How Much Do Authors Make? 5 Author Earnings Reports + Facts

Posted on Dec 28, 2023

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Written by Bella Rose Pope

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Why do you want to know this? How much do authors make? You might be asking because you’re scouting career opportunities and the income earned is an important factor. Or maybe you’re trying to convince someone it’s a viable income source…even if that person is yourself.

If you just want to know how much authors make so you can decide whether or not to write books, I’ll be the first to tell you that you won’t make much as an author if money is the only thing in your mind. Without caring about the art form, you’re not likely to earn much because your books will lack the substance needed to sell well.

Harsh? Maybe, but I prefer the honest approach, which is why you won’t get fluff in this article.

If you love writing and want to know if this is a real opportunity to pursue something you love and earn a respectable income from it, then feel free to take a look at these author earning reports along with the advice for how authors are making a living with books nowadays, because to answer the question of “how much do authors make?” really depends on too many factors to give you a flat rate.

Here‘s what will help answer the question of “how much do authors make?”:

  1. How much authors make
  2. Traditionally Published
  3. Self-Published
  4. Author Earning Reports
  5. Factors Impacting Income
  6. New Author Earnings
  7. Royalty Rates
  8. Ways to Earn More as an Author

If you want a quick way to see how much you could earn based on book sales and your book’s pricing, check out the calculator below:

Find The Best Publishing Path For Your Needs!  Take This 2-Minute Assessment To Learn Which Of Our Publishing Paths Will Be  The Best For You And Your Unique Needs As An Aspiring Author. Answers Delivered  Immediately!  Take The Assessment!

How Much Do Authors Make?

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.

The truth is that the range of how much authors make can vary from $0 a year to over $1,000,000 even for self-published authors. It’s not an easy question to answer, so I’ll summarize it this way:

With consistent publishing, effective marketing, and attention to creating quality written books, an author can expect to grow their income to healthy levels matching and even rivaling that of a full-time career in another field over the course of several years.

That is to say, the opportunity for making money as an author will grow year over year if the author has the skills and tools to work at it.

Best of all is the fact that if you gain a readership and continue to publish multiple books, your potential for income will continue to rise and the money compounds.

How much do traditionally published authors make?

Traditionally published authors will earn a book advance averaging $10,000 and about 10% in royalties for every book sold after they have earned the initial advance in book sales. This might sound confusing, so I’ll break down what this looks like.

First, someone who wants to get traditionally published has to query agents. This is the process by which they show potential book agents their book, explain what it’s like, and hope an agent wants to help them sell their book to a traditional publishing house. The author is not paid for this entire process.

After the agent says yes, they now have to pitch and sell this book to publishing houses.

If a publishing house says, “yes, we want to buy your book and publish it!” that’s great, and is often referred to as an author getting a book deal. They will offer an author a lump sum to “purchase” the book and its rights. This is called an advance, and it will range from $5-$10,000 for new authors to upwards of $30,000 for established authors. The agent gets a percentage of this advance.

Every now and then, you’ll see reports of an author selling a book for 6-figures in a book deal. This happens when multiple publishing houses want the book and are willing to pay more for it. The book goes into a “bidding war” and that’s how these higher prices come to be. But notably, this is not common and not something you should expect if you want to traditionally publish.

From here, the book is published and the author will earn about 10% of every book sale. However, depending on the contract negotiated, the author needs to sell as many books as it takes to “pay off” their advance before they begin receiving a royalties check for additional earnings.

Here’s what this might look like broken down in real numbers:

Traditionally Published Earnings:

Book retail price: $14.99

Initial Royalty Rate: 10%

Income per book: $1.49

Books Sold: 6000


Earnings: $8,940

How much do self-published authors make?

Self-published authors will earn between 40% and 60% of royalties for every book sold, which means if they sell 100 copies of a book priced at $14.99 on Amazon, with a $3.04 printing cost, that author will earn $5.95 per book, and $595 for those copies sold.

That may not look like a lot, and there are many other factors that go into a self-published authors earnings, including whether they put their book on Kindle Unlimited and the earnings that offers. In short: self-published authors tend to make more money per book, but traditionally published authors often sell more copies of their books because of the distribution advantages offered through publishing houses.

But self-published authors can actually publish more books at higher intervals, depending on how much they can write, so the potential of how many books they can sell is much higher than that of traditionally published authors, who have to wait a couple of years (usually) between publishing books.

