From the Archives: “How Much Do Self-Publishing Authors Earn?”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: August 18th, 2014 ]

How much do self-publishing authors earn?

There is no one size fits all answer.

What an author earns varies greatly. Income is based on a variety of factors, including the author’s goals, intended market, and marketing strategy.

One of the main reasons author income varies so greatly is because many authors don’t self-publish to make money. They never intend to market and promote their book, so they earn very little. For these authors, success is not defined by the amount of money they make or the number of books they sell. Instead, it is simply based on whether or not they accomplished their goals.  Some common definitions of success among self-published authors include:

  • Sharing their story with family and friends
  • Reaching a niche market
  • Finishing and publishing their manuscript, regardless of how many books they sell
  • Gaining fame
  • Earning an income
  • Increasing their business
  • Building their following of readers
  • Adding to their resume
  • Getting picked up by a traditional publisher
  • And many, many more

I assume you ARE interested in earning money if you asked this question. For those of you who want to make a profit, here is what you need to know:

  • Depending on the trade discount set by you or your publisher, you can expect to earn royalties on average of $2-$7.
  • Some self-publishing companies offer more flexibility in setting pricing and royalties, so it is important to select a company that meets your needs.
  • Marketing is key to financial success! If you want to earn money from your book, be prepared to dedicate your time, money, and effort to marketing and promoting your self-published book.
  • Quality is also extremely important. You must offer readers a professional, well-written book.
  • A dynamic cover and professional editing are a must.

A great way to learn more about how much self-publishing authors earn and how they define success is studying other authors. Read interviews and books by successful authors. Network with writer’s in your area. Join professional writing groups. Talk to people who have self-published. Learn about the industry. All of this research will not only give you an idea of how much self-publishing authors earn, but will also offer excellent tips and advice for making your book successful.

– by Jodee Thayer

Jodee’s right, of course–it’s not necessarily useful to know the exact amounts that every self-publishing author makes, since so many aren’t in the game for the cash.  But there is a certain benefit, I think, to knowing:

A. Some self-publishing authors are going to hit it big. And by “big” I mean BIG, with Hugh Howey’s Wool saga pulling in roughly $150,000 a month from ebook sales back in 2014, for example–and other authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke doing very well indeed.

B. Many self-publishing authors are going to find the middle ground, becoming what in the traditional publishing industry might be considered “midlist”–but without the crippling disadvantages of traditionally published midlist authors, who are promised marketing assistance for example but very rarely ever receive it.

and C. Some self-publishing authors aren’t going to make much money, either because they choose not to put the time and energy or money into marketing it (for whatever, possibly legitimate reason) or because they have no idea where to begin.  We at Self Publishing Advisor want to move as many authors from category C. to categories A. or B. as possible–assuming that the authors want this too!

I would also like to encourage you with some hard data. Hugh Howey (mentioned above) has done a lot of work to open up the self-publishing industry and render it transparent, and his industry watchdog company (AuthorEarnings.com) does some very necessary and useful work each year in publishing its Author Earnings Report. The latest one posted to the site is from May of this year (2016) and while the nature of the study itself has fundamentally changed (from a longitudinal study to a cross-sectional one), Howey is able to draw some inspiring conclusions.

By broadening the parameters of their search, he says, they appear “to have nearly doubled the count of authors currently earning in this $10K/year ‘tax bracket.'” And while “$10,000/year is hardly a living wage in the US,” he continues, “it’s a nontrivial supplementary income. Especially for doing something you love.” According to this May 2016 study, only 18% of authors make less than $10,000/year–and “almost half” of the remainder “also appear in the $25,000-or-better bracket above”–meaning that roughly 1 in 5 self-publishing authors on Amazon make very little money, 2 in 5 make “a nontrivial supplementary income,” and the remaining 2 in 5 are making a decent chunk of change (more than $25,000/year, at least).

This is good news. Aiming to eclipse the superstars like Hocking and Locke and Howey may not be an attainable goal, but earning good money from your books is.  Now get writing!

hugh howey wool

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.

Self-Publishing Week in Review: 01/20/15

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry. This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Tuesday to find out the hottest news.

How Much Can a Self-Publisher Make?

“How much do self-published authors make?” is a common question asked by authors. This Huffington Post article shares income statistics from a Digital Book World report. This is an interesting read for all writers.

Self-Publishing Predictions

This Publisher’s Weekly article discusses expected trends in 2015 and reviews statistics from 2014. This is a must read for all writers.

A Look Ahead to Self-Publishing in 2015

Industry insiders predict an increase in diversity, serialization, and hybrid publishing in 2015, according to this Publisher’s Weekly article. This is a fascinating read for all writers.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

How Much Do Self-Publishing Authors Earn?

How much do self-publishing authors earn?

There is no one size fits all answer.

What an author earns varies greatly. Income is based on a variety of factors, including the author’s goals, intended market, and marketing strategy.

One of the main reasons author income varies so greatly is because many authors don’t self-publish to make money. They never intend to market and promote their book, so they earn very little. For these authors, success is not defined by the amount of money they make or the number of books they sell. Instead, it is simply based on whether or not they accomplished their goals.  Some common definitions of success among self-published authors include:

  • Sharing their story with family and friends
  • Reaching a niche market
  • Finishing and publishing their manuscript, regardless of how many books they sell
  • Gaining fame
  • Earning an income
  • Increasing their business
  • Building their following of readers
  • Adding to their resume
  • Getting picked up by a traditional publisher
  • And many, many more

I assume you ARE interested in earning money if you asked this question. For those of you who want to make a profit, here is what you need to know:

  • Depending on the trade discount set by you or your publisher, you can expect to earn royalties on average of $2-$7.
  • Some self-publishing companies offer more flexibility in setting pricing and royalties, so it is important to select a company that meets your needs.
  • Marketing is key to financial success! If you want to earn money from your book, be prepared to dedicate your time, money, and effort to marketing and promoting your self-published book.
  • Quality is also extremely important. You must offer readers a professional, well-written book.
  • A dynamic cover and professional editing are a must.

