Publishing Q&A #3: On Series, Categories, and Genres

By Cecilia Lewis

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Image via Flickr

Welcome to the third installment of the Publishing Q&A series, a monthly opportunity for authors to ask their writing and publishing questions and have them answered, in-depth, by industry professionals. This week, I’m addressing a question about querying series, and quite a few questions about differences between categories! Here are the answers:

“When querying, should I pitch a series? Or just the first book?”


Generally, it’s best to focus your query on only one book. For one thing, it’s much easier to pitch a single book in a few paragraphs as opposed to several; for another, you need an agent or editor who will love this book before you worry about the rest. However, I would briefly mention that it’s part of a series in your query. You could say, for example, that it’s “first in a planned trilogy,” or you could say that it “stands on its own but has series potential.” You can discuss your plans for the series after you have interest from the agent or editor.

“I liked your post about category vs. genre, but have a question- what’s allowed as far as content in MG vs. YA? How about death, esp. child death?”


This question is in reference to this post on category vs. genre.

In general, MG does tend to be tamer in content. However, I’ve certainly seen MG books where a child dies. In my experience, it often comes down to how this content is presented, rather than the content itself. For example, I’m thinking of Bridge to Terabithia—the death happens completely off-page, and there’s no gore or violence. (The child deaths in The Hunger Games, on the other hand…) So there is certainly a difference between what’s considered appropriate for MG and what’s appropriate for YA, but more is possible in MG than you might think.

“In your other post, you mentioned that dystopia is a “Dead” genre, but what about MG dystopia instead of YA?”


This question is in reference to the discussion of genre trends in this post.

I’m hesitant to refer to any genre as “dead,” but I do think dystopian is a hard sell right now in any category. The MG market wasn’t as oversaturated with dystopias as YA, but keep in mind that many editors acquire in both categories, so it’s being read by the same people. The YA editors who are feeling fatigued with dystopias in general will be the same editors reading your MG. So, as with YA writers, I’d advise you to make your dystopia feel unique and different (and possibly avoid the word “dystopian” while pitching).

“I’ve always heard first-person for YA and third for MG. Is that true?”

–Kate B.

Yes and no. It’s certainly true that first person is more common in YA and third person is more common in MG. But this isn’t a rule, and there are plenty of exceptions. Speaking as someone who recently wrote a MG in first person, I can confirm that they exist. :)


That’s all for this installment of Publishing Q&A! The next post will be on January 9th (a week later than usual, because of the holiday). If you have a question you’d like to have answered in that post, leave it in the comments down below or by using my contact form. You can also ask me on Twitter (@cecilialewis) using #pubqa so I know the question is intended for this series.  I will include your name/username in the post along with the question unless you ask to remain anonymous. Please post your questions no later than midnight EST on Wednesday, January 6thso that I will have time to compile them.

Next month’s questions will also be answered by me, but we will have guest authors and other publishing professionals in the future! (If you are an industry professional who is interested in hosting future Q&A posts, contact me here.)

Have advice regarding any of these questions? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Related Links:

-Understanding Category vs. Genre

-Publishing Q&A #1: On Queries, Trends, and Freelance Editors

-Publishing Q&A #3: On Comp Titles, R&Rs, and Revising After Rejection

-Fiction Genres Glossary


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