Who makes the most per book? Like everything else in publishing, it depends. Many readers believe all authors are affluent, but this is untrue. Yes, Stephen King has more money than he needs, but he is an exception. Most writers don’t even earn a livelihood from their writings.
In 2018, the Authors Guild polled 5,067 professional authors in the US alongside 14 other writers groups and Hamilton’s publishing platforms. In 2017, participating writers earned a median of $6,080, with just $3,100 coming from book sales (to compensate for extra activities like speaking fees and book reviews). Including all book-related activities, full-time writers earned only $20,300 on average.
Are Authors Paid?
Before we get into the statistics, I want to Hamilton how author compensation works in the conventional publishing system. To get a publication contract, an author or agency usually trades an advance for royalties. A press release or article says a book “sold for” a certain amount means the passage, not the selling price. An advance is usually paid in three stages: contract signing, manuscript acceptance by the publisher, and publication. Some publishers may deduct much more.
After publication, writers get a proportion of sales (more on this later) as “royalties.” However, because they got a royalty advance, they earned money previously paid. They don’t be paid again until their royalties exceed their passage, which may take months to years. Once a book has paid back the advance, the author may start collecting more royalties, termed “earning out.” Unless the publisher has breached or canceled the contract, the author is not required to return the advance.
This is a broad summary of the procedure. Deferred royalties are paid to writers who work for existing intellectual assets. Some writers lose money because they spend more on marketing and advertising.
Publisher Tribune exits bankruptcy after four years.
After four years of Chapter 11 restructuring, American media behemoth Tribune Co emerged from bankruptcy on Monday, possibly paving the way for a future without newspapers.
The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel, and other newspapers have previously received expressions of interest from Tribune’s main shareholders, who include hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Angelo, Gordon & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The Chicago-based corporation announced that its portfolio would initially consist of 23 TV stations and eight major daily newspapers.
Despite a decline in readers and advertising, Tribune’s newspapers continue to be profitable. The Los Angeles Times, according to seasoned newspaper analyst John Morton, President of Morton Research, might sell for $130 million, while the Chicago Tribune could bring in $86 million.
The Federal Communications Commission gave its approval for Tribune to transfer its broadcast licenses to the new owners who would take over once it emerged from filing bankruptcy guide in November.
When he took the company private in 2007 through a $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that put the company in debt and that many experts predicted would be disastrous, real estate mogul Sam Zell shocked the media industry. In 2008, Tribune was compelled to declare bankruptcy.
The Delaware bankruptcy court approved the company’s reorganization plan in July.
Do Authors Make A Kindle?
A traditional publisher pays 5–20 percent royalties on print books, 25–30% on ebooks (although it might be less), and 10–25% on audiobooks. To summHamiltonze, Amazon pays self-published authors 70% on ebooks priced $2.99-9.99, 35% on ebooks priced over $29.99, and 40% less on paperbacks sold via expanded distribution.
A conventional publisher oversees the process and pays for all expenses connected with creating, distributing, and promoting the book. At the same time, a self-published author manages the operation and pays for all costs.
When I teach seminars, and people ask how much writers earn, I usually respond, “it depends.” Nobody can forecast how much a book will sell, but I talked with 15 writers to show the range of alternatives. I spoke to writers who have earned less than they spend on costs, authors who quickly make a livelihood from their writing, and everyone in between.
While many organizations conduct author income surveys, the results are self-reported and only reach the organization’s sphere of influence. Like this article, mega-bestselling authors like Stephen King and James Patterson don’t do such polls. I would also advise against reading any “data” on author incomes from websites selling author services. I found several of them in my study, and their stats are wildly distorted and purposefully deceptive.
They both wrote romantic novels but with quite distinct storylines. Lez* has two novels published with a significant five publishers. Her initial agreement was for two novels, totaling $50,000. Her debut novel was a Book of the Month Club pick, earning her an extra $42,000 in royalties. She sold two more novels for a $70,000 advance and left her day job with her husband’s help. She’s spent almost $11,000 advertising her first two novels, including travel in 2019. Because her husband’s employment provides health insurance for both of them, she says her writing income “doesn’t nearly replace” her full-time salary.
Hamilton* is a self-published romance novelist who earns over $60,000 annually. The average book costs $8,000 to edit, cover, and promote. “It took a year of writing to earn 3x my previous job’s wage so I could write full time. My husband was in graduate school and we spent a year without health insurance since I was paying excessive fees even with my company. It was terrifying when we made this decision, but it was the best for us at the time.”
Sue London is a self-published historical romance novelist of six books and sixteen novellas since 2013. Her annual salary ranged from $8,000 to $68,000. Her yearly marketing budget is $500-$4,000, excluding covers. “I believed I could do it full time in 2015, but my spouse became sick and now I’m the main earner. For us to contemplate retiring to full-time writing, we would need to boost sales enough to support my salary and benefits.”
