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VIDEO – How Do I Determine the Proper Age Group For My Manuscript?

In this video, Laura gives tips about how to target the correct age group for your book.

Laura Backes

Laura is the founder and publisher of Children's Book Insider, and co-founder of Her work has appeared in Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines, as well as on numerous writing blogs. She's the technical editor of "Writing Children's Books for Dummies", and her book "Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read" is published by Random House. Through webinars, workshops, and online courses, Laura has taught thousands of children's book writers how to improve their craft .

15 Responses to “VIDEO – How Do I Determine the Proper Age Group For My Manuscript?”

  1. William Fu

    Thank you Laura for the post^_^ that was extremely helpful.
    Unfortunately, I'm having a difficult time of finding my age group because now I realized, that I get so much ideas that I really want to write for stories. But after spending some time organizing these ideas and seeing where it's taking me, I found out that different ideas which lead to stories are not always aiming at the same age groups. It depends on what kind of story it is…so even now as I'm working on a story, I'm not sure which age group it fits into. I'm worried about my language, the use of the words, the amount of description, and even the subject matter whether if its for anybody.
      I'm not really sure what to do even after I finish the manuscript…but I sure would like to finish it.

  2. Laura Backes


    Just write your story for now and then try to see if it fits into an age category. Sometimes the manuscript needs some tweaking to really fit an age group, but get the story on paper first. Then you might get some outside input from a writer's group or a critique service if you're still not sure.

  3. karina kirk

    I was wondering, when you are writing for younger children, say anywhere from 5-8
    (not sure yet what age group i'm aiming for yet) is there any rules or suggestions on what person to write the story in. I was thinking first person for my main character who is a little boy, but wasn't sure what kids would relate to more, first, second, or what! Any suggestions would be great, thanks!

  4. WriterKat

    This info is gold, Laura.  Thanks so much for breaking down the age ranges and formats.  The Bookworm Reading List is a fantastic bible!

  5. Lauriann Sayers

    Thank you.  That was very helpful.  Since I believe I am tending more toward a picture book, I need to find those more specific guidlines you mentioned.   Lauriann

  6. Arti Sonthalia

    Hi LAura, 
    Thanks for this. This would really be helpful. 

  7. Starr

    I've noticed in some reading materials, that sometimes the name of the town, the color of hair or even the basic details are left out and the story is driven by the action/issue that is needing to be solved/fixed. I've always been descriptive and detail oriented, but I wonder how much is really needed to get across the story. These were all short stories bound in one book, less than a dozen pages for each story.

    What are your thoughts on this kind of story?

  8. Laura Backes


    As you've noticed, picture books and collections of short stories that are illustrated have very few descriptive details in the text. The shorter word lengths mean the author has to use each word to convey plot and character development. The illustrator can take care of the physical details in the pictures. For the writer, if it doesn't directly affect the plot, leave it out. Will it ultimately change the story if your character has red hair instead of brown, or has a room decorated in cowboy motif instead of space ships? Probably not. However, if the story is about your character's love of outerspace, then a few words ("even his sheets had planets on them") are fine. But trust the illustrator to take it from there.

    With read-aloud stories, the child is hearing the text while looking at the pictures. The text does one job, the pictures another. And even if the piece is a short story in an anthology or magazine, with only a few illustrations, the child needs the freedom to imagine the characters and setting and fill in some of their own details. What the child can't fill in is plot, because that's original to your story. So focus on that.

    I hope this helps!


  9. Kyle Hart

    What if the protagonist has no specific age? i.e. imaginary character, animal, etc. 

    P.S. As always, thank you for sharing. 

  10. Laura Backes


    If your protagonist has no specific age (such as a toy or animal), then be sure to have that character see the world as a child would who is the age of the picture book reader. So your protagonist will still have goals or conflicts relevant to the reader, and deal with them in a way the reader can understand and relate to.

  11. Beno A Enose

    Great insignts on the post, thank you

  12. Billy

    Hi Laura,

    I wrote a book a year ago for the young adult category. I’ve spent a lot of time editing it but when I sent it out to publishers I had no joy. I then sent it to a consultancy who gave me a lot of good feedback. The biggest issue, they felt, was that the book felt like it belonged to two different markets. Although the book length, language and a lot of the content was suited to a YA novel, I have two talking animals and a mad scientist as my main antagonists. This would be better suited in a middle grade novel, they felt. They suggested that I must decide who my book is aimed at and essentially rewrite my entire novel to fit it in. I have thought about this for nearly three months and still haven’t had the heart to change the course of my novel. I would need to completely rework it by creating new antagonists, which would mean completely reworking the plot. Alternatively I could change the protagonist, lose large chunks of plot and make the story a middle grade.
    Is there any YA books you know of that have talking animals? Can a middle grade book be 40 000 words long and have dark elements?

  13. Mariana

    Jon Bard is a MAHVELOUS Marketer! I continue to learn thgnis from CBI and The CBI Clubhouse everyday! Thanks Jon and Laura for everything you do for children’s writers! Now I’m off to check out! Thanks for the tips–they’ll be a huge help when my first picture book launches next year! :)All the best,


    HI, Laura
    & thanks for the clear advice. My q: is anyone out there messing around with what I would call (early?) middle grade novellas. That’s what I think I’ve come up with–1 stand-alone @~4500 words, 4 others that can stand alone, but when put together as a sequence =~15500 words. Comic characters & action, a fair amount of word play, not a lot of character differentiation or development (this is coming, I hope in 3 projected sequels that will follow the path of the same comic trio.) Anyone writing anything like this?; any editors looking for something like this?

  15. Laura Backes

    Hi Julian: Sorry I didn’t notice your comment earlier. It sounds like what you’re actually writing is an older chapter book for ages 8-10. This is just a step below true middle grade novels. Chapter books for this age often run about 15,000 words. If you want to learn in-depth how to write chapter books, check out our Chapter Book Blueprint at

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