Here’s what a self-published author’s earnings might look like, using the same comparison above:

Self-Published Earnings:

Book retail price: $14.99

Initial Royalty Rate: 60% = $8.99

Print Cost: $3.04

Income per book: $5.95

Books Sold: 6000


Earnings: $35,700

The self-published author sold 6,000 copies and made $35,700. The traditionally published author sold 6,000 copies and made $8,940.

That’s 4x more earnings for the self-published.

Author Earnings Reports

How much authors makes varies so widely that it’s best to show you some snapshots of small wins in addition to what your income can look like year after year when you stay consistent.

These are self-reported and often accompanied with charts directly from Amazon, meaning they are self-published authors reporting what they made.

How much do authors make – Author Earnings Report #1

This author has several books and continuously publishes. They know it takes time and dedication, and you can even see how much their income fluctuates year after year, despite being consistent in their work.

This author, as of May 2022, has earned over $1.5 million since 2016.

How Much Do Authors Make Example Over Many Years Totaling 1.5 Million

How much do authors make – Author Earnings Report #2

On the flip side, this author made much less in a given year, and it’s still something to celebrate! Any income earned when your goal is to make money writing is something to celebrate.

While this author only made what could seem like a small amount, they are still selling copies and, according to them, have made the same amount year over year.

New Author Earning Report For A Year Totaling $329

How much do authors make – Author Earnings Report #3

As far as new authors goes, this one shows us that sometimes with a bit of finesse and publishing more than one book, you can make a full-time income in months, not years.

How Much Do Authors Make Earnings Report Over 6 Months Totaling $78,000

How much do authors make – Author Earnings Report #4

In this example of “how much do authors make?” this author had a goal of earning over $10,000 in a single month by the end of a year, and they’ve done it! This just goes to show that setting goals and chasing them works wonders.

As do running book ads, apparently.

How Much Do Authors Make Example Of $10,000 In 30 Days

How much do authors make – Author Earnings Report #5

This author gets real and shared their author earnings report for a 9-month period within their first year of publishing. This differs greatly from the example above of an author earning far more in a shorter time period.

How Much Do Authors Make Example Of $3279 In 9 Months

Sometimes, you get lucky and something about your book gets picked up by Amazon and readers and you end up selling a lot. Sometimes, you can write the best book and do everything right and still not sell much.

And then of course, other times, you can put forth a strategy, be consistent, market, do the work, and you will earn what you deserve out of it like the very first example here.

Factors Impacting How Much Authors Can Make

The answer to a question like “how much do authors make?” completely depends on too many factors to give a simple answer. Some of them are related to how much time an author can put into their book business, but some of them have to do with the craft of writing a quality book.

Here are elements that alter how much authors can make:

  • 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 quality of books written (bad books don’t continue selling)
  • Virality factors (can the book gain traction to go viral – not controllable usually)

Most of these factors have one thing in common: they impact the number of books sold per day. That’s what will affect how much an author makes the most.

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?

I won’t lie. As a brand new author with only one book published, there won’t be a lot of money earned unless something drastic happens and your book trends in Amazon or goes viral in reading circles. It takes a lot of time, commitment, and marketing skillsets to make a book

But what’s also true is that one book is where you have to start. You can’t snap your fingers and suddenly have 10 books published, all selling well and making money. That can take years—but not decades. If you love writing and want to earn money, just keep doing it.

One book turns into three, and then five, and then ten.

Ten books selling 5 copies a day each can add up into a comfortable, healthy income.

And that’s made much easier with 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.

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 Calculate
Your Potential Book Sales

Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!

CONGRATULATIONS

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

Book Profit Calculator 3

This will help you understand how to price your book and help you calculate sales goals in order to reach the author salary you really want.

Many of our students sell 2 -3 books per day and with many having multiple books, this number increases rapidly.

For example:

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.

Average Author Royalty Rates

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, as mentioned earlier.

Experienced and proven traditionally published authors can negotiate a higher royalty rate, with 15% being very rare and reserved for people like Stephen King, who could sell a tissue he sneezed in just because of who he is.

For self-published authors, you start making money from your first sale and every sale after at an average of 60% royalty rate.

6 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:

Traditional Publishing

  • 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)

Self-Publishing

  • 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.

We always recommend authors build an email list because you own your list. Whereas with social media platforms, the company owns your followers, you don’t.

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.

Email lists are also a great resource for recruiting beta readers, launch team members, and getting people excited about your book come launch time.

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.

Find The Best Publishing Path For Your Needs!  Take This 2-Minute Assessment To Learn Which Of Our Publishing Paths Will Be  The Best For You And Your Unique Needs As An Aspiring Author. Answers Delivered  Immediately!  Take The Assessment!

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.
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