How Much Do Middle Grade Authors Make?

I was recently talking to my kids, who are now well into their teen years, about my least favorite age for them.

It was that in-between period, around age ten. (That’s why they call them tweens). 

First, a caveat. As a parent, I’ve pretty much felt every stage was my favorite as we lived them. 

I would think, “I love this stage!”–and it has continued all the way to the present. For example, right now, I absolutely love having teenagers! 

But looking back at those tween years–well, they were rather self-centered, cared waaaaay too much about what other people thought about them, and acted like being seen with their parents was more embarrassing than having spinach stuck in your teeth.

How much did these middle grade authors get paid?

But I love reading middle grade books!

It’s probably precisely because that age is so full of contradictions and growth that makes the characters lend themselves perfectly into stories with conflict and mishaps.

That’s probably why my first foray into writing a children’s book started with a middle grade novel. 

I haven’t finished it yet (anyone else in this boat?), and instead I’ve written picture books and chapter books. 

And generally speaking, if you land a publishing contract, you likely can expect the advance for your middle grade novel to be higher than for a picture book. 

I’ve been digging into the data about advances paid by the publishing industry from the #publishingpaidme hashtag. If you haven’t read my summary post about it, you can find that here.

Today I’m digging deeper into the category of middle grade books. 

Just to recap, here are the average advances middle grade authors get paid:

But the wonderful thing about the data from #publishingpaidme is that it includes information about the different genres and publishers. They also gathered lots of demographic data, such as gender identity, race, and sexual orientation.

So. Much. Data.

So I’ve basically been having a field day playing with making graphs to present all these interesting numbers.

But before I go on with sharing the results, a caveat.

The overall amount of data is pretty strong. There were 283 people who provided their advance amount for their middle grade book. Almost every respondent also included some information about the publisher (some named the actual publisher while others used a descriptor: Big 5, small/indie; medium sized). 

But for the other data categories, there were some where many people choose not to provide an answer. And for some data categories, there were small data sets, which means we can’t really draw too many conclusions from those numbers.

Middle Grade Advances by Publisher

The category that has the best data is that of publisher. However, while some people named the specific publishing house, others just used a broad category. So for the Big 5 publishers (which, by the way, include Simon and Schuster, Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, and Macmillan), I provided averages for each individual house. But there is also a catch-all Big 5 category that I included separately. (I did not throw all the individual houses into this calculation either).

The publisher that came out with the highest average advances was Penguin Random House. The smallest, not surprisingly, was the small/indie publishers. What was a little surprising was the Hachette’s averages were just a little higher than for the small/indie category.

Here’s a visual for publishers:

How Much Middle Grade Authors Earned by Genre

Just for fun, I also broke out the numbers by genre. Here I was a bit surprised by the results. The category that showed the highest average was verse novels. There were only seven respondents for this category. But even removing the one six-figure outlier still resulted in an average advance of $45,500. 

Graphic novels came in second-highest. Out of 16 respondents, three were six-figures or more. Because these numbers affect the averages so much, I wondered what the result would be without them. Calculating the average for the non-six-figure amounts resulted in an average of $26,692, which is a pretty significant difference.

Middle Grade Advances by Gender Identity

Here again I wasn’t sure what to expect, but not what this! 

However, this is a situation where the sample size is a factor. Out of all respondents, the numbers broke down as follows:

  • Male: 58
  • Female: 187
  • Non-Binary/Agender: 5

Comparing an average out of five people vs close to 200 doesn’t really allow one to draw too many strong conclusions. It could even be the responses for the non-binary/agender identity included multiple answers from the same author. There is really no way to know. Regardless, a sample size of five is not big enough to provide a good sense of an average for that category.

Also, with the number of women respondents being so much larger than the number of men, again, it’s not a great comparison. I’m pretty sure any statisticians reading this would have plenty to say on this subject! 

But nevertheless, the fact that the average advance for women was higher than the average advance for men is a least a little bit interesting. Could it possibly show there is some parity here between the sexes?  

Middle Grade Advances by Sexual Orientation

Here again we have an example of the categories with small data sets (Gay and Asexual) reported the highest average earnings. But this could be a simple matter of authors with robust advances reporting, and with a small sample size, their numbers skewed the averages high.

  • Gay: 7
  • Lesbian: 14
  • Straight Male: 36
  • Straight Female: 117
  • Bi/Pansexual: 24
  • Asexual: 9

But just for the sake of satisfying our curiosity, here is how the averages worked out:

Here those identifying as asexual and gay reported advances nearly twice as high as all other categories. There is no way to know if these authors’ books reflected their gender identity in subject matter or in any way. Did the publishers even know about the author’s gender identity? In other words, it is really impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions from these results. 

The only category with a strong data set is straight females. With only 36 straight males reporting, I’m not sure we can draw a conclusion that perhaps straight women are bringing in higher advances than straight men. It does appear that there are more women authors than men overall.

Middle Grade Advances by Race

Finally, last but not least, here are the averages broken out by race. First of all, again there were some rather modest data sets for most races except multiracial and white.

  • Black 12
  • East Asian 13
  • South Asian 17
  • All Asian 30
  • Multiracial 50
  • Latin American 12
  • White 196

Again, we can’t really take this data and conclude that Blacks receive higher advances on average than other races. But still, it was interesting that the average advances for Whites was lower than all other races except for Latin Americans. 

Whew! 

That was a lot of number crunching for me! I’m not a total novice when it comes to using spreadsheets, and thank goodness for that–it was very helpful for being able to do these calculations and create these fun graphs.

Conclusions About How Much Middle Grade Authors Get Paid

I wish it were possible to use this data to really examine how different categories of authors fare in terms of what kind of advances they receive. Still, I found it interesting to see what the broad averages for middle grade came out to be. And the numbers for the different publishing houses were interesting, if not exactly super eye-opening.

In terms of other demographics, I’m a half-full-glass type of person. So I like to think that perhaps these numbers show that regardless of your gender, race, or sexual orientation, you have a decent chance of getting an advance that is not affected by those factors. 

If you want to read about the broader issue of how much you can make as a children’s book author, check out my post here.

Next I’ll dive into the numbers for picture book and YA authors. Stay tuned!

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