Most of us have surely heard about bestseller books and authors. Some of us could also have read excellent books that aren’t really bestsellers or written by some renowned authors.
Yet, these little known authors continue writing books for various reasons such as fame, sharing personal experience, expressing fantasies or even hoping to win an award someday.
Therefore, the question is, do authors really make money by writing books? How much money does an author make per book?
Obviously, authors are also human and need money to meet living costs.
If you’re an aspiring author or planning to write a book for publishing, this article might provide some valuable insights about how much money do authors make per book in reality.
Let’s start by exploring some popular genre of books that sell in the market.
Most Popular Genre of Books
The sales of these popular genre of books can vary drastically. And so does the income of their authors. By and large, these are the topmost category of books that have a large market.
- Real life stories: Usually real life story books become bestsellers since people can relate with them. Some of them are adapted for movies and the writer becomes a celebrity. Leon Uris and Salman Rushdie are some of the prominent authors that’ve written books based on real-life experiences.
- Fiction: A lot of movies are based on fiction. Hence, these rank as the second largest selling genre of books. Fiction is generally read for entertainment. Robert Ludlum and Sidney Sheldon rank among bestsellers in this genre since decades.
- Religion: Generally, religious books are bought by members of a faith or followers of a specific cult. Just for your information, the Holy Bible ranks as the single highest selling book in the world. But its authors don’t get any money because they’re no longer on this planet.
- Ideological books: These are books that promote a specific ideology. Though these books aren’t really popular everywhere, they have takers in some countries. For example, Mein Kampf written by Adolf Hitler ranked as the second largest selling book in the world since people wanted to study Nazism and its ideology. The sale of Mein Kampf was banned on Amazon in early 2020, due to rising Anti-Semitism.
- Children’s books: Noted British authoress, JK Rowling became millionaire with her fictional series of Harry Potter, primarily aimed at children. Enid Blyton is another such example.
Global Book Market Overview
If you wish to estimate how many books from the five genres I mention above and other categories sell, here’re some figures.
At the end of 2017-2018, the global book market stood at $143 billion. The amount doesn’t include electronic or digital books. Furthermore, this number is rising exponentially, if one considers that US alone accounts for some of the largest sales of books in the world.
Amazon Kindle Desktop Publishing (KDP) paid over $249.9 million in 2019 to various authors who sell digital versions of their books for Amazon Kindle and other digital e-book devices.
However, both these figures also don’t take into account the black and grey market for books. In many countries, popular books are printed without due authorization or permission from an author and sold at dirt cheap prices by vendors plying from sidewalks and pavements.
How Much Money do Authors Make Per Book
These whopping figures lead us to believe that authors tend to make a lot of money per book. This belief is both true and false. Because not every author strikes it rich. In fact, every author becomes popular to some extent in their genre, if they write and publish books consistently.
Therefore, let’s look at how much money do authors actually make per book.
1. Amazon KDP
Amazon Kindle Desktop Publishing allows you to publish a book and sell online within 24 to 48 hours. This service is rapidly becoming popular among budding authors who wish to get their books on the market without editing or prior marketing.
As policy, Amazon pays 60 percent of the cost of every e-book as royalty to the author. The royalty doesn’t include editing or any other charges. According to some sources, an author gets only between 45 and 48 percent of the cost of the book, after spending on editing and other essentials.
Meaning, for an e-book you publish with Amazon KDP, you can expect only 45 Cents per $1 of the cost.
There’s another flipside of publishing and selling through Amazon KDP: the book doesn’t qualify for an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). An ISBN is necessary to register a book and its contents on the author’s name and signifies a copyright of sorts.
2. Digital & Print Publishing
There’re plenty of other highly reliable resources too where authors can make more money. One of them is Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore of America. B&N also offers desktop publishing facilities for authors.
However, their system is much more stringent than Amazon KDP.
Barnes & Noble have an amazing policy for authors to make money. Refer to this simple chart to learn how the system works.
With Barnes & Noble, an author can easily make up to $4.50 on a book that costs an average $9.99. This royalty compares well with Amazon KPP. However, you can get an ISBN code for your book published through Barnes & Noble.
Furthermore, UK based books and publishing giant, Hodder & Stoughton, which brought many British authors to fame also offers print and digital publication of educational books. Hodder Education, a part of Hodder & Stoughton helps you to sell text books and educational books. This resource is ideal for tutors to become authors and make money.
3. Money for Authors from Print Only Books
An author can make up to 50 to 55 percent of the cost of the book as royalty on print only books. That means, there will be no digital versions or e-books available. This option is excellent for authors that want their book to be published by a leading publisher only.
However, to qualify for publishing a book with any major house, the author has to take several steps and most of them are expensive. Hence, I won’t recommend them if you don’t have money.
These steps include hiring a Literary Agent or a person who will do all the work necessary for your book to be accepted and published by a notable publishing house. The amount of fees that a Literary Agent charges depends on the genre of the book, author’s experience and lots of other factors. However, these would be 15 percent of total revenue (minus taxes and other charges) of the cost of the book.
What This Means for Authors
If we look at the terms, conditions and ways of publications above, it’s very simple to understand how much money an author makes per book. It ranges between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent of the cost of the book and is known as royalty.
This might not sound much. However, if we consider that a good author sells an average of one million books per year, the amount can easily range between $4.5 million to $5.5 million per year, for a book which sells at $9.99 a copy. More if the price is higher.
Authors Also Earn from Movies
However, royalties aren’t the only way authors make money per book. If a film producer likes the story and would like to make a movie, they also have to pay the author. A classic example is JK Rowling, whose every book from the Harry Potter series was made into movies. She made over $95 million in 2019 alone due to royalties and rights from Harry Potter movies.
Another notable British author whose novels became movies and TV serials is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of the Sherlock Holmes fame.
American novelist and writer Alfred Hitchcock also became a millionaire since lots of his mystery books were adapted for movies. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock himself directed some of these movies based on own books.
Black Market Publishing
As I mention earlier, there’s a huge black market publishing industry that thrives in various countries. And they also publish all sorts of books written by unknown local authors.
This is a totally unorganized market.
Though specific details are unavailable, information from various sources indicate that the author generally pays a small printing press for publishing their books. These are cheap novels that are soft or hardcore porn. And these books are sold through local vendors and shady stores on the sly.
In such cases, the author gets as much as 75 percent of the price of the book as profits. There’re no royalties involved here because the author pays for printing a certain number of copies and sells them by offering a fixed commission per book to vendors.
The above info will give you a near precise estimate on how much money do authors make per book. Before rushing to publish a book, I would suggest you consider the topmost booksellers and publishers I mention above. They can make you rich and famous, if you’re a good author.