Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 28, 2010

The Tween Market

As we discussed last week with Hi/Lo Books, tween books for boys are short, with easy-to-read vocabularies, and contain lots of fast-paced action. Subject matter for boys usually involves, video games, sports, and humor. The majority of books for tween boys are nonfiction. But if you are interested in reaching the tween girl audience there are two ways to do this.

First is the tween magazine, which seems to be an exclusively girl-oriented one at this time. Except for comic books and graphic novels, magazine publishers have been unable to attract tween boys. Boy’s Life, for example, targets that age group, but what it publishes frequently lacks the “hip” voice that characterizes tween magazines.

The second is tween books for girls. Publishers have come up with two distinct approaches to marketing to tweens and writers should be aware of the disparities, limitations, and content needs of both that have emerged and be able to differentiate the line between magazines and books.

Tween magazines, such as Girl’s Life and American Girl, share the overall look in layout and feel of YA magazines, with articles on fashion, decorating how-to’s, celebrity profiles, and quizzes. Their content retains a focus on families and friends similar to that commonly seen in magazines aimed at younger children, but, the fashions featured tend to be less provocative than that of teen ‘zines. The material tends to be less edgy than for YA publications, with romantic relationships absent or presented humorously. Inter-family, especially inter-sibling relationships provide the majority of relationship-generated conflict. Articles and stories that discuss controversial topics, such as drug use, self-mutilation, and eating disorders, are uncommon and in some tween magazines are taboo.

Unlike tween magazines, tween books for girls focus on romantic relationships. They are such an essential ingredient that in order for a tween manuscript to be considered for publication, it typically must contain at least some romantic element. However, avoid the pronounced sexual content found in YA novels, for the tween market. Usually amorous behavior is displayed through hand-holding, first kisses, and dances. Also tween books tend to have more parent-child conflict than what you will see in tween magazines, which prefer parental relationships to maintain their childlike, harmonious overtones.

When writing for the tween market, keep in mind that your audience is at a crossroads. Tweens consider themselves to be as mature as teens with regard to fashion and attitude, but they are not yet at an age when sexual relationships and dating play a major factor in their interests. Remember, tween books are a subset of middle-grade novels, not a replacement for them.

If you have a tween at home, we’d love to hear some of the little things they do.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Kathy, this is great stuff! I’m working on middle-grade that will hopefully appeal to both girls and boys. We’ll see.

    You stated how, in publications, the edginess and blatant sexual content is kept out for the tweens, thank God, but it seems it’s not necessarily a concern of many parents! Just Saturday night I was at a family/friend birthday party for a 13-year-old girl. Her friends were there also, and I have to tell you, I was appalled at the music the DJ was playing AND that the kids knew the lyrics! Almost every one of them had something that promoted being sleezy, and one of them was LITERALLY the description of a sexual encounter!

    Ironically I’m sitting here listening to “People” by Barbra Streisand which is what I loved at that age. I remember going to the theater when “Funny Girl” was released and being blown away. Compare that with something like “Hair Spray” and we see the dramatic difference.

    I know that whatever the guidelines are, I would still choose to keep things tame for that age group 🙂


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