Are we losing some young readers after middle grade publications?

I recently watched a discussion, and then online hate pile on author Shaun David Hutchinson after he tweeted that currently the YA market is dominated by books targeted towards female readers. Which is true – mainly because the biggest market share is female. You don’t see as many boys reading for recreation in the tween and teen years.

When I was in my teen years, there was no YA, so we just had to flounder around the libraries and book shops and find our own way. Boys reading were seen as geeks and nerds and socially shunned. It was the boys who rough-housed and played sports who were the most influential members of the scholastic microcosm. But granted, back then there was little representation of girls in literature.

In recent years with the popularity of YA and a surge in representation of strong female characters – and female authors breaking into what was (and in some places still is) an ‘old-white-man’ dominated industry. Finally feminine voices are thriving in literature. But has the pendulum swung too far?

The heated responses I saw as I fell down the twitter black hole were mostly about how the publishing industry was gatekeeping women out for so long, and now they have their moment in the sun and you want to wind back the clock? Which is obviously not what Shaun David Hutchinson was saying. He merely commented on a current market trend – and has seen firsthand through the experience in publishing – and things like school visits, that after middle grade titles, the young adult market has a majority of female led protagonists. Which means there aren’t a lot of books for boy to identify with.

I don’t see anything wrong with that statement, and not overly bothered with the publishing landscape because it ebbs and flows with trends and marketing gimmicks. I love the current upward tick in diverse books and socially aware characters. It’s adding some fresh blood and perspectives to literature – and reflecting the interests of the next generation.

And at the end of the day – if you look hard enough, you can find plenty of novels that fit your interest.

Looking at YA today – a genre that been around since the 1800’s but came into popularity in the 1970-80’s (remember the ‘choose your own adventure’ books?) In the late 90’s the Harry Potter franchise started to move publishers towards marketing young adult as a genre and we started seeing sections appear in book stores – separate from children’s or younger readers.  Following that with the success of Twilight, Divergent, and the like – we get a surge of female-led young adult titles dominating the market. And since 2017 we are starting to see an explosion of diversity in this category. So it’s easy to see every 10 or so years the publishing landscape shifts and we see popularity in a different genre or style. It’s a little awkward at the moment where there is a growing number of diverse titles hitting the shelves – but that is coinciding with the number of books getting added to ban lists. (I can’t wait to see how that turns out!) I still think there are plenty of titles out there with male protagonists in the YA market and I don’t necessarily believe this is a gatekeeping thing from the publishers, it’s simply a fashionable trend. Plus I think this is more a social issue relating to values placed on reading in childhood. There are so many gender stereotypes enforced – girls should be seen and not heard, boys will be boys… I think there is more blame to place there for lower engagement of younger male readers. How many families encourage boys to read recreationally? How many younger boys have access to reading? It’s a much bigger social quagmire.

What’s your take on this issue?

© Casey Carlisle 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Women in Writing – has the pay scale equalised with their male counterparts?

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I was looking into the gender pay gap, chiefly in writing as a career, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Keep in mind that writing can include journalism, copywriting and marketing, book writing, technical writing, and the list goes on…

Drawing on general statistics from governing bodies and research biometrics we can conclude that writing does not suffer the gender pay gap as much as other pursuits. In general the figures show female writers are looking at 97-99 percent of a male counterpart’s wage. Though more media focused professions tend to see a larger gap, close to 80%. A prime example of this is in 2017 when Lisa Wilkinson abruptly departed her position as host of Channel Nine’s Today Show after almost a decade when the network refused to match her pay demands to that equaling her male co-host Karl Stefanovic.  Read more here:

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Though, when doing research for this article I was gobsmacked at how much of a gender pay gap still exists on a global stage across all sectors of employment today. I could get very emotional about the injustice of it all and go on a rant, but I’m focusing on the facts I’ve gleaned within the writing community because it directly affects me. Publishing seems to be a much more accommodating environment for female careers. But if you want some interesting general facts about the gender pay gap check out this article:

For general take home pay across all industries, I have found typically there is less of a margin of difference for differing sexes wages here in Australia compared to other countries. And it also seems skewed towards industries that are dominated by men, run or managed by men. Like favors like it seems. In industries dominated by female staff we see more of a balance, except in the retail sector where women typically earn more than men for the same job.

