How Much Do Authors Make?

Are you curious about how much authors make? Read on to explore the financial side of the writing industry and ways to maximize your earning potential.

Have you ever wondered how much authors make in today’s highly competitive publishing world? The answer might surprise you. This article dives deep into the financial side of the writing industry, exploring author earnings through various avenues such as traditional and self-publishing, first-time advances, and median writer salaries.

We’ll also discuss factors that impact author income and provide valuable tips for maximizing their earning potential.

Key Takeaways

  • Self-published authors can earn significantly higher royalties than traditionally published authors, with some sustaining average incomes of around $82,600 from their books yearly.
  • Traditional publishing offers a lower percentage of royalties but often includes advances upfront for first-time authors. Advances vary widely depending on book genre and marketability but may range from $5000 to millions.
  • Full-time writers in America have an annual average income of nearly $66,143. This highlights the importance of diversifying income streams, such as offering book-related services and building a solid fan base through social media engagement.

How Much Do Authors Make: Understanding the Reality

Self-published authors can earn higher royalties than traditional authors, while full-time writers generally have a median income below the poverty line.

Self-published Authors Can Earn High Royalties

In the world of independent publishing, self-published authors have the potential to earn significantly higher royalties compared to their traditionally published counterparts.

A major advantage is that these authors retain complete control over their book’s pricing and distribution, directly impacting their profit margins. For instance, when an eBook is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), a self-published author can receive up to 70% royalties.

High royalty rates have been a driving force behind numerous success stories in the indie author community. Some even report sustaining incomes of around $5,000-$8,000 monthly from their books alone.

However, it’s important to note that achieving substantial earnings like these requires strategic marketing efforts and strong fan engagement alongside quality content.

Traditional Authors Earn a Lower Percentage of Royalties

Traditional authors who sign contracts with established publishing houses earn a lower percentage of royalties than their self-published counterparts.

This is because these publishers take on various responsibilities, such as editing, design, distribution, and marketing of the author’s work, in exchange for a significant share of revenues.

For example, consider an author whose hardcover novel sells for $25 through traditional publishing. If they receive a typical 10% royalty rate per unit sold, their earnings will amount to $2.50 per copy sold.

However, had this same author chosen self-publishing and priced their eBook at $4.99 on Amazon while receiving a 70% royalty rate (a possibility when pricing eBooks between $2.99-$9.99), they could have earned almost double ($3.49) from each sale.

First-time Authors May Receive a Modest Advance

Stepping into the writing world as a first-time author can be an exciting yet daunting experience, especially regarding earnings. Most traditional publishing houses offer advances to new authors. This can vary significantly depending on genre, market demand, and the publisher’s estimation of the book’s potential success.

It’s important to note that this advance represents an upfront payment for future royalties the publisher owes. As your book starts making sales, accumulated royalties will have to surpass your initial advance before you receive additional income from your writing.

For instance, if your first-time author advance was $5,000 and your book earns $1 per copy sold through royalties (a standard royalty rate), you would need to sell 5,000 copies before making any more money beyond that initial payment.

Full-time Writers Have a Median Income Below The Poverty Line

Unfortunately, the reality is that full-time writers have a median income below the poverty line. According to a 2017 survey by the Authors Guild, the median income for all writers is $6,080 per year, while full-time writers have a median income of $20,300.

While there are success stories of self-published authors making sustainable incomes from their books each month, it’s important to remember that these cases are not universal.

Building a loyal fan base and generating consistent book sales takes time and effort.

That being said, there are ways for authors to diversify their income streams beyond just book sales. This includes offering services like editing, coaching other writers, or creating products like merchandise or online courses.

Factors Affecting Author Earnings

Authors’ income is affected by genre, publishing method, and book type.

Book Type (fiction Vs. Non-fiction)

The type of book you write can significantly impact your earnings as an independent author. According to a report by the Author’s Guild, fiction authors earn less than non-fiction writers, with the median income for full-time fiction writers just above the poverty line and non-fiction just below it.

This is likely because non-fiction books often cater to more niche audiences willing to pay higher prices for specialized knowledge or advice. Additionally, popular genres such as romance and mystery tend to be oversaturated, making it challenging for new writers in those fields to break through and make significant earnings.

Genre and Category

The genre or category of your book can significantly affect your earnings as an author. For instance, romance and mystery novels sell more copies than literary fiction books.

Therefore, authors writing in those genres may have higher earning potential than others. Additionally, some categories like self-help and business books typically command higher prices leading to higher royalty rates for the author.

Overall, independent authors must research these trends before settling on a particular genre or category and determine what resonates with their target audience.

Publishing Method (traditional Vs. Self-publishing)

The publishing method you choose can significantly impact your earnings as an author. Self-publishing has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the potential for higher royalties and more control over the publishing process.

With self-publishing, authors can earn up to 70% royalties from eBook sales compared to traditional publishers, who typically offer 10% or less in royalties.

Traditional publishing offers a lower percentage of royalties but often includes advances upfront for first-time authors. Advances vary widely depending on book genre and marketability but may range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Regardless of which publishing method you choose as an independent author, it’s essential to consider your options carefully based on your goals and available resources while maximizing your earning potential through diversification and building a solid fan base.

Pursuing a Writing Career: Earning Potential and Tips

As a writer, there are many ways to make money while doing what you love. Here are some earning tips for potential aspiring writers:

Diversify Income Streams

As an independent author, diversifying your income streams can help you earn a sustainable income from your writing career. Here’s how to diversify your income:

  • Offer book-related services such as editing or coaching to other writers.
  • Monetize your blog or social media accounts by collaborating with brands or selling ad space.
  • Create an online writing, publishing, or marketing course for other authors.
  • Participate in speaking engagements or guest blogging opportunities to increase your exposure and earn additional income.
  • Sell merchandise related to your books, such as T-shirts or posters.

By diversifying your income streams, you can increase your earning potential and build a more stable financial future as a writer.

Build a Strong Fan Base

A strong fan base can be crucial for independent authors to earn a sustainable income from their writing careers.

One effective way to build a fan base is by leveraging social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to connect with potential readers. Also, consider offering exclusive content or hosting giveaways to keep your fans engaged and incentivize them to share your work with others.

Consider Book-related Services

In addition to book sales, authors can earn income from various book-related services. These include offering editing or formatting services to other writers.

They can also offer ghostwriting for clients who need assistance crafting their books. This can be a lucrative way to earn supplemental income while honing one’s craft.


In conclusion, while the income potential for authors varies widely, pursuing a writing career can be financially challenging. However, with determination and intelligent strategies such as diversifying income streams and cultivating a fan base, it is possible to make a sustainable living as an author.

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