) (new)

Benjamin Kuttner | 8 comments W. wrote: "I say this with some urgency because if you look around you'll see a future where middle grade readers (and their phones) are drifting further and further from literacy, and I'm pretty sure when speaking to a group full of authors and teachers I don't have to explain how that book ends. ..."

This is so true. I found myself for a long time trying to promote books through old phones my kids (5 - 8 year olds) inherited from my wife and I, tablets, and a laptop my oldest child uses at school - end result was kids with little attention spans who are not interested at all in books. Recently we made a deal with our kids, screen time only after reading a certain amount of a real books (paper). What happened was pretty amazing as our kids started to read again. They are not even after screen time unless they are very worn out after a big day. We also made a little reading 'nook' with shelves for books they are currently reading and cushions to chill on. When my oldest isn't doing other things, she even goes there for R&R after school to read.

I've just started trying to promote my MG book and I think if you ever wanted an inspiring reason for doing what you're doing, it is to reintroduce the wonders of reading and literacy back to children.

message 8: by Alex (new)

Alex Norton (alexnorton) | 21 comments I'm glad I stumbled across this thread. This subject is something I think about a good deal and not just from an author/promotional standpoint.

This won't work for anyone interested in sales, but I've recently decided to start publishing my books as a free online serial and promote via Instagram, Wattpad, and so on. As the OP points out, middle-grade is a hard sell in this industry, and I'm not a good salesman even when it's easy.

I see so much interest in children's fiction and YA, reading being encouraged in young children and teens, but the middle seems to be kinda left out. There's a gap there that I suspect drops a lot of kids out of the habit of reading during middle school years, boys especially. Reading is a crucial tool in the healthy development of many life skills, and in the growth of empathy and understanding. Literacy builds better people and therefore a better world. We need to keep those kiddos reading straight through to adulthood.

That's why it concerns me that middle-grade fiction has such low interest among, agents, publishers, writing contests, book bloggers, what have you. I may not have noticed it if I wasn't writing for this age group, but I've run across that "I don't do middle-grade" vibe in far too many places for it not to worry me.

I write as a hobby. I write because I love to create stories, I love my characters. It's not a commercial venture for me, I have a great full-time gig that I love and makes plenty of bank, but I still want kids to read what I write, because when they do they're engaged and full of questions about what's next and ideas about the characters and that's all I want from this. Any author will understand, the feeling you get from that is worth more than anything else.

The biggest problem is, it is tough to get middle-grade fiction into the hands of the kids you wrote it for even if they like to read. They're not buying books for themselves yet, and they're past the age where many parents buy random books for them, or to read to them. The parents buy a book if the kids ask for it, and to ask for it they have to know about it.

The Mighty JK Rowling inspired the Millennials to be readers. Now we have to figure out how to perform the same trick for the Zoomers. The internet is where they live, that's why I'm moving toward the online serial idea.

Maybe if we can get more kids this age reading stories chapter by chapter online, it'll inject some of that energy the OP was talking about into the market as a whole.

message 9: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1299 comments Mod
Good thoughts, Alex. There's such a lot of really good stories for middle-grade readers out there. But there's also quite a range. I think it's a very difficult genre to pitch right. And some authors (including me) sort of end up as Middle Grade writers because what we want to write doesn't really fit into older or younger categories.

That may not be a bad thing. What we write is probably spot on suitable for the reader at that age: a little bit more exciting, with some grown-up ideas to ponder, but safe enough to be read by a younger person on their own.

But getting the message out is, as you say, very hard!

message 10: by Ken (new)

Ken Deeprose | 11 comments This is a fascinating thread - but a touch depressing as well. It's a topic that you might think would generate a lot of discussion, but has only 9 posts over a three year period. Oh no! What have I gotten myself in to? I am new to the whole writing thing and did very little research about the publishing/selling side of things before I got started. My hobby has always been board game design, so when my son (now just drifting out of the MG age group) suggested my new card game might need a back story, I decided to give the writing thing a try and ended up enjoying it very much. My book ended up in the middle grade category because my game is best suited for kids in the 8 to 14 year-old range and I wanted to book to appeal to the same crowd.

I have really grown to enjoy books targeted for this audience. Shorter books with lots of action, filled with characters too young to be caught up in all the angst makes for some really great stories. The feedback I get from kids reading the book is wonderful, but you don't run into many of them in this age group that make reading a priority.

I am at a semi-retired point in my life, so making huge dollars was never really the goal for me, but once you put all the work into writing a book, it would certainly make you feel good if a lot of kids were to enjoy it. My book is the first in a trilogy, so I'll spend the next couple of years writing the next two and trying to figure out some way to get it into the hands of the kids. Hopefully, I'll figure out something and have a little fun along the way.

message 11: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1299 comments Mod
Ken wrote: "This is a fascinating thread - but a touch depressing as well. It's a topic that you might think would generate a lot of discussion, but has only 9 posts over a three year period. Oh no! What have ..."

I think we prefer to read the books than work on kids to increase their energy level, Ken. But for those who also write for this age group, it's still as tricky as ever finding a way for the Mums and Dads to pick up the books for them, or to show them. School visits work well, and fairs.... but most of us aren't able to do those right now.

New ideas are always welcome, of course!

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