Can you give guidelines on what constitutes MG versus YA? Do publishers look at work and think "older MG" and "younger YA" , which seems to be happening in writing now and should we mention that in a query? And is it true that a 13 year old MC is a confusing age to categorize? Thanks!!!
I wouldn’t say that a book with a 13-year-old main character is confusing to categorize. A 13-year-old MC is too young for young adult and would more likely be categorized as middle grade.
Generally speaking, protagonists in young adult fiction start at age fourteen and end at age eighteen. So when publishers look at work with a 13-year-old MC then they probably already have the middle grade audience in mind.
If you have a 13-year-old MC, read middle grade books with 13-year-old protagonists to observe the voice of each character, the themes within each book, and the content. Know which elements will or won’t work for the middle grade audience. What language won’t fly in middle grade? What would be considered too graphic? The best way to figure all this out is to read, read, read.
Regarding what to mention in your query letter: make sure to mention the category and the genre. You don’t have to write “older MG.” Middle grade plus the genre works just fine.