Everyone’s dream is to earn money while doing what they love. When you’ve finally started taking the steps towards that dream, you’ve surely sacrificed some, if not many, things. If you haven’t quit your job yet but you’re exercising your passion as a side-job, you’re sacrificing comfort and leisure. On the other hand, if you have to quit your job and work full-time on your passion such as writing, you’re sacrificing a steady income.
First-time authors typically don’t make much after publishing their first work, unless they’re extremely lucky. But that isn’t a reason to be discouraged. Renowned authors also started small, so keep your eyes on the prize no matter how difficult the journey is. Learning what to expect financially after self-publishing can help you with a lot of decisions, such as budgeting for coffee table book printing costs.
In 2013, Writers Digest and Digital Book World conducted a survey to determine how much authors make. The survey revealed that self-publishing authors had a median income of less than $5,000, while those who publish traditionally had earned $5,000 to $9,999. Authors who do both self-publishing and traditional publishing, more known as “hybrid authors”, are the ones revealed to earn the highest median income, ranging from $15,000 to $19,999.
1.8% of self-publishing authors surveyed managed to earn more than $100,000 in the year previous. The percentage of traditional publishing authors who earned the same was at 8.8%, and for hybrid authors, it was at 13.2%. This data shows that being a hybrid author seems to work best if you’re prioritizing your finances.
How Do Authors Make Money?
If you’re publishing traditionally, you can expect to shell out $2,000 to $4,000 for an advance. In typical cases, you’ll earn 6% to 10% of the book sales, but that can go 1-2% higher if you’re able to sell more than 10,000 copies. For e-books, you can earn 20% to 30% of their sales.
With self-publishing, you’d be allowed to keep a larger portion of the profits. They’re called royalties and you can earn 50% to 90% of it. But for print books, your royalty could be as low as 35% only. It’s e-book versions that guarantee higher royalties, but that depends on the platform you’re using.
You can continue earning royalties even if you’re not making much sales. How? Keep making your book available even after years of their publishing. Your older books are called your “backlists”, and they would continue to earn royalties as long as you don’t pull them out of the market.
Factors to Consider Before Self-Publishing
If you’re self-publishing, you’re in control of the design, format, marketing, and distribution. Hiring other people to work on those will cost you more money, but can save you more time.
If you’re selling directly, meaning you won’t rely on any platforms, you can have 100% of the proceeds, but they will all be dedicated for re-prints, shipping, distribution, storage, and other costs of doing business. There will also be taxes to think about, including sales tax, income tax, etc. It’s basically business management.
You also need a marketing plan, which would also cost money. Traditional publishers usually arrange media coverage to market the books, which they have the budget for. You can also do this if you’re self-publishing, but all the budget will be arranged by you. If this isn’t your forte, you can hire a manager, although that would be an additional expense.
First-time authors aren’t likely to make a lot immediately. Don’t make earning money your only goal when writing books. Although keeping your eyes on the prize may help you stay motivated, the prize is more than just the money. It’s being recognized for your talent, making people love your work, and finally fulfilling your dreams.