Middle Grade & YA

lauren-caitlenWhen I first joined the LKG Agency as Lauren’s Chief Cook & Bottle Washer back in 2008 (wow — 2008?  Seriously?  When did that become five years ago?), the agency was 99% non-fiction.  The 1% was a middle grade children’s book, the last survivor of Lauren’s initial impulse, when starting the LKG Agency, to handle children’s fiction as well as practical how-to.  But her specialty, and her success, was primarily in non-fiction, so when that last middle grade project was done, we didn’t really look for any more.

But it gave me hope, because children’s books have always been my sweet spot.  A very large number of my favorite books (of which there are a very large number) are children’s books.  As a child, I nearly wore out my library’s copy of Lazy Tinka and Ginny and the Cooking Contest, and later committed what I’m sure is a mortal sin when I lied to the library and said that I’d lost their (only!) copy of Robin McKinley’s Beauty because I couldn’t bear to return it.  (I’m so sorry.)  And Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is my go-to Halloween book. Of course when I joined a literary agency I would want to investigate children’s fiction.

As it turned out, selling Lauren on the idea wasn’t that hard.  Actually…as it turned out, I wasn’t the one that ended up selling anything.  You see, having written a middle grade fantasy of my very own, I asked Lauren to read it, and she turned around and offered to represent it.  Add to that, she told me that if my book sold, then we could open LKG to children’s fiction again.  Well, it sold.

So now that LKG is open to it, what exactly am I looking for? I could give you the tried-and-true spiel about memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and gripping plots, but I thought it might help you and me if I got a little more specific.  Okay, nitpicky.  And, as a bonafide nerd, I can get nitpicky.

First, I’m just looking for middle grade and young adult now.  Please, no picture books or early chapter books.  And please, no dystopian futures (it’s not really my thing), a lot of violence (also not my thing), or books written in the present tense.  (Wow, I just described The Hunger Games, didn’t I?)  Please, no zombies.  Vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards, angels and demons, the Greek Pantheon, Thor and Loki and Fenrir, superheroes, aliens, super-powered aliens — all good.  But zombies give me nightmares.

Please do send fantasy, whether it be like Harry Potter and Sarah Prineas’ Winterling trilogy (contemporary fantasy about modern kids!); or Stephanie Burgis’ Kat, Incorrigible series, and Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia (historic fantasy re-writes with both humor and heart!); or Kristen Cashore’s Graceling, Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball, and Erin Bow’s devastating Plain Kate (traditional fantasy!  With horses!).  And, why, yes, I am listing some of my favorite books on purpose, on the chance that you have read these and your book compares favorably to one of them.

On a related note, please do send sci-fi, which I also love, having grown up on Star Trek: TNG.  Anne Osterlund’s Academy 7 will forever hold a place in my heart because it is a futuristic sci-fi with spaceships and lasers, but it also has a boarding school!  (I love books with boarding schools.)  Ah, that reminds me: please do send things with boarding schools.

Please, please, please send fairy tale re-tellings.  Please.

So if you have a sci-fi retelling of The Hedgehog Prince that takes place at an orbital boarding school that circles Saturn, or a story about a girl who discovers she’s descended from the Norse gods and has to earn her place as a Valkyrie to stop Fenrir from breaking free and starting Ragnarok, please do send it along.

But, seriously, no zombies.

CRB

51 Responses to Middle Grade & YA

  1. Justine Erler December 30, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Please consider my new novel Starcrush, now available as an e-book on Amazon.

    If you are interested, I will send you a copy in pdf format.

    Thanks,

    Justine

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway December 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Hi Justine,

      Thanks for commenting! We’d prefer if you sent a query to Crubinobradway@lkgagency.com; it just helps us keep everything organized.

      Thanks,
      Caitlen

  2. Carolyn February 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Thanks so much for being specific about your wants. This is extremely helpful. I’ll get right down to querying you!

  3. Vinay March 21, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    Dear Madam,

    I have recently written a romantic fiction book titled ‘LOVE NEVER DIES’ which I want to publish. If you are interested to read my MS then please respond.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway March 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

      Dear Vinay,

      If you’d like to submit, please check out our submission guidelines on the Submissions page for what we’re looking for and how exactly to send it along. It keeps everything more organized.

      Thanks,
      CRB

  4. Asror Allayarov March 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    I am Asror Allayarov. I live in Uzbekistan.
    I am a journalist and a writer. I am 27 years old.
    Can I publish my novel in the United States of Amerika? Could you help me?
    My novels includes Uzbek life and political games.
    I hope hear you soon

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway March 30, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

      Hi Asror,

      You can definitely publishing in the US. As for if we’d be interested, you should send a more detailed query outlining your project. You can check out our submission guidelines to see exactly how and what we’re looking for.

