The Agents’ Code

This week brings us Pitmad, a popular event held on Twitter, when authors post pitches for their new book manuscripts. Literary agents read these and pick their favourites to invite submissions. It can be a nerve-wracking time for those participating but an entertaining day for those for us watching from the sidelines.

So what can we expect to see in these pitches? Well, essentially each one is a summary of what the story is about, but genre and age-range are important to agents so these are often included as well. 

Of course tweets have to be short so abbreviations are used for common terms. And there are standard abbreviations for just about everything in the book world.

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The age-range labels can be a little confusing so let’s start there. 


This stands for middle grade which targets 8-12 year-olds but this is often split into lower MG (8-10) and upper MG (10-12).


This means young adult. That category is actually for teenagers!


This one denotes new adult which means it is written for adults in their 20’s.


Sadly, this doesn’t have anything to do with kisses or hugs, it means crossover. This refers to books which were written for older children or teens that may also appeal to adults.

I write for readers aged 11 and over, so my books straddle upper middle grade and young adult. But many of my readers are adults so my books are UMG/YA XO!


Genre is the other commonly used abbreviation. Can you tell what these mean?

SF, FN, RO, TH, HR* (answers at the end of the post).


If an author is invited by an agent to submit a sample of their manuscript, they can expect the agent to make notes on their observations. These will usually be in industry jargon, and to save time, these will also be abbreviated. What would you think if your manuscript was marked with one of these notes?


Don’t worry – this has nothing to do with toilets, it refers to the length of the manuscript, and stands for word count.


This isn’t a judgement on the author’s work. It stands for backstory, which means anything relevant that happened to a character before the events of the book.


Fans of medical drama may recognise this as the code for ‘do not resuscitate’ and its meaning is quite similar in this context. It stands for do not read. Yes, agents have a code – and a pile – for that.

R & R

After working through all these abbreviations, participating authors may need some R&R. Which, in the publishing world, means revise and resubmit!

*The answers are sci-fi, fantasy, romance, thriller, and my favourite genre abbreviation – not books about Human Resources but horror stories!

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