Saturday, October 18, 2014

Genre Dilemma

By Lacey Gunter

So I have this funny picture book manuscript I love. I wrote it for readers ages 6-9. I know 6-9 year-olds still read picture books because I see it all the time, in my house, in the library and at schools. Despite the push for kids to start reading more advanced books at earlier ages, older kids still love picture books and they read them. Even kids that are reading more advanced books often still love a good picture book.

So when I wrote this manuscript, I didn't think it was a big deal targeting it toward 6-9 year-olds.  Then, I went to a little writing retreat a month and a half ago and had the manuscript critiqued by a children's book agent. She thought the manuscript was funny and entertaining, but that is was a little too mature for the 'typical' picture book audience. She felt like that age range was to old of a target audience and that I should consider either turning it into an early chapter book or lower the stakes a little bit and make it more appealing to a younger audience.

I have considered the issue a lot and tried several ideas, all without success. So far, all my attempts at targeting it toward a younger audience have resulted in a loss of the humorous ending and changing the inherent nature of the conflict.  I have tried to infuse the same level of humor in other ways, but they seem to come out too far fetched or they are too flat.  

Similarly, much of the pace, timing and funny ending don't fit well with a longer manuscript. Not to mention that the early chapter book market is even harder to break into than the picture book market, and the picture book market is hard enough as it is.

So I am not sure where to go from here. Do I table the manuscript and try to come back to it at some later date? Do I keep putting effort into trying to make it better fit within a particular genre? Or do I just leave it the way it is and hope that other agents or editors feel differently? I'm not really sure what to do. What do you think? When any of you have faced dilemmas like this, what did you do? The business of writing is so much more complicated than the actual act of writing. Sigh.


  1. I don't have any experience in this area, so my first step would be researching the market to see if I could find any agents or editors who do work in my target field. It would probably require queries to a lot of people/places, but I would do that before I abandoned my manuscript. It sounds to me like that is what you want to do, and if you already received positive feedback it is probably worth your time to search more for the right agent. Good luck!

  2. Not something I know anything about

  3. Shannon Hale's latest blog post made me think of your dilemma as she is discussing an illustrated chapter book for 6-7 year olds. I don't know if her discussion will be relevant to your decision making process or not, but I thought I would share it.

  4. I think learning more about the market is a great idea. One other thing I've found with my own books is sometimes leaving them for a while helps. You can continue to learn about your market while writing and maybe even practicing on a different manuscript. When you come back to it later, maybe some of the things that you worried about will be easy fixes. I never thought I'd be able to work through a plot/audience/age issue in one of my books, but putting it aside gave me perspective and now I see solutions I'm really excited about. The key is to keep writing, I think. Good luck.

  5. Thanks for the helpful comments y'all!



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