Promoting, Publishing

How Much Money Does a Self-Published Author Make? A Realistic Look.

I won’t lie, I worried about writing and sharing this post.

Since I’ve officially joined the world and community of self-published authors, I’ve gotten a very realistic view of the publishing industry and how it works. The unfortunate truth is that the grand majority of self-published authors make less than $1,000 from a single book in their lifetime. Breaking into traditional publishing is very tough because the market is overwhelmingly oversaturated with options.

All this to say, nobody here is getting rich, okay?

That said, I don’t want to put anybody off of writing and publishing their book just because they won’t make money off it. Leaving your mark on the world and putting your writing out there can be validating in and of itself, no matter the response.

So let’s crunch numbers.

As you can see, I have sold 154 total copies of my book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” since I released the print and Kindle versions in fall 2022.

Now for the monies:

Since last September, I’ve made a little over $134 from my book. My print copy has been more successful than the ebook and I’ve made about $6 from KENP, which is Amazon’s payout-by-the-page program that you can enroll in when you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited. You’ve probably noticed that as sales go down over time, so do your royalties.

Before we get too excited about that $134 of mine, let’s back up and look at the expenses I incurred in order to publish my book.

Not including the copious amounts of tea and coffee I drank while writing, I paid the following:

  • $50 for a cover design through Fiverr (2 options to choose from)
  • ~$300 for 10 ISBNs and barcodes
  • $30 for a few months subscriptions to a book review swap service

I did my own marketing, so I saved a bunch there, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I work a full-time job and so promoting my book is usually not my first priority. I might get more sales and attention if I shelled out for a PR assistant, but I’m not willing to pay for that. Again, it’s another area where self-published authors have a harder time than those working with a publishing house.

I also chose to publish my book with Amazon, which is free. If I had wanted a larger reach, I could upload my book to other distributors, such as Ingram Spark, but that would cost an additional $50 or so.

$380 expenses incurred – $134 income = -$246 in the hole still

I would have to make another $246 before I could claim I’d made a profit on my book.

Again, I wanted to provide a realistic look at what a typical self-published author makes, but I don’t want this to dissuade anybody from pursuing publishing. I learned so much through the process and hearing positive feedback from friends, family and strangers alike made me happy more so than money ever could.

If you have a book in your heart and want to get it on a page, you should do so. Who says you have to make a living off being an author? Why can’t you just be one because you want to be?

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