Becoming an author is a dream of many people, but one of the questions they most often ask is how much money they can expect to earn. Writing is hard work, and it can be difficult to earn a living wage. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to make money as an author, and this article will explore some of your options. You will also have a better grasp of what an author is likely to earn, and indeed what is truly possible for a successful author.
AVERAGE AUTHOR EARNINGS
The average author income varies widely depending on where an author is published, how many books they have written, and the type of books they write. According to the last Author Earnings Report, a now defunct annual analysis of the industry, the average author income in the U.S. is around $12,000 per year. This number is an average taken from a variety of sources, and it is important to note that it does not account for advances or non-book income. If I could find a link to the original report, I would link it here, but unfortunately I was unable to find a working mirror to the article.
Of course, the best-selling authors make significantly more than the average. According to the same report, the top 1% of authors make an average of $200,000 per year. This number is skewed by the fact that the best-selling authors are often published by the largest publishers, which can offer larger advances and increased marketing and distribution.
It is important to note that an author’s income also may vary widely depending on the genre and type of book. Romance and erotica authors tend to earn more than authors of literary fiction. Non-fiction authors also tend to earn more than fiction authors. Then, of course, there are fiction authors such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling who defy such generalities.
Some authors supplement their book earnings by doing freelance business, public relations, or marketing writing or editing, teaching, and (if well-known) speaking engagements. These are all excellent ways to go about generating extra revenue. In addition, one might try their hand at running a blog, proofreading or editing other writers’ work, writing scripts for video creators, ghostwriting, or writing magazine articles. The ability to write well is a versatile skill that can be applied in myriad ways other than writing good stories.
DOES A SMALL PRESS EQUAL SMALL EARNINGS?
Many authors are hesitant to publish with smaller presses, as they often offer lower advances (if any advance at all) and less marketing and distribution power (which can lead to lower sales and eventual royalties). However, it is important to note that smaller presses can still be a great option. Small presses typically have lower overheads than larger presses, so they might offer authors a better share of the profits. This means that it’s possible authors could make more money than they would with larger presses.
Small presses also tend to have more flexibility when it comes to contracts. This can be beneficial for authors who want to negotiate better terms or even royalty splits. Small presses are also typically more focused on building an author’s career, and if they have the budget, they might be more willing to invest in marketing and promotion.
HOW MUCH WILL I EARN FROM MY FIRST BOOK?
The amount an author earns for their first book depends on a variety of factors. If an author is published by a major publisher, they can expect be offered an advance. The size of the advance will depend on the publisher, the author, and the book’s sales potential.
If an author is published by a smaller press, they can expect to make less money (if any) upfront. However, if the smaller press is passionate about its work and has a solid marketing and distribution plan, and of course if the book appeals to a large enough audience and generates positive buzz, the author may be happy with the results.
Let’s be clear: authors should not expect to get rich from their first book, or perhaps from any book. According to The New York Times, a study of 5000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditionally published and self-published authors, showed that “the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017.”
In the end, if financial gain is your central priority, you might want to reconsider trying to make “book author” your sole career. This is especially true for people with financial responsibilities that don’t allow them the luxury of focusing on creative work rather than earning a living. However, many people in that position have found the time to write their books while pursuing more lucrative or steady careers. The numerous rewards of being a published writer for those who love the craft and are passionate about sharing their work and their stories with the world, outweigh the financial realities for many authors.
Many authors dream of making a living as a writer, but it is important to understand how much an author can realistically expect to earn, and then to fit writing into your life plan in a realistic way. With hard work and dedication, authors can make a decent living combining creative pursuits with professional earnings. And of course, there are authors who do manage to hit it big, sell thousands of books, maybe sell their story to Hollywood, and enjoy significant earnings from their work. It never hurts to dream (and to put in the hard work that could make it happen).
So, if you’ve ever wondered how much you’ll earn selling books, the answer is, as always, “It depends.”
HERE AT HIP
At HIP, we firmly stand in favor of authors being fairly compensated for their work. A publisher should never be greedy or dishonest. Though costs for the production of a book can be high, small presses have no need to gouge clients and rob them of money they should rightfully have. Huntsville Independent recognizes that an author pours a piece of their soul into what they write and has therefore implemented a variable contract that allows for both recovery of funds for a publisher and just payment to an author by combining list royalties and net sales into one perfect contract that assures the satisfaction of creator and proponent. An author at HIP can earn up to 60% on eBooks, 40% on paperbacks, and 40% on hardcovers. Our contract is something we are most proud of here at HIP because it allows us to elevate our authors sustainably and ethically. Our contracts are not available publicly and can only be obtained by submitting a manuscript and receiving an offer from HIP. As always, thank you for spending your morning with us on The HIP Weekly. We hope you were able to learn something from this week's article. If you liked it, share it with your friends! Have a positive and productive week!
Huntsville Independent Press
ABOUT HUNTSVILLE INDEPENDENT PRESS
Huntsville Independent Press is the premiere publishing imprint of the Southeast United States, and we want to help you, the author. HIP provides, at no cost to our signed authors, a better solution for the publication of your story. Our contracts are non-restrictive and offer higher royalties for our authors. No HIP advance is taken out of royalties. Your advance from us is a one- time payment for the privilege to publish your book and is not a loan. Our passionate team of editors work diligently to ensure that the uniqueness of your story is preserved through the editing process. While you’re here, feel free to look around to see if Huntsville Independent Press is the right home for your work. We are always happy to have talented authors find a publishing home here with us.