      Best,
      CRB

  5. Nancy Bishop March 26, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    Hello
    I would like to know you submission guide lines.
    Thank you
    Nancy Bishop

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway March 30, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Hi Nancy,

      Our submission guidelines are listed on our Submissions page.

      Best,
      CRB

  6. Cori Reinartz March 27, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    This posting really caught my eye. I first received a notice about it in an email from writersdigest.com. I wanted to explore and see what more was written in the post. I became a little heart broken though when I heard present tense is not acceptable. I am currently in the beginning phases of a book I’m working on in between school and work. But this did help me to better see what a lot of agents are looking for and that I need to completely change my book around if it even has a chance of being worth anything.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway March 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      Hi Cori,

      Thanks for checking us out, but please don’t be heart-broken. This isn’t what a lot of agents are looking for — it’s really my personal preferences. I am personally not a fan of present tense, but a lot of agents are, and you should by no means change your book because of one person.

      Best and good writing,
      CRB

  7. Joanie Murray March 27, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    This is so awesome! I am working on book two of a planned three book series. I self-published book one last year. Would you, by any chance, consider looking at at the first one? I think it could be exactly what you are looking for. It is a middle grade fantasy.

    Thanks!

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway March 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi Joanie,

      I’d be happy to – check out our Submission guidelines to see how and what we’re looking for.

      Thanks
      CRB

  8. U.C. Kalu April 1, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Very glad to have stumbled upon this page. :)

    I was curious, are you interested in futuristic science fiction, sort of inline with GATTACA and THE UGLIES series? I know YA sci-fi has become a tough sell lately with the success of dystopian titles. Thanks.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway April 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi,

      Yes, I’m a big fan of futuristic science fiction (and I am not a fan of dystopian). Check out our submission guidelines to see how to submit.

      Best,
      CRB

  9. Jeanna April 17, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Hi, Caitlen. This post was great for giving an idea of what you’re looking for–thanks! I am really looking forward to submitting to you.

    In the submission guidelines, it mentions providing a synopsis. I have heard such a wide range of synopsis guidelines from various agents (ranging from three paragraphs to four double-spaced pages!). I wondered: do you have a preferred length?

    Thanks!
    Jeanna Mason Stay

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway April 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      Hmmm…this would probably make a good subject for a blog post. But until that happens, let’s say I’m looking for two-ish pages, describing the main action and characters in your book. It doesn’t have to have every single detail, but give me a good idea of what your book is about and what’s going to happen. Your main character is hydrophobic and his/her facing that and overcoming it is a huge part of their character arc in the book? Yes, that needs to be in the synopsis. Their relationship with their pet newt that is sweet and adorable but doesn’t really hook into the plot? You can probably leave that out. Basically, I want the synopsis to give me a good idea of what is going to happen in the book, so I can see how you pull that together when I get to the manuscript.

      Hope that helps!
      CRB

  10. Kelsey April 23, 2014 at 2:59 am #

    If having received a partial request, should we expect some form of response; and if so than how long? :)

    Thanks!

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway April 23, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

      Yes, you should get a response if we’ve requested a partial. As it says in our Submission Guidelines, we try to get back to everyone within two months. However, because of the feature on Writer’s Digest (and I think it’s been reposted a couple other places), we’ve been a little overwhelmed with submissions recently, so it might take a little longer.

      CRB

  11. Gail Robertson April 28, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Thanks so much for being truly specific in your preferences. I sent you my Query this afternoon, but wish to apologize. At that time I hadn’t read this blog and didn’t realize you’ve been with LKG Agency for five years. I thought you had just joined, and congratulated you on it. So much for a good first impression (sheepish grin).

    At the risk of sounding like I’m buttering you up, I think your blog has a lot of charm to it.

    All the best,

    Gail

  12. Christie Powell May 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I just wanted to say thanks for the great reading list here. I’ve really enjoyed looking up these titles and finding some new treasures to enjoy, and to learn more about writing and the kind of stories you like.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 19, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Hi Christie,

      I hope you enjoy the read(s)!

      Best,
      CRB

  13. Brittany May 4, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    When I read that you love Robin McKinley’s Beauty I just had to comment. It was the first fairy tale retelling I ever read and it gave me a life-long love of them. It’s still one of my favorite books. I may go so far as to call it one of my first inspirations to write fantasy! Can’t wait to hear from you about my partial!

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 19, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

      Hi Brittany,

      Yes, Beauty is absolutely wonderful! I like it more than Rose Daughter, but I’m not sure if it’s because I fell so hard for Beauty the first time I read it and so I’m not biased.