A great way to learn more about how much self-publishing authors earn and how they define success is studying other authors. Read interviews and books by successful authors. Network with writer’s in your area. Join professional writing groups. Talk to people who have self-published. Learn about the industry. All of this research will not only give you an idea of how much self-publishing authors earn, but will also offer excellent tips and advice for making your book successful.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top 10 Posts from 2013

Is self-publishing a book on your 2014 to-do list? If so, I’ve gathered the top self-publishing advice and news from 2013 to help you get started on your 2014 writing projects. These articles proved to be helpful to writers publishing in the past year, and I’m sure they will be helpful to you too. Here are the top 10 self-publishing posts from 2013.

1. Top 5 Customer Service Characteristics of High Quality Self-Publishing Companies

Choosing a self-publishing company is an important decision. This article discusses five characteristics to look for to ensure that you choose a high quality self-publishing company.

2. Quick Start Guide to Marketing Your Kindle eBooks Like a Pro!

This must read article discusses the differences between marketing an ebook and marketing a print book as well the mistakes that some authors make when marketing their Kindle ebooks.

3. How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make Per Year?

How much income self-publishing authors earn is always a common question among those considering self-publishing. This article provides an honest answer about the income you can expect as a self-published author.

4. Espresso Book Machines Offer Self-Publishing Authors a Jolt in Sales

It is amazing how much the publishing industry as changed over the past few years. Espresso book machines are book vending machines that produce a paperback copy of your selection on the spot. The way they work and how they are changing the way people get books is fascinating.

5. Should You Pay for a Book Review

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to market their book and increase their credibility. This article discusses why paying for book reviews is actually a great idea.

6. Self Publishing Authors Beware: Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Many self-publishing authors are looking for ways to publish their books while sticking to a budget. While there are ways to cut costs and save money, this article explains why cheaper isn’t always better.

7. Top 5 Considerations for Effectively Pricing Your Self-Publishing Book

Book pricing is always a hot topic among self-publishing authors. This article helps you determine a pricing strategy that is appropriate for your book.

8. Color Printing vs. Black and White Printing…What is the Difference?

This article discusses the difference between color printing and black and white printing. It also explains how these options compare to those offered by traditional publishers and what options are available to authors of long manuscripts.

9. Compare CreateSpace and Outskirts Press Self Publishing Packages

Choosing a self-publishing company can seem like a daunting task because it is difficult to make an apple-to-apple comparison. Each company offers different services and packages. This article provides an honest comparison between two popular publishing packages available through CreateSpace and Outskirts Press.

10. Copyright and Copywrite in Self-Publishing

Copyright is a confusing topic for many authors. This article explains basic copyright laws and what you need to do to protect your work.

I’d love to know, what is your favorite self-publishing post from 2013?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at http://kellyschuknecht.com.

Top 4 Self-Publishing FAQs: Part IV

This month I have been writing about FAQ such as how long it take to self-publish and how much will it cost. This week I will address the common question “Where can people buy my self-published book?”

There are many places readers will be able to purchase your book. However, the exact answer depends on your self-publishing company and the options you choose. Many companies offer different publishing packages that include various distribution options. For instance, Outskirts Press has several different packages with the following distribution options:

Diamond, Pearl, and Ruby authors receive worldwide wholesale distribution through wholesalers including Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertrams, and Gardners. Additionally, with the exception of Emerald books, all Outskirts Press books appear on worldwide e-retailer sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells, Books-A-Million, and many others. Ingram alone handles distribution and availability for nearly all bookstores and chains, while Baker & Taylor is largely used by libraries. Together, your book is available for order through over 25,000 sales channels worldwide.

Where your book is sold also depends on your own goals and marketing plan. For instance, you may choose to approach a local bookstore and ask them to carry your book. Self-publishing authors have access to a variety of retail options; the key to successfully selling your book is an effective marketing plan. It won’t matter where your book is sold if no one knows your book exists.

When choosing a self-publishing company, be sure to find out what distribution options and marketing help they offer, and don’t be afraid to approach additional markets. As a self-publishing author, you control how successful your book becomes.

If you have questions about self-publishing, feel free to comment below and I will try to address your topic in a future post. Also, be sure to check out the previous posts in this series:

Top 4 Self-Publishing FAQs: Part III

Top 4 Self-Publishing FAQs: Part II

The Cost of Self-Publishing

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Top 4 Self-Publishing FAQs: Part III

This month I have been writing about FAQ such as how long it take to self-publish and how much will it cost. This week I will address the common question “How much money will I make from my self-published book?”

It is difficult to estimate how much an author will earn from a self-published book because many factors influence the income. Authors earn royalties based on the sales of their books, so their income is directly linked to how well their books sell. The number of books self-publishing authors sell and the income they make from those sales vary greatly. Some authors only sell a handful of books a year, while others are capable of earning over $100,000 a year.

How do you know where you will 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 and money promoting the book after you write it.

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.

If you have questions about self-publishing, feel free to comment below and I will try to address your topic in a future post. Also, be sure to check out the previous posts in this series:

Top 4 Self-Publishing FAQs: Part II

The Cost of Self-Publishing

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.