When we set career goals, you can bet that one of our top considerations is how much money we can potentially earn. No one sets their sights on a low-paying job, right? We want to believe that all the hard work and dedication required to achieve a particular goal, like authoring a book, will be handsomely rewarded.

If you are researching author income potential, such as how much a first-time author makes or how much eBook authors make, continue reading for some answers. In this article, we will investigate the question of how much an author makes per book and discuss various factors that affect earnings.

How Much Money Should an Author Expect to Earn?

Obviously, an unknown or up-and-coming writer shouldn’t expect to rake in the same amount of money as best-selling authors like Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

The Author’s Guild 2018 Author Income Survey provided some sobering data regarding how much authors actually earn. Contrary to the Stephen Kings of the world, most authors do not earn a living wage, with a median income of just $6,080 reported in 2017 based on a survey of 5,067 writers. While this might be a bit disheartening, remember that $6,080 is the median income, so just as many authors earn more or less than this amount.

Factors That Affect Earnings

While it may be difficult to ballpark your potential earnings, several factors may influence how much an author will make:

  • Genre. The subject and genre of the book you write will inevitably have a major impact on its earning potential. For instance, you could pen the most comprehensive and beautifully written book ever on the subject of forensic accounting, but there will always be a limited audience for that topic. Romance fiction and mystery/thriller fiction are the top-grossing genres.
  • Theme. Your book’s theme and style could also have an earning impact, depending on the trends of the day. This can apply to nonfiction books if there is increased public interest in a particular hobby, sport, or political figure, for example. Fiction styles like young adult fantasy novels, children’s books, or historical fiction, for instance, may also become especially trendy at times.
  • Editing expenses. Any great author, new and old, knows that mistakes happen. However, a second pair of eyes is beneficial to find the inconsistencies and micro mistakes. Typically, authors may pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for editing services.
  • Output. Some authors are prolific writers, able to crank out several books per year. The more books you have for sale, the better your total royalty income.
  • Series. Publish a series and you can count on repeat customers.
  • Marketing. Even if you are writing the best book on the hottest subject, it won’t matter if nobody knows your book exists. That’s why marketing is a crucial factor for earnings success.
  • Effort. Selling books takes a huge time commitment, especially for self-published authors responsible for all their own marketing efforts.
  • Talent. The better the quality of writing, the better the chances are that it will be successful.

Answering the question of how much an author makes per book also depends very much on practical matters related to the construction of the book. Do you want it to be hardcover or softcover? A large coffee table book or a compact volume? Is it colorful or in simple black and white? The more expense associated with the book’s design, the less money you will receive from sales for each book.

Gatekeeper Press provides a helpful book royalties calculator, which takes these factors into consideration to show you how much you can expect to earn for every book you sell. For example, a 150-page standard-size paperback with a black and white interior priced at $10 would earn the author a royalty of $3.35 per book.

The bottom line about how much an author makes per book is: it just depends. All of the above variables will factor into your earning potential as an author.

Author Earnings: Self Published vs. Traditional Publishing

So, how much do authors make per book anyway? The harsh reality is that the lofty paycheck an aspiring author might anticipate is likely to be woefully exaggerated in their imagination. Let’s explore the earnings of traditionally published authors versus self-published authors.

First-time authors taking the traditional publisher route might imagine being handed big, fat advances for their manuscript, only to learn that very few publishers pay more than a $5,000 advance against future royalties to newbie authors. After that, the author will not see another red cent until their book earns an excess of $5,000 in royalty fees, not sales. This means the author would have to sell 5,000 books, based on royalties of about 10%–12%, or roughly $1 per book, before they “earn out,” or begin to make additional money off their book.

While self-published authors earn much more in royalties per book sold, they have their own hurdles to cross when seeking earnings. Self-publishing involves some financial investment upfront for editing and design services, as well as money earmarked for book promotion after publication. To earn back the money spent and break even, it requires the author to sell several hundred books, based on royalties of about 50%–60%, or roughly $4 per book. And remember, the author does all the heavy lifting, with any sales entirely driven by the author’s marketing efforts.

When considering each of these avenues toward publication, there are some factors that can help you choose your path:

  • Self-published authors begin earning royalties from the moment the first book is sold. Traditional publishing requires a very long timeline — up to 3 years in some cases — before the book ever hits the bookshelves. Instead of waiting, self-published authors collect royalties immediately.
  • Self-published authors earn higher royalties by a large margin. Traditional publishers pay about 50% less per book sold than self-published authors earn.
  • Self-published authors must budget for promotions and marketing if they intend to actually sell any copies. A traditional publisher usually has a marketing department that handles at least some of these efforts.
  • Traditional publishers are very limited in the types of books they will consider purchasing, usually based on trends and the input of focus groups. This greatly reduces a writer’s chances of ever being picked up by a traditional publishing house. Self-published authors have more latitude in being able to publish within a wide variety of genres and may present the only option for earning money as a writer.

What About eBook Author Earnings?

Those who want to increase their potential earnings would be wise to consider publishing an eBook. Without the expenses of a physical book and given the relative ease of distributing digital copies, eBook author earnings can be higher.

So how much do eBook authors make? It will vary based on how much you choose to price your eBook and which online publishers you are using. But, for instance, authors can receive up to 70% royalties per eBook published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

How to Increase Profits as an Author

If you have your sights set on making writing your full-time profession, there are some steps you can take to increase your earnings capabilities. As a self-published author, you are in the driver’s seat of your career. Consider these tips to increase your profits:

  1. Write to market. Traditional publishers do not have a corner on this strategy. Some gifted writers are very versatile, able to write on a variety of topics or in several genres. Determine what is trending among today’s readers and target them with your writing.
  2. Be disciplined. If you truly want to make a career of it, you have to treat your writing as a real job. Plan to write for a specified number of hours each day. By keeping this schedule, you will produce more books.
  3. Promotion. There is no room for false modesty if you want to improve your earning potential as a writer. Learn how to promote your books through book signings, guest spots on podcasts or radio, live social media feeds, and creative advertising.

As a self-published offer, you have a bit more control over your earnings and the methods you choose to try and increase your profit.

The Connection Between Editing and Profits

Without a first-rate product, an author will not realize the potential earning capacity they dream about. If you are ready to share your knowledge or tell a page-turning story to the world, there is money to be made doing it. Partner with the team at Gatekeeper Press, where we will polish your manuscript, design a stunning book cover, and help you distribute your self-published book. Reach out to Gatekeeper Press today!

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