      Thank you for your patience about your partial (your partial patience?)!

      Best,
      CRB

  14. Lisa May 4, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    Dear Caitlen,

    Recently, I heard that when writing a synopsis you should only name your hero and heroine. The rest of the cast should be identified by role, for example the villain would simply be dubbed VILLAIN. This was news to me but the arguments seemed valid, especially the idea that with so many submissions, an agent doesn’t want to get bogged down with too many names/characters to follow. Is this true?

    I am enjoying your posts and was impressed that you introduced yourself on Absolute Write Water Cooler. I will be submitting to you through the appropriate channels at LKG Agency..

    Kind regards,
    Lisa Pais

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m not sure where you heard that, but I’ve actually never seen a synopsis where only the hero and heroine are named. I personally prefer everyone to be named in the synopsis, but ultimately as long as it’s clear and easy to read, I say it’s up to you.

      CRB

  15. K.M Edwards May 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I have a question what is the difference between dystopia fiction and futuristic sci if? I am stumped.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 9, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      Hi KM,

      I really should know what the technical differences are, but how I see it: dystopian tends to take place in the future, or near future, on Earth, and it’s, primarily, based on a grim outlook of the future. Such as The Hunger Games, where people are starving and they have The Hunger Games, or Divergent, where they lived in a walled-off city and are restricted by their Factions. Dystopian stories tend to be dark and depressing, and are generally not my thing.

      Futuristic, on the other hand, are more along the space and lasers and starships line. More like Star Wars or Babylon 5, and while they can have serious things happen, they don’t tend to be as grim as dystopian stories.

      Hope this helps!

      CRB

  16. Jessica May 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Hi Caiten,
    I submitted a synopsis and first few chapters about two months ago. I realized recently that I had not sent the most current and complete draft of my book. I’m wondering if I could send you the correct draft? Thanks!

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 19, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      Yes, you can totally send me the most current version. No worries.

      Best,
      CRB

  17. Maurine May 18, 2014 at 2:47 am #

    Hi, I was wondering how you felt about new adult fiction that is in the same vein as YA? Say magical realism or the fantasy elements you seem to be searching for, but about a youth still living with parents in college rather than middle or high school?

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway May 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Hi Maurine,

      Right now we’re not looking for any new adult fiction. We’d like to get a foothold in MG and YA before we branch out into other areas.

      Best,
      CRB

  18. Scotty May 20, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Hi Caitlen! Saw you on Writer’s Digest and read through your entire website. I’m putting together and formatting my material for my YA sci-fi to send you right now!

    Great post, it’s fun to see the personality of agents shine through in blogs rather than the ever-so-dull standard of a 3-sentence bio.

  19. Sarah Runyon May 24, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Caitlen,

    When it comes to requested material, such as a synopsis and a few chapters, when is it too soon to send the desperate, “just checking in…” email? I know the time varies for other agencies, so I was wondering when you think the appropriate time to check in is.

    Thanks!
    Sarah.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway June 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

      Hi Sarah,

      I’d say it’s fine to send in a ‘checking in’ email after two months. When we set up our Submission Guidelines, we said we’d get back to everyone within two months — and then we got overwhelmed with submissions and I am really, really behind in answering them. I do promise to get back to everyone with a concrete answer, but it might end up taking longer that I anticipated. The publishing industry gets a little slower in the summer months, though, so I’m hoping I can really get into gear with answering everyone.

      Best,
      CRB

  20. Melissa May 31, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    I sent you a query, and now I’m getting lost in Ordinary Magic. This is not sucking up. I had to read more from the person who listed so many of my favorite books.

    Question: The term “YA” brings very specific tropes to mind. Is there a definition for it that you’re comfortable with? An age range for protagonists? In the game of genre definition, how limited do you think we should be?

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway June 3, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

      Hi Melissa,

      What am I comfortable with…well, let’s talk age range. That’s easier. In general, as it was taught to me by my editor for Ordinary Magic, middle grade protagonists are 10-ish to 14, YA is 15-18, and New Adult is 19-early 20s. It’s the age of the protagonist that determines what category it goes into and where it’s shelved in Barnes & Noble. And the category — MG/YA/NA — determines what houses and editors I’m going to reach out to. So you don’t have to be limited, but it helps to be clear. Right now we’re not open to NA; I don’t have any contacts at the houses or with the editors that handle that, right now I want to focus on building my list and making contacts within my MG/YA sweet spot.

      As for the specific tropes, I’m not so much thinking of tropes or definitions. I am open to reading about anything … bearing in mind, though, my ‘do not likes’ listed above (dystopian, present tense, lots of violence). Does that make sense and answer your question?

