Life is all about cataloging. We are taught from a young age to sort things into groups. Apples go with bananas because they are fruit, or they go with firetrucks because both are red. Groups and order are integral to our daily lives. In my paid profession as an archaeologist, I do this on a daily basis. As authors, we too must catalog, only it is our writing that we must put into the appropriate box.

Playing the Genre Game

When I tell people I’m writing a book, the first question they ask is “what’s it about.” I find this to be a surprisingly hard question to answer, not because I don’t know what my plot is about, but because people are looking more for where your book falls in the grand scheme of the literary world. In my case, my category is not one that many people think of when they make their literary map.

I used to tell people that my book is a children’s fantasy. “How far along are you?” they would ask. Anything over 20 pages got me a weird look. “Isn’t that a bit long for a kid’s book?”

YA = Vampires, right?

So then I switched to telling people it was a young adult book, thinking the success of Twilight and other such books would have put this category on the map. Unfortunately, this almost always leads to the question “Are there vampires?”

So what am I writing? In the publishing world, its a middle grade fantasy book. But how many non-writers know what this means? How many writers know what this means? Or what any of the under-18 categories mean?

MG Defined

The basic difference in categories is the age group the book is intended for. Middle Grades tend to be aimed at the 8-12 year olds. Tween or Upper Middle Grade extends upwards to 13-14. Young Adult is intended for the 12-18 age group. And children’s books include everything below 8, and they in turn have their own sub-divisions including chapter book, picture book, etc. And of course, to correspond with these varying age groups, content and the age of the main character are also affected by the above categories.

To learn more, check out MG vs YA fiction: What’s the Difference?