Monday, November 17, 2014

WANTED: Middle Grade Online Communities

Happy Monday, everyone! Here's a little trivia for you: I'm one of those people you hate who love Mondays and wake up happy (way too happy, according my family). I spent this past weekend in Houston at the Houston Book Rave. I had a fabulous time, as always. Meeting readers and seeing my writing friends is priceless!

On to what I’m blogging about today… MGM received a great question from a follower:

“Why are there so few middle grade online writer communities (and so much less information in general)?”

That’s the middle-grade million-dollar-question! I have one legit answer and lots of hunches, so here we go.

The Legit Answer…
Several months prior to the release of my first middle-grade novel, I asked my agent (the effervescent Holly Root) about marketing for the first book in a series with Aladdin M!X (blog tours, book signings, release day events, etc.).  What she said makes sense, even if you don't like it. And, yes, I'm totally paraphrasing. Whatever she said was much more sparkly.

We (authors) try to market our books to our target audience (middle graders), but that's where we go wrong with middle grade fiction. It's unlikely that our target audience is trolling blogs, tweeting about their new favorite book, or checking Goodreads to see the next great book. And even if they are, they aren't holding the purse strings to buy books without a parent's involvement. 
Middle-grade readers get information about books from four different places: friends, parents, teachers, and librarians.  
That's who you have to reach online.
Makes perfect sense, right? But I've yet to find Middle Grade Marketing for Dummies, so I'm winging it. For me, the process is evolving, and I never quite feel like I'm where I need to be. You know what they call that? Frustrating!

I do believe, however, that Holly's answer explains why there's such little middle-grade online presence. 

My Hunches…

  • THE PAY OFF: Middle grade publishers don’t invest as much money as we'd like into marketing middle-grade fiction because it doesn't pay off. The general belief is that the best marketing comes from having the book on a Barnes & Noble (or other such brick & mortar booksellers) shelf. 
  • IT'S ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY: When's the last time you saw a middle-grade novel hit BIG? As in, Diary of a Wimpy Kid big. It's been a while. Too long, if you ask me. Publishers invest marketing dollars on books they think will give them the biggest return on their money. That book is rarely in the middle-grade section of the store. The bottom line: It's a business. And a cutthroat one at that. 
  • BLOGGERS: Some bloggers only review young adult novels. Some bloggers only review middle grade novels. And some bloggers offer both young adult and middle grade fiction reviews. There are more middle-grade bloggers out there than you think. The key is finding the bloggers who take their blog seriously and post regularly. The ones who do offer reviews on middle-grade novels are precious to authors. They're the link that often connects authors and their books to readers.
  • FOR WRITERS: There is virtually no online presence for writers of middle-grade fiction. And that's a tragedy because authors need each other. We learn from one another and sometimes need to connect with someone that just "gets it." It would be fabulous if someone would create the middle-grade version of Women's Fiction Writers' Association. Yes, I know all about SCBWI, but I'm thinking of something even more narrow than that... namely, middle-grade fiction. Maybe something like Middle-Grade Writers' Association. MGWA. Looks okay to me!
So... now that the million-dollar middle-grade question has (kind of) been answered, let's move on to the new one.

Who's going to start MGWA? 


  1. I'm totally down to start a Mi-GWA! Let's do this!

  2. I agree with all of this. I also think that there's less of a MG presence for another reason that piggy backs off some of the things you said. With YA adults and teens are reading it, blogging it, and talking about it on social media. Not as many adults read MG and not as many MG readers are online talking about it like you said. It's written for a different market that doesn't always appeal to adult readers like YA does. MG is it's own special group :)

    And I'm all down for MGWA! BRING IT!

  3. I'm also down with a MGWA. Sign me up!

  4. Please check out a community of middle grade writers, readers and teachers!

  5. I'm always looking for middle grade-oriented communities. I've participated many times in #mglitchat on Twitter, and I've become friends with many other MG writers via blogging, but something like MGWA would be so helpful! :)

  6. Wow, this was such a great post! I actually loved your agent's advice -- friends, parents, teachers, librarians. It makes sense as where to start. And, of course, blogging can reach a some parents, teachers, and librarians, as well as fellow bloggers, but you'd have to find them. I love your idea of MGWA. It definitely would be helpful!

  7. Love it! There's a group on Facebook called Binders Full of MG Writers that has been very helpful. I've gotten quite a few great tips from there and shared a few of my own. A couple of times, I've contacted YA bloggers who agreed to review my MG book simply because I asked, so it isn't out of the question.

  8. There are certainly a lot less MG writers around than YA, but I don't agree that we have 'virtually no' presence online. On Twitter there's a weekly #kidlitchat and #mglitchat plus a very busy fortnightly #ukmgchat. And I wouldn't downplay SCBWI, the people I've met through that are 80% MG writers. And re MG hitting big, here in the UK every single one of David Walliams books are current huge sellers, and Wonder was a massive hit all over.

    Which isn't to say I don't think an MG organisation is a great idea, I totally do :) And I agree that except for the biggest MG books, Goodreads is mostly all about the YA.

  9. If you start MGWA I will come... ;)

  10. We at the Kidliterati are happy to get behind all efforts to grow the presence of middle grade fiction!

  11. I'm the right person for the job, I think.

  12. I'm very interested too! I write MG fantasy and would love to connect with other authors too!