If you’re looking to become an author, you might be thinking how much do authors make? Is it a sustainable career option?
Many will look at being an author as being a “starving artist.” And while this may have been true when the traditional publishing industry turned away almost everyone, it’s just not the reality anymore.
There are so many people out there making a living writing and publishing books. And not just barely making a living, making a full, healthy full-time income while pursuing something they truly enjoy.
With self-publishing becoming more and more relevant, people looking to become a full-time author can make more now than ever before, which is actually something we teach our students to do in our Become a Bestseller or Fundamental of Fiction & Story programs.
We’re not just here to tell you how much authors make—we’ll also teach you how to make the most, and even earn a full-time living from your books if you read this whole article.
Here’s what you’ll learn about how much authors make & how you can make more:
- Author salary per year
- New author salary
- Common royalty earnings
- Making more money as an author
- Self vs traditional publishing
- Write to market
- Publish often
- Publish a series
- Build an email list
- Commit to being an author
There are self-published authors who can make a living writing with a sustainable income of $5,000 per month to $8,000 per month, even some self-published authors who make an excess of $10,000 per month.
Remember to use our royalties guidelines (below) to calculate accurately!
How Much Do Authors Make a Year? Salaries [With Examples]
Authors can expect to make a full-time living provided they have multiple books, know how to market them well, and an active, engaged fan base.
There are a ton of factors that play a role in how much authors make in a year, including books sold, royalty rate, and book printing costs. No two authors will make the same amount, though we all wish we could be lumped with the income of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.
Depending on which route you take to publish, your earnings will differ. Here, we use the example of Justin and Alexis Black, students of ours who sold over 6000 copies of their book in under a year, and authors of Redefining Normal compared to the average traditionally published author:
Book retail price: $14.99
Initial Royalty Rate: 10%
Income per book: $1.79
Books Sold: 6000
Book retail price: $14.99
Initial Royalty Rate: 60%
Income per book: $5.74
Books Sold: 6000
As you can see, there’s more than a $24,000 difference between traditionally published authors and Alexis and Justin’s book, at the same number of copies sold. These two students of ours were actually able to buy a home with their additional book earnings, as well as quit their jobs to pursue their author and business goals. (Small disclaimer: the above calculations were made using print copy rates only, they may have sold variations of types, including ebooks).
While most people think traditionally published authors make more than self-published authors because of the fame of authors like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, that’s not actually true.
How much an author makes per year depends on:
- Royalty rate earned per book sale
- Up-front advance offered (traditionally published only)
- Scope of book marketing
- Size of audience
- How many books are published per year
- How many books are currently out
- How many books are actually sold consistently
The averages actually swing higher in favor of self-published authors, as you can see in our real example above.
Note: Traditional publishing houses may have a lower printing cost through partnership deals or owning a printing press, but a $4.45 printing cost was used in the above calculations for both.
Regardless, you can see the major difference between the two: several dollars per book for a self-published author and sometimes not even a full dollar for traditionally published authors.
For example, using the book calculator tool above, plus the information in the chart above, we can estimate how much a self-published author could make selling only 35 units of their book each day (on average), on Amazon, and retailing the book for $4.99.
That author could expect to make over $9,000 in profit (before advertising costs, etc.) on their book in only 3 months.
Imagine how much that author could make if they only charged a little more, or simply sold more books!
How much money does a new author make?
This is such a common question we get here at Self-Publishing School, and it’s understandable. Most people think you have to be really well-known to make money as an author.
However, that’s not true. All you need is the right process to increase visibility for your book on Amazon, which is what we do with our Become a Bestseller and Fiction Publishing program. The example above of Alexis and Justin Black is representative of new authors who committed and worked hard.
We even developed a calculator to help you see just how much you can make in profit right here.
Try different price points, and different royalty rates to see for yourself!
Book Profit Calculator
Enter Your Information Below To Cacluate
Your Potential Book Sales
Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!
Here's What You'd Earn:
Your profit per book: $20
In 3 months, you'll make: $90,000
In 6 months, you'll make: $180,000
In 1 year, you'll make: $365,000
Many of our students sell 2 -3 books per day and with many having multiple books, this number increases rapidly.
Using the example above, pricing a book at $13.99, selling 3 books a day on Amazon, an author could expect to earn a little over $750 per month.
Price the book a little higher, the number could go up (just make sure you’re pricing your book to fit with others in your genre or people may skip over it).
Sell more books, the number will go up.
Selling books as part of a series is a terrific way to stack earnings for new authors, helping them earn a full-time income writing and publishing books for a living.
Additionally, many new authors also use their books to help grow leads for their business or to gain them access to speaking opportunities to grow their audience. Using a book this way, the immediate profits can be much higher.
Ultimately, if you want to make money as a new author, your best bet is to write often, publish often, and create series or at a minimum, multiple books.
What are common author royalty earnings?
Since we covered this above for the most part, let’s give a quick overview of what author royalties look like.
Self-published authors can make between 40% – 60% royalties on a the retail price of a single book while traditionally published authors usually make between 10%-12% royalties.
First-time authors who want to traditionally publish can get an advance, which is usually $10,000 (usually not that much more for a first-timer). However, with traditional publishing, you do not start to earn royalties until you have sold $10,000 worth of books at your royalty rate.
Basically, you have to earn back that $10,000 before you actually start to earn a royalty check from your publisher. And many publishers make a deal with the author that if they sell X amount of books, their royalty rate will go up, hence the difference there.
Experienced and proven traditionally published authors can negotiate a higher royalty rate, with 15% being very rare.
