How Much Does An Author Make? Surprising Salaries You Won’t Expect
Authors make 5% to 18% royalties on their books, plus an advance of $1,000 to $10,000 for first-time authors. Experienced authors with a history of publishing prior books can earn a higher royalty percentage and a more significant advance based on their track record of selling similar books in the past. When asking, "how much does an author make?" you want to consider various factors like:
- Book genre
- The popularity of their books
- Publishing contract and
Author income can also be quite different depending on if they go with a traditional publishing model or a self-publishing model.
In this article, we're going to dive into how much authors make, uncovering:
- How much authors earn per book
- The difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing
- How book advances work
- Opportunities for authors to make more money
Let's get into it.
- How Much Does An Author Make?
- How Much Does An Author Make Per Book?
- Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing
- How Do Book Deal Advances Work?
- How Can Authors Make More Money?
- Does An Author Make Good Money?
How Much Does An Author Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, authors earn a median salary of $69,510/year. To see how much authors have reported earning, we went to Reddit to get a firsthand account of what authors are making as their income.
Here's what we saw authors report for book earnings:
- $2.75 royalty per book sold
- $10,000 book advance
- $25,000/year from book and ebook sales
Here's another Reddit thread that talks about how much authors earned. It reveals income ranging from $0.73 to $150,000.
What's interesting is when you start diving into the various existing publishing forms. Traditional publishing, where you work with a publishing company, puts an entire team behind you as an author. It can include an advance, royalty deal, printing and publishing of your book, and marketing.
Self-publishing, where you publish a book yourself, can offer different kinds of financial returns for authors, depending on the success of the book. Sometimes, self-published books can earn authors far more than traditional publishing deals.
How Much Does An Author Make Per Book?
In traditional publishing, an author may get a book advance plus earn a specific amount (a royalty) per book. The amount earned per book is based on things like their publishing contract, the book's retail price, and other factors.
Hardcover books can pay 10% to 15% book royalties based on the book's list price. So, if a hardcover book costs $20, the royalty payment to the author at 10% would be $2.00 per book.
Authors can earn 35% to 70% of the book's list price in self-publishing. So, a $20 self-published book on a 70% royalty would earn the author $14.00 per book sale.
How Much Does An Author Make? Traditional Publishing vs Self-publishing
How much does an author make from traditional publishing vs. self-publishing a book?
Justin and Alexis Black sold 6,000 copies of their book, "Redefining Normal". Under a traditional publishing model, their earnings are estimated to be $10,740.
- $14.99 book price
- 10% royalty rate
- $1.79 income per book
Using the same example, as self published authors, selling 6,000 book copies, the authors would earn a writing income of $34,440.
- $14.99 book price
- 60% royalty rate
- $5.74 income per book
Traditional Publishing vs Self-Publishing
Let's talk about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. These are two different publishing models for authors to pursue. As you'll read, they both have perks and drawbacks to consider when deciding which path to take.
What Is Traditional Publishing?
Traditional publishing involves using a publishing company to publish and distribute an author's book. There are many parts to this process a traditionally published author has access to, including:
In traditional publishing, the publisher is taking a risk that the book will be successful and will pay its investment back. The publisher's investment in editing, designing, printing books, and distributing can be between $10,000 and $25,000 per book. Publishers usually take 85% to 90% of the cover price, with the author earning the difference, between 5% and 15% per sold book copy.
In traditional publishing, the author can earn a book deal advance and a royalty payment on each sold copy of the book.
Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing
Here are the pros and cons of traditional publishing.
- Access to a professional network to finalize their book (i.e., professional editors, designers, etc.)
- Advance payments
- Brand association
- Limited creative control
- Long publishing process
- Low royalty rates
What Is Self-Publishing?
Self-publishing is about publishing a book without using a book publishing company. Instead, the author will handle every aspect of the book publishing process, including editing, book cover design, marketing, etc.
The author has full control of the publishing process and usually keeps 35% to 70% of each book copy sold. While authors can earn more money per book with self-publishing, they are taking on the burden of investment in the publishing process.
An author's investment in the process of self-publishing can be the same as traditional publishers, up to $25,000. This can involve hiring a professional editor, graphic designer, marketing agency, etc.
Self-publishing can be an intensive process, but products like Publisher Rocket exist, which can make the process easier for authors. Publisher Rocket is a self-publishing tool that can help with various functions during the self-publishing process:
- Keyword research and analysis
- Category research
- Competition analysis
- Keyword optimization
- Sales tracking and analysis
Read this Publisher Rocket review to learn more about how this software can help with the self-publishing process.
Want more options? Then I suggest you read our MindStir Media review - it is also a tool for self-publishing authors. And while you are at it, have a look at our Book Bolt Review. You can use this bookseller tool to find ideas, design, and publish books.
Pros And Cons Of Self-Publishing
Here are the pros and cons of self-publishing.
- Faster publishing process
- Creative control
- Marketing control
- Pricing control
- Higher royalty rates
- Limited distribution
- More work required
- Limited professional support
- More upfront costs required
Overall, both publishing models have benefits and drawbacks to consider. As an author, you should choose the model that best fits your needs.
How Do Book Deal Advances Work?
How much does an author make from book deal advances, and how do they work? A book deal advance is an advance payment made to authors in traditional publishing. How much an author earns varies based on the publishing contract. It's an advance against future royalty payments from book sales.
Royalties are the sum of money the author earns on each book. It's a percentage of the book list price. For example, a 5% royalty rate on a $50 book would earn the author $2.50 per book copy sold.
The royalty percentage the author earns is based on the book deal advance.
The book advance doesn't guarantee future sales, so if book sales aren't enough to pay back the advance, the author is not required to pay the advance back.
How Can Authors Make More Money?
When asking yourself, "how much does an author make," you should consider ways authors can make more money. There are ways authors can maximize their earnings.
Here are some ideas:
- Explore multiple income streams: Authors can diversify their income streams to make the most money as an author. Some examples include taking on speaking engagements, consulting, or offering writing-based services like coaching.
- Build their platform: Having a large network and social following can help you make more money as an author. When you enlarge your digital footprint, you attract more readers, increase book sales, and get exposed to opportunities that may not have existed with a smaller platform. Read this article to find out how to build a social media following.
- Marketing: You can help marketing efforts by taking marketing into your own hands. Examples include actively promoting your book on social media, in-person, and networking.
- Crowdfunding: Create a crowdfunding campaign to help fundraise for your book project. Platforms like Patreon and Kickstarter are examples of websites you can use for this.
- Self-publishing: As a self published author, you'll earn more per book with self-publishing compared to traditional publishing. This could be the more lucrative path to traditional publishing if you have a strong online platform.
- Writing multiple books: The more books you write and publish, the more you can earn.
Does An Author Make Good Money?
Yes, an author can make good money. The publishing industry is multifaceted, and an author's salary depends on many factors, including which publishing model you adopt, the size of your online network, and other factors. Despite this, earning a living as an author can be challenging, with the top 2% making a "good living," according to this source.
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