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How much money do authors really make?

If you are thinking about a career in writing or writing as a side hobby, you may be curious about how much money writing a book actually makes. Many people are making incomes with published work, especially now with online avenues for publishing becoming abundant and diverse.


The amount of money a debut author makes can vary widely. It typically depends on a number of factors, chief of which, is the book being self-published or via a traditional publishing house.

Self-Published Authors: Traditionally Published Authors

40-60% royalties per book 10-12% royalties per book

no advance but profit on first sale upfront advance, no royalty until paid back

The typical advance for new authors is around $10,000. However, this value can vary depending on the type of book pitched and who the author is. According to literary agents, the typical first time advance can range from anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000 per book. Most publishers offer the advance that your book is expected to earn back in the first 6-12 months after publication. However, many books don't earn out during that time. If the author has an agent, the commission for the agent shaves off typically 15% from the top.

On average, traditional publishers pay around $1.25 per book in royalties. So if a book sells for $20, the return is a little bit above a dollar. However, in self-publishing a $20 book might return around $4.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors have a median pay of $63,200 per year or $30.39 per hour. The number of reported writers and authors is approx 120,000.


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