For contrast, I canvased over fifty writers that I know who have published 2 or more books in Britain, America, and Australia with an equal representation of genders to get a view if there was a gender pay gap in authors. Covering traditionally published fiction, Non-fiction, and differing genres. There were some interesting findings – but this may not represent the community at large because of the sample size, opportunity, how much independent effort the author undertook to boost sales – there are so many factors that can influence the results, but it’s a nice litmus test into my favoured profession.

Technical writers in non-fiction favor men over women (but I have a feeling this was due to professional qualifications and time in the industry. But that could also mean that men were favoured over women for opportunity and career advancement. It’s such a microcosm of a niche it was hard to get a handle on what the landscape was like.”

Women in Writing has the pay scale equalised Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Women dominated YA and romance fiction and tended to not only get higher signing bonuses, but produced more novels per year on average, thus being seen as a better investment for publishing houses.

Men skewed higher than women in thriller, adventure, and horror genres. This has to do a lot with famous authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler to name a few, paving inroads and publishing houses wanting to emulate their success.

Science Fiction and contemporary novels came up and even odds. As did historical fiction.

Though when you look as historical non-fiction male authors dominated the field and drew in much larger signing bonuses and sales figures (you know what they say – history was written by old white guys.)

There is an increasing trend in feminist literature that is seeing some great in roads to a completely female dominated genre with great rewards.

Memoirs and Autobiographies were interesting to look at. Ten years ago it was mostly dominated with male writers pocketing huge bonuses, but it seems to be swinging to a more female dominated market. Though they are not getting the kind of bonuses the men saw in the past, but that has more to do with economics and the industry that it does gender and opportunity.

Children and middle grade books were also dominated with women and their income was actually higher than those offered to their male counterparts.

I think overall the trend I see is in more serious and factual based writing we see men getting the professional notoriety and opportunity – and that also being reflected in their offers and income streams. Whereas women dominate in the creative, touchy-feeling genres, or genres reaching into childhood and female literature.

Sarah Connell and Julia Flanders

The industry is also still going through even more change with profiles like Ursula LeGuin and J.K. Rowling getting accolades for their body of work and many contemporary female authors having their novels optioned for film and television, we are seeing the gender pay gap getting mostly obliterated, and more opportunities being afforded to women. As to opportunity for people of colour and those who don’t conform to gender norms, to those of a variety or sexualities. It’s great to see such diversity and equal opportunity spreading throughout the industry – and have that reflected in the amount we get paid for our craft.

I wish I could discuss specifics and figures, but a key part of getting information for this article was keeping personal financial information private. Fair enough. I’m just greatful for the opportunity.

There was also a skew in the results with certain publishing houses. Some were more generous in their signing bonuses than others. But in some of the cases where I was privy to a lot of information, I can see everyone was judged on their own individual merit and what they could bring to the table in the arrangement. So while the overall figures still show the men being offered larger signing bonuses in certain categories and as the bigger earners overall, there was a balance for writers across the board. I think the industry will balance out even more in the near future as we see staffing changes and old attitudes pushed out of the industry.

The take home summary of my research shows that even though the gender pay gap in writing and publishing is one of the smallest in comparison to other industries, there is still a lot of work and attention needed to bring it to an even, open opportunity landscape. It’s great that we can even have these types of discussions. I know if this topic was brought up when I first started writing I would have been tsk-tsked out of the room. For me personally when I applied for jobs, or put in a submission for work, my worth would also include my appearance. If I was too attractive, I couldn’t also be intelligent. If my qualifications exceeded those of the interviewer, I was seen as a threat. Such a delicate rope we walk in the social-political climate. But with more ‘woke’ attitudes, more exposure and open discussions on equality, and deconstructing discrimination we are seeing a more accepting, global movement for equality. And that gives me hope for the future… and for my writing career.


What have been your experiences in the gender pay gap? Do you know of any writing-centric experiences or statistics that can add to this topic? I’m interested to build a better snapshot of opportunity and remuneration afforded women writers.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.