Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Querying middle grade

I enjoyed your blog post last June about Scott Reynolds Nelson’s book, AIN’T NOTHING BUT A MAN. It's a fantastic middle grade nonfiction read and an excellent mentor text to have on the bookshelf. With the combination of photos, paintings, illustrations, sidebars, text, and jaw-dropping appendices, how would you, as an agent, prepare a book proposal to sell such a book? What's the approach to packaging all the resources together to make an effective proposal or does the focus start with just the text?

The focus is the text, and the concept.

Then we take a look at readability, which drives us all nuts but is important for kids books, particularly fiction. A book that's hard to read won't find fans.

It's not dumbing down, not even close. It's recognizing what 4th grade readers can do. Sure some kids read at a higher level (probably most of us here) but the last thing we want to do is write books for only the top 1% of the reading population.

My goal with kids books is finding and selling books that kids love love love.

The way I had books I read over and over in elementary school.
(you too?)

All the backmatter comes after the story is fully developed.

And often we work with editors on this after they've acquired the book because how much back matter can depend a lot on the size of the book and the number of pages.

You don't need any of that to query.
You query with just the text.

Any questions?


Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I love looking at juvenile non-fiction. Contains valuable facts, in a compelling and succinct way. Plus, protip, if you're learning about countries? Frequently those juvenile non-fiction books about countries of the world will have a recipe or three in the back, depending on the series!

Unfortunately, my library's circulation of JNF just shrinks and shrinks, and as a result, the collection has also been weeded, and weeded, and weeded again. We can't justify the real estate if the books are literally never touched.

Craig F said...

Readability is for more than just juvenile non-fiction. Well written books that are readable can span many age groups, no matter what genre they are in. Look at Potter

Naw, don't look at Potter he turned the reading of science off, kids want magic.

Barbara Etlin said...

When I told a bookstore clerk that I was looking for a research text about the middle ages as background for my MG novel, she recommended two non-fiction books for middle-grade readers. They were concise and gave background information in a simple format.

JanR said...

Craig F, that's so true. I've been practising a language (that's not my mother tongue) by reading middle-grade fiction in it. And do I ever notice the difference between those that are readable and those at top 1% level! I'm going to have to do a deliberate readability pass on mine at some point, which will be fun, doing a really deep dive on word choice etc.

Recently read an interview with a Jeopardy! winner who said reading kids nonfiction was an ideal way to prepare for the show - for all the reasons Jennifer R Donohue and Barbara Etlin mention.