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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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The World of Licensed Characters and Work-For-Hire

Learning Differences

Chances are, if you’ve ever thought of writing a book, you’ve thought it would go something like this:

You get an idea for a story, a great idea. For months (maybe years) you work on it, writing and revising and polishing until you have a manuscript you can be proud of. Then you go to work finding an editor who loves it enough to buy it (or an agent who will find one for you). Finally, someone offers to purchase the right to print your book, and a year or two later you hold the finished product in your hands.

Eve Adler

But not all books are created this way. We’ve all seen books based on characters from TV or the movies, or an entire line of books based on one character. The process used to create these kinds of books (and book products) is a completely different world. I was privileged to take a peek into this world by visiting with Eve Adler, an editor with Grosset and Dunlap/Price Stern Sloan. Though all publishing houses work a little differently, the basic process is the same.


Happy Feet Two: The NovelBook publishers are always on the lookout for great characters found in television and movies, as well as popular toys or games. Once they find them, they make an offer to purchase the right to create a book that ties in with the character or their world. At Grosset and Dunlap, the licensing division takes care of this work. They search for licenses they can purchase for movie tie-ins (a recent example, Eve edited books for the Happy Feet 2 movie), or books based on popular television characters (for example, Grosset is responsible for many of the Penguins of Madagascar books).

Sometimes it gets complicated and publishing houses purchase the right to create books based on a television series which was based on a beloved book or book character (Angelina Ballerina is a classic Grosset and Dunlap example).


Book publishers are also busy creating their own brands in-house. In this instance, they will develop the brand and produce the book(s), and create any apps if applicable. For those brands they want to expand further, they may publish different formats, like sticker stories and board books. Occasionally, if they own the rights, they may license them out to others to create plush items, games, and other products.

“Ladybug Girl by husband and wife team David Soman and Jacky Davis is an example of an in-house brand that we all love and are looking to develop,” Eve shares. “Dial publishes the original hardcover picture books, and at Grosset, we’ve published several board books and a sticker story to expand the brand.”


But who writes these books? That’s where work-for-hire comes in.

Work-for-hire is when a writer is hired to write a book for a publishing company (or other entity). The writer does not retain the rights to the book—those belong to the publishing company—and they are paid a flat fee for their work. There are strict guidelines and very quick deadlines (usually two weeks to write a picture book, for example).

These writers still work with the editor on revising or making any changes to the work, but also those who own the licensed character must be consulted and approve the projects. So sometimes a work-for-hire author might need to revise based on the licensor’s suggestions as well as the editor’s.

Breaking into the work-for-hire world is not easy, but it can be done. Eve says, “To be a good writer-for-hire author, you need to make sure everything you’re writing is on-brand. You also need to take direction well, especially since there are so many cooks in the kitchen, so-to-speak, in licensed publishing.”

Publishers with work-for-hire projects often want to see samples of a writer’s work. Editors will keep names of those writers whose work they liked, and when they have a new project, they will contact the writer and offer them the job. Eve says the easiest way to get started is by having your own contact with an editor.

Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators The best way to make contact is by attending writing conferences. (In fact, that’s how Eve and I met; at the SCBWI Utah/Southern Idaho regional conference in Salt Lake City.)

Work-for-hire isn’t just for writers, though. Eve mentioned that often her company hires teachers or librarians to create their leveled readers, since readers must follow strict reading level guidelines and most teachers/librarians are already familiar with these. And a few smaller products may be written by the editor in-house, since hiring someone outside the company is not cost-effective. “At Grosset, we (editors) usually write our licensed sticker stories, activity books, and board books. It’s a really fun part of the job!” says Eve.

The licensed characters and work-for-hire world is an interesting and ever-growing part of the publishing business. And though we didn’t discuss this part of the industry today, Eve also acquires original manuscripts. As a special opportunity for our readers who were also writers, Eve accepted submissions through May 10, 2012. If you sent something to Eve, she will will do her best to respond within 6 months of the date your submission.

Thanks to Eve and Grosset and Dunlap/Price Stern Sloan for letting us take a look behind the scenes of this unique part of the industry! And a special thanks to Eve for the Mixed-Up opportunity to submit original work to her.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Mixed-Up Middle-Grade Skype Tour! Simply leave a comment here to be entered to win a Skype visit with Wendy Shang, author of the award-winning THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU!

Elissa Cruz has always wondered how the book tie-ins her kids love to read were created. Now she knows. She is hard at work writing her own original middle-grade books, hoping one day they may be made into a brand of their own. She’s not holding her breath, though. You can also find her at her blog or participating in her other middle-grade project, #MGlitchat on Twitter.

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