How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

You want to become a self-published author, but you also have bills to pay and a lifestyle to maintain. So you pull up Google (or your search engine of choice), and search for “average income for book authors” or “average income for self-published authors”. You skim the results but can’t find any solid statistics. There’s a good reason why. Ready for it? Authors aren’t paid a salary. They earn royalties based on the sales of their book. These royalties are paid to them on a set schedule – usually provided that they meet the agreed upon “minimum earning threshold”.

So, will I be able to pay my bills if I become a self-published author? That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer to it. When you publish a book, you are essentially taking a “gamble” on yourself. Many authors keep their day jobs until they are able to earn enough to support themselves on their book sales alone. One dedicated Outskirts Press author made $100,000 in only 180 days (6 months). However, there are some authors who don’t earn anywhere near this amount in a year. Furthermore, there are some authors who may not sell even one book over the course of a year.

How do you know where you fall? Self-publishing is all about investing in yourself. Given that successfully publishing a book involves 20% writing and 80% marketing, you should naturally spend most of your time/money on promoting the book after you write it. If you need help, you may consider enlisting the services of a book marketing consultant.

The income of a self-publishing author is 100% in their own hands. No one can “predict” how much you will earn as that is only a result of two things:  the quality of your book and substantial effort in marketing it to the right audience.

What level of success have you seen as a self-published (or traditionally-published) author? Have you been able to maintain your lifestyle on royalties alone? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below…

14 thoughts on “How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

  1. I like your comment about 20% writing and 80% marketing. It is always a shock to authors when they find out how much they have to do to get their books out to the world. Those who are willing to do the networking fair far better in the long term. Authors have to love the writing, networking and marketing sides of the publishing life and can make some nice income each quarter.

  2. Hi, Matthew! You’re exactly right! Those figures were definitely not my own (20/80), but they are very true and we stand behind them wholeheartedly. Creating a beautiful product (while important) isn’t even half of the equation. Thanks for your comment.

  3. 20/80 is especially true. You have to give your great effort when it comes to self publishing but it is actually worth especially if you can have 100% of your royalties plus people will be buying your books. It is much fulfilling to see people buying your book that you put 100% work than seeing people buy your book but you did not do everything for it.

    1. Hi, Judith –

      Thanks for your comment! You are so right – being able to stand behind your work and know that you did put your best foot forward can give you a case of the “warm fuzzies”.

  4. I have been self-publishing since 2004, and I was able to maintain my lifestyle on my book profits alone for a few years. I do not rely only on royalties, though. I’ve been selling printed copies of my books (printed by POD companies) to specialty distributors in the niche market of natural health. To date, I’ve sold 40,000 copies of my best-selling title.

    I agree with the 20/80 percentage, but marketing doesn’t have to be tons of work – you just have to be smart in deciding where to put your energy and resources in reaching your market. My big breaks came from receiving endorsements from a handful of people and companies who were already niche market superstars.

    1. Hi, Jordan:

      It’s good to hear from successful self-published authors. When you publish a book to go out to a very niche market, usually there isn’t much “hardcore marketing” involved.

  5. Thank you for providing a realistic perspective on self-publishing. I think too many indie authors think that they can simply write a book, post it to Kindle, and expect word-of-mouth to sell their books for them eventually. Not so.

    The 20/80 ratio clarified this route to publishing for me. Thanks!

    1. Hi, M.E.:

      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad this clarified the “truths” to self-publishing for you.

  6. Yes, self-pubbing is (marketing/writing) 80/20 in terms of work, but most definitely 20/80 in terms of fun… The only bad thing about getting started with self-publishing is that you don’t get paid until 60 days after the end of a calendar month in which you meet the minimum threshold (usually $10). So, if you publish on the 20th of a month, and you’ve made $9 in royalties by the 30/31st, you wont get paid a penny until about 90 days (3 months) later…

  7. Thanks, that was very informative. I’m currently working on my first novel and i’m debating on self-publishing the novel.

    1. Hi Matt. I’m excited to hear you are working on your first novel and it’s great to see that you are already doing some research about getting it published. It’s never too early to start looking at your options. When and if you are ready to discuss the publication process in more detail, you can call and speak to a Publishing Consultant at 888-672-6657.

  8. Thanks for all those valuable informations. I had been doing research for the last 3 years even before I started writting my first book. I wanted to establish contact with the right publisher until I went on-line and established contact with Outskirts Press Self-Publishing. Through their mentoring and all the informations they provided helped me to write my first book and I just completed my first manuscript which is my Autobiography. It took me three years to write as I got a full time job as a Sub-Editor with Post-Courier a daily newspaper and now I’m a senior TV Documentary Producer & Presenter with Kundu 2, the National Television Services of Papua New Guinea.

    Now, my manuscript is accepted by Outskirts Press and its going through the post-production process and I’m thrilled as the review team advised me that ‘ my manuscript was well written, I had a way of playing around with words and I had definitely done my homework well’. Very soon maybe in the next two weeks it will go through the publishing process as I’m filling in the form right now for the ‘Full Cover Details Form’. I’m trying to work on the Wholesalers Summary and or Annotation when I spotted your site. Its a very good site so I want to connect and share as well.

    My book is about my life – ‘Autobiography’ titled: ‘Woman of Integrity’. Its my testimony of how God raised me in the wilderness for 20 years. I’m a local female Journalist from Papua New Guinea and I live in the nation’s capital Port Moresby with my 3 sons. I’m a widow now as I had lost my husband Robert Umba to Cancer of the Liver. My name is Veronica Temai Marme and I’m from Gumine in the highlands of PNG, Simbu.

    I would really appreciate you buying a copy of my book and any tips you would give me to market my book. As I wrote this book for two main reasons:
    1. To raise funds for my Ministry called ‘The Great Move of God in PNG Office’.
    2. To share my life story with others so you too can know how God will raise you despite all the situations and challenges you will go through in life you will still achieve your dreams and ambitions in God.

    P/S: Note that my website will be operating as soon as my book is published and distributed by Outskirts Press Self-Publishing Company. This will be my ‘Author’s website’ for my book and other books that I will write in the future. Outskirts Press are great and too good to be true…………..!!!!

    Thank you for sharing and God bless you all.
    Veronica Temai Marme,
    Author (First time Author).
    Book Title: Woman of Integrity
    My Pen Name: V.T. Marme.

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