Columns > Published on March 18th, 2013

Ask The Agent: Marketing to a Middle Grade Audience, Having Multiple Agents and More

Navigating the rough terrain of today’s publishing industry shouldn’t be a solo event. This week in Ask the Agent, I’ll explore and dissect a few of the industry’s mysteries, straight from the shoulder.


Question from Colleen

I have not found a ton of information about writing & marketing for Middle Grades, and my novel is written on the cusp between MG and YA. Aside from working with a publisher who can get my story into school libraries, what kind of marketing can be done toward that younger age? If I wrote a series based off this book, it would start in MG territory (ages 10-12) and end in YA (15-16). Should I be considering marketing toward both or just one?

Marketing for a younger age needs to be very interactive. With teens and adults: blog tours, interviews, virtual book launches... all those work just fine. But with the younger set, you’ll want to work your way into schools, local bookstores, and libraries for readings and events centered on and around your book. You'll want to personally interact with your young audience because they don’t follow blogs and Facebook/Twitter events and giveaways the way YA readers do.

Another way to market to the younger set is through fun, (masked) educational, interactive websites. Take the Harry Potter web site for example. It’s extremely interactive and very fun but centers on the books and the information from the books. Things like: learning skills performed by the protagonist, unlocking bonus book material or bonus information, playing games… these are all great tools to reach that MG market and keep them coming back for more.

As far as a series starting in the MG range and ending in the YA range, well, you’re lucky because readers grow with the books. In a series, a new book will usually come out once a year, so if your characters are growing in the book, your reader grows with them and thus the “what ages should I market to?” dilemma solves itself.

Question from Kevin

I've read that when querying an agent, it's a good idea to personalize your query towards the agent. Would mentioning that you find an agent's Twitter posts to be highly useful/inspiring/funny be a good idea or a bad one? 

This is okay. Don’t dwell on it, don’t spend too many of your precious query words on it, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it. It’s flattering and lets us know you’ve done your research. Don’t be too sugary sweet though. Sucking up to an agent never did any writer any favors. We are smart enough to know when you are being sincere and when you are just trying to get on our good side.

Pro tip: You’ve heard it a million times, personalization in query letters is great, just don’t go overboard and never lie about it. You may get lucky or you may make a fool out of yourself. (i.e., “I loved your client’s book _____!” …Aaaand that client isn’t mine…)

Question from James

Do I need multiple agents if I write novels in multiple genres?

Sometimes, yes. It depends on the agent. There are agents who will not stray from their set genres of representation and they may encourage you to find another agent to rep your other genres. There are also other agents who will predominately represent certain genres, but will represent whatever work their clients produce as long as they still love it.

This is something you absolutely need to establish before you sign with an agent.

On your “pre-sign phone call,” tell your potential agent that you write in numerous genres and age groups and perhaps even mention specific projects you want to write in the future. That way, everything is up front and out on the table so you can both make the best decision for your career.

Pro tip: I think most writers will find it better to work with one agent who builds and fosters their career. But that’s more of a personal opinion than a “pro tip.”

Thank you for all the wonderful questions this week. "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch" -Garrison Keillor


Have a question about the publishing industry? I would love to discuss the specifics of researching and querying agents, finding the right agent, proper publishing etiquette, how to go from idea to completed manuscript, marketing yourself, social media for writers, and anything else you can think of! I am now taking questions for Issue 20 of Ask the Agent. Issue 20 answers will be posted Monday, April 1st.

About the author

Bree Ogden is a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary and a comics/TV columnist and reviewer at Bloody Disgusting.

When she's not agenting, compulsively watching horror films, reading comics, hiding out at her local science center, or killing off her bee colonies, she serves as the managing editor of the macabre children's magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree, which she co-founded in 2011 with artist Rebekah Joy Plett.

Bree teaches query craft and graphic novel scripting at LitReactor as well as serves as the Assistant Class Director. Unless you are an exciting new piece of taxidermy, she'll probably never let you in her room. You can find her at agentbree.wordpress.com.

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