      Thanks for checking out Ordinary Magic!

      Best,
      CRB

  21. Dane Rehagen June 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Hi Caitlen,

    I just noticed under submissions your requesting the synopsis, and first chapter so I sent my query again with those items. Thanks again with all your helpful suggestions.

  22. Marcia Reeves Thrasher June 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Hi Caitlen,

    This is a well written piece. This article tells me what you want. The hardest thing for me attempting to find an agent is receiving the reply ‘this isn’t on my list’. I pull my hair and think well why didn’t you say so in your bio? I’m taking a chance when I send an enquiry to an agent I like because I’m oftenl not sure what s/he is really looking for. I’m heading to submissions page right now. No zombies in my manuscript but I do have a Toothless Fairy, faux bison and a few ghosts and demons. And I like satire so finding a book to compare to my work isn’t easy. I’ve looked and looked or should say read and read and the closest I can come is L’Engle and possibly Rowling. Life on Nimbah is a parody, a satirical look from cracked lenses. Doesn’t that descibe life here? Thanks Marcia

  23. Dave Pierce July 5, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    Hi Caitlen,

    I’ve got a quick question about your criteria for middle grade fiction. I’ve done a humorous sci-fi book aimed at 3rd to 5th grade boys, it’s in the vein of Captain Underpants or Captain Awesome. (Ie. Illustrations on each page, short chapters, and around 60 pages) I’d classify it as a ‘transitional’ chapter book. It may be different than what you’re looking for so I thought I’d post here first. If you’re intrigued I’ll shoot you a submission.

    Have a happy 4th!

    -Dave

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway July 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

      Hi Dave,

      That does sound like fun, and I do like humor and sci-fi. But transitional chapter books are a little younger than what I’m looking for right now. Sorry!

      Best,
      CRB

  24. C. Francis Hurtubise July 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Hi Caitlen,

    I see your ‘do not like’ list and am wondering if a story hits all of your ‘likes’ but is written in the present tense, would you still consider it?

    Kind regards,

    Char

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway July 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Hi Char,

      I don’t consider any stories written in the present tense, but if it hits all of my other likes I generally ask that the author if they’d be open to changing it to past tense, or to resubmit if they ever decide to alter the tense.

      Best,
      CRB

  25. Christie Powell July 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    I was wondering if it’s possible to make sure my query was received? I sent “THE SPECTRA UNEARTHED” on March 21, and a “check in”, and I just wanted to see that it didn’t get lost in cyberspace somewhere. Thanks.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway July 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

      Hi Christie,

      Your query was received, and your check in, and I’m sorry it’s taken so long for you to get an answer. We’ve been very busy here, and unfortunately I’ve built up a massive backlog of queries. I am trying to work my way through them, but it’s been a process. I appreciate your patience.

      CRB

      • Christie Powell July 18, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

        No problem, I just wanted to be sure. Thanks.

  26. Diane July 16, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Forgive me if this is a dumb question, but that has never seemed to stop me. Do you consider New Adult? The category is so new that lots of agents don’t even mention it. Some may not even recognize it as a real category yet. I’m unsure if I should query those who take Adult or those who take YA in a firm, if no one says NA. Or just send to those who like fantasy and see what happens.

    I have a myth retelling BTW.

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway July 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      Hi Diane,

      The short answer is that we don’t handle NA. The longer answer is that New Adult is still a bit of a tricky area, and most of the NA we’re seeing is in contemporary romance (like Beautiful Disaster and Losing It and Easy). With fantasy and sci-fi, generally once your protagonist ages out of YA territory, it goes straight into adult. I would recommend looking up books like yours on Amazon, and seeing where they fell, publishing-wise.

      Best,
      CRB

  27. Diane August 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks, I’ll do that!

  28. Sidsel August 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Hello, I have written an YA-novel in danish about the norse mythology. It was published in Denmark in 2013 and is about a girl who lives in modern day Denmark but discover she is a valkyrie and actually – exactly like the last sentence in your article – has to stop Fenrir from breaking free and start Ragnarok. It has been very positively received in Denmark and I am currently working on a sequel. Now to my question: would you consider my novel – even though it actually has been published in another country – if I have it translated?
    Kind regards Sidsel

    • Caitlen Rubino-Bradway September 3, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      Hi Sidsel,

      If the US rights are free, I’d absolutely consider it. I’d just ask that before you submit, you check to see whether your contract with your publisher in Denmark covers just Denmark or includes publishing rights for other countries, and note that in the query letter. It’s the sort of thing US editors will want to be aware of when they take a look at the manuscript.

      Best,
      CRB

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