For self-published authors, you start making money from your first sale and every sale after at an average of 60% royalty rate.
Ways to Make More Money as an Author
So now that you have an understanding of how much authors make, we wanted to let you in on a few tips for making more money as an author.
Here are our best tips for becoming a full-time author.
#1 – Choose between self-publishing or traditional publishing
First and foremost, you’ve got to learn the difference between self-publishing vs traditional publishing, and then make the choice that will be best for you.
Setting yourself up for success with this is crucial if you want to make the most money you can as an author.
There are successful paths with both avenues. Just know that traditional publishing will take longer (2-3 years with the entire process it encompasses) and you might not see big returns unless you end up getting lucky with a bidding war between publishing houses.
Those bidding wars are what usually get authors massive advances, like those 6 or 7-figure deals you hear about. Otherwise, an unproven author may only get a $10,000 advance to start.
If you want a quick overview of the main differences between the two, here you go:
- 10% – 12% royalties per book
- Can take 2-3 years to publish one book
- Up-front advance (but you don’t make royalties until that advance is “paid back” to the publisher)
- 40% – 60% royalties per book
- Can publish 2-3 high-quality books a year
- No advance, but you make money right away, though you pay for book production costs
#2 – Write to market
Did you know traditional publishing houses have staff who come up with book concepts that are “trending” or hitting really well in the market, and then they also employ writers to bring those ideas to life?
Sometimes it’s the same person, but not always. They do this in order to have the biggest chance of making money by capitalizing on what’s “hot” in literature right now.
The best part? You can do this yourself as a self-published author.
But how do you write to market? And is it a less “legitimate” form of being an author?
There’s an argument between some more entitled authors and those who write to market under the guise of writing to market being a “sell-out” or some of the equivalent.
That’s just people being, well, entitled.
The truth is that if you love to write and can come up with story ideas easily, can write quickly, and are able to publish quickly, then writing to market is a legitimate (and smart) career opportunity as an author.
As a self-published author, you can write to market by looking at categories you enjoy creating stories in and seeing what types of stories are doing really well.
An example would be the Age of Vampire Novels that was initially kicked off by books like Twilight, triggering an explosion on vampire stories by many authors and publishing houses. And these sold really well.
Today, vampires aren’t quite as popular as Urban Fantasy in the Young Adult category.
If you’re someone who likes to write fantasy, you can benefit from writing those types of books and publishing them frequently.
Check out this post we made all about how to write to market to more tips.
#3 – Write every day and publish often
The coach for our Fundamentals of Fiction and Story program here at Self-Publishing School helps more than 30% of our students write and publish more than one book.
After they get one done and published, they’re itching to do it again, and again. This is our best advice for making a living writing.
Our coach actually started the InNoWriLife within our exclusive fiction Mastermind community, which is a knock-off NaNoWriMo, and it stands for: International Novel Writing Life.
The idea is to create a lifestyle with writing your novels. Instead of dedicating an entire month to it, you dedicate your life to building habits around writing every day.
Because if you want to make money as an author, you have to make it a habit, a part of your life, and a job.
So we recommend creating writing habits you can stick to in order to always be working on a story.
#4 – Write & publish series
If you truly want to “make it” as an author, writing and publishing a book series is a fast way to get there, especially if you publish multiple series.
The reason you make more money by thinking up and releasing a book series is simple: one customer is more likely to make multiple purchases.
If you have a great first book, they’ll buy the second and then the third, etc. This means you can make more money off of a single person.
This idea is explore more (with a calculator for understanding how much your series is worth) in our post here: Fiction Readthrough Rates & Calculator.
And not only will readers buy more books, but if one customer buys every book in your series, they’ll also usually leave reviews as well as buy other books you’ve published that aren’t in that same series.
Series establish a strong fanbase, which keeps you “employed” as a full-time author.
#5 – Put together an email list or other platform
Having a singular way you can communicate with people who have said “yes!” to wanting information from you is crucial. It’s like having a sales list.
So if anything were to happen to a social platform and you lose all those followers, you’d have no way of communicating with them–just imagine if a social platform went down the DAY of your launch.
Here are a few things you need to create an email list:
- Email provider like Convertkit (we have an SPS student exclusive deal through them!), Mailchimp, Mailerlite, or other
- A way to capture emails: like a website, a lead magnet in your book, etc.
- That’s it! If you can capture an email address to a service provider, you’re done.
#6 – Commit to being an author
“If you treat writing like a hobby, it will pay like a hobby.” – R.E. Vance (our Fiction writing and book marketing coach).
Just like with any other job, you have to work whether you’re in the mood or not.
One of the best pieces of advice we have for you is to make a commitment. You can’t expect to make a full-time income if you’re only sort of interested in writing or you only work on writing when the mood strikes.
This is the biggest mindset shift our fiction coach Ramy instills in our students. So much so that our exclusive community decided to take InNoWriLife a step further and track their progress with each other in a massive spreadsheet.
This is their dedication, and it’s why these students are so successful in being authors.
They wanted it and they made the changes needed to make it happen, like investing in Self-Publishing School to teach them the ropes.
How does one “commit to being an author”?
- decide that it’s your path (just like you would choose to go to college)
- invest where you need to (again, just like college or other training needed for professions)
- make a plan of the date you want to be “full-time” by
- work backward to create writing goals to reach that timeline
- learn the true path to full-time earnings as a self-published author
- say no to the things that get in your way and make the necessary sacrifices to do what you love for a living
It’s not just our fiction students who are growing income from their books. Our Become a Bestseller nonfiction students are just as dedicated and have created the same habits.