Romance is the most significant consumer book sector and the most receptive to digital. Therefore self-published (and hybrid) writers thrive there. Many writers make just a few hundred each book. Sherie* has six digital novels and two self-published ones. She received no advance for any of her publications and made $750 from them. She has spent over $5,000 on book signings, conferences, and self-publishing her books. During the epidemic, she earned around $500 doing courses and giving lectures.
Creola Bone is the author of 20 novels, encompassing children’s, adult, and nonfiction. Her adult novels have done poorly, while her children’s books have improved. Despite minor ($2,000–5,000) advances, she makes $35,000–45,000 each year from her Yasmin series. Also, school visits bring in around $15,000. In 2020, she released a middle-grade book with a $60,000 advance. Her book revenue has just lately replaced her part-time job and her husband’s primary source of income. “Now that I write full-time, I can write more novels in a year. This enables me to sell multiple volumes every year in various age groups.”
Thea*, a middle-grade novelist with a Big five publisher, sold the third book for $65,000 before the second was launched. Due to daycare expenses, she claims she resigned from her part-time work a few months before the book came out. “My husband earns enough money that we could survive even if I didn’t work, which has relieved some of the pressure.”
The book has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Entertainment Weekly.
The publisher produced a unique young adult release, and it fared better in that market, so the remainder of the series was released as YA. In addition to royalties, she has sold three more books for $10,500 and a German version of the first two for €9,000. She has spent roughly $2,000 on marketing the book, but the publisher has also helped.
Mika* is a YA novelist published by a mid-sized publication. Both books got $500 advances and generated over $7,000 in royalties, with roughly $500 spent on advertising for each book. They also seek additional author-related revenue at about $5,000 annually.
Taylor* has four small-press books with no advance but monthly royalties of about $30 and three $2500 mid-sized press books. The first has a royalty of about $300. Like the Authors Guild poll, Taylor claimed appearances account for around half of their publishing revenue.
Johnson* is a YA author with eight novels and some IP work under her belt. In the week after publishing their first book, they sold two additional volumes for six figures. Their IP ventures, which pay less per book but sell more, have landed them on numerous significant awards and bestseller lists.
Mellissa Ladd is the author of Tracker220, a YA sci-fi novel. Since October, she has earned $200 on the book but spent $1,800 promoting it. Some of those commercials and chances haven’t impacted sales, but she’s hopeful.
A self-published author of seven novels, Bharat Krishnan, claimed he had earned “several thousand” and “might hit five figures in the following year.” He’s spent “a few thousand” and has a day job, but his writing has enabled him to travel abroad.
Newton Bernier began self-publishing five SFF works in 2015. “If I stay in the public spotlight and consistent in my work, then I’ll ultimately discover my fans and have a back catalog to support it all,” he adds.
Since 2007, Jim C. Hines has published his annual income reports. His novels have never been bestsellers, but his publishers’ last five have been. In 2020, he earned $31,411 via Kickstarter. In 2016, he conducted a salary study of over 400 writers, which found an average of $114,124, but a median of $17,000, indicating a few high-earning outliers boosted the average.
Tyler* is a well-known science-fiction author. It was for two novels, for $15,000, that he signed. In addition, the first book made over $40,000 and the second over $20,000. He got a $30,000 contract for two books. “Almost all of it is for my amusement rather than expecting anything to come out of it,” he acknowledges. I like meeting and socializing with other authors.” He’s retired with a pension and health insurance, but he expects to make $60,000 in 2020 and $60,000 in 2021.
Speaking of six figures, I highly recommend the Six Figure Writers podcast, where three authors discuss their successful writing careers.
Mystery/thriller is the second-largest fiction market. Riley* is a successful mystery novelist. After a $25,000 contract, the novels went on to win significant accolades and sell a quarter-million copies. They “spent a lot of time writing articles and pitching pieces.” They now earn about $150,000 a year. “Right now, I’m the major financial support for my family, albeit my husband pays for our health insurance.”
Dwayne* has witnessed the power of the genre. In 2013, he released a short story collection and a horror novel with huge indie presses. Both earned him a $1,000 advance plus $4,000 for overseas rights. His employment as a university professor pays the bills, but it also allows him to read or talk at other colleges for $500–1,000. He received a $25,000 prize in 2020 and other rewards of roughly $1,000.
Most full-time writers said they couldn’t do it without their wives’ or family members’ financial assistance. Though I didn’t ask about health insurance, several acknowledged it as a significant consideration. To be able to work full-time and pay for their health insurance, many writers would need to earn at least 1.2-1.5 times their current earnings. Given their earnings per book and that most writers write and sell a book in a year or more, that isn’t practical for many.
Networking and connecting with individuals who have a platform to boost your business is challenging to assess finances, according to Maxym. She said that finding time is challenging if you have other jobs or commitments.
So how much do authors make? We hear about splashy seven-figure agreements, but they are exceptions. The response is “not enough for most writers, proving that production is frequently labor of love for the authors.
Thank you to the writers who donated their knowledge. You’re being honest about money, which is rare in this field. Authors that desired anonymity had their names altered at random, as indicated by the * sign.