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?


11 Awards and Contests for New Authors to Enter!

Something that’s been on my mind since I finished #NaNoWriMo is the opportunity for authors to enter their works into a contest or consideration for an award.

As you might already know, Inkitt, a site that allows writers to share their work within the platform, has a contest specifically for authors who participate in #NaNoWriMo. This got me interested in looking at other contests I could enter my book into. I put a lot of work into those 50,000 words, so might as well make the most of it, right?

Surprisingly, there isn’t as much out there as I thought there would be. A lot of awards or contests are hyper-tailored to a specific genre; one award I found only considers novels set in the American South.

I thought it might be helpful to other authors and writers to aggregate a list of contests.

These contests/awards are open to authors 18+ who write fiction, including young adult/new adult. Be aware that some have fees to apply, so I’ve given those less priority.

Inkitt X NaNoWriMo Contest

  • Contest for fiction writers who submit their NaNoWriMo projects. Inkitt also offers other contests throughout the year.
  • Prize: $1,500 for first; $1,000 for second, and $500 for third. Various other prizes for those selected.
  • Fees: none

The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards

  • Recognizes works that contribute to an understanding of racism or diversity. Book must be published within the previous year; no self-published works.
  • Prize: $10,000
  • Fees: none

Bard Fiction Prize

  • Awarded to American citizen 39 or younger with at least one published work and an in-progress work.
  • Prize: $30,000 and appt as writer-in-residence at Bard College
  • Fees: none

Cabell First Novelist Award

  • Recognizes a rising talent who published their first novel within the last year. Self-published books not considered.
  • Prize: $5,000 and travel to VA for a reading
  • Fees: none mentioned

The Ernest J. Gaines Award

  • Awarded to an emerging Black author for a book of fiction published in the previous year.
  • Prize: $15,000
  • Fees: none

Hodder Fellowship

  • Seeks writers who demonstrate intellectual and literary gifts (vague, I know.)
  • Prize: $88,000 stipend and a residency at Princeton
  • Fees: none

Young Lions Fiction Award

  • Recognizes authors under 35 who published a book in the previous year. The book must be for adults.
  • Prize: $10,000
  • Fees: none

The PEN/Faulkner Award

  • Recognizes 3 authors of fiction.
  • Prize: $15,000 first place; two runner-ups get $5,000
  • Fees: unknown (2023 contest opens early next year)

Friends of American Writers Chicago Awards

  • Awards fiction and YA writers based in several midwestern states who have published a novel in the last year. No self-published. Must have less than 3 published books.
  • Prize: Cash
  • Fees: none

James Jones First Novel Fellowship

  • Awarded to an American author of a first novel-in-progress.
  • Prize: $10,000 first place; $1,000 runner up
  • Fees: $30; $33 online submission

William Saroyan International Prize

  • Awarded two times a year for newly published fiction and nonfiction. Self-published is eligible.
  • Prize: $5,000
  • Fees: $50

Want to Help Authors? Write Reviews!

I feel like a broken record, but let’s get the main point of this blog post out of the way right now:

Writing reviews is one of the biggest ways you can support an author.

Seriously. Many online marketplaces, especially Amazon, recommend titles based on how many reviews they have and the quality of those reviews. Simply put, a book that has more reviews is more likely to get eyes on it than a book with fewer views.

You don’t have to be a book blogger or critic to leave a review either. For example, I have a short thank you page in the back of my paperback that asks the reader to consider leaving a short review on Amazon if they enjoyed my book. Writing a sentence or two takes most people a few minutes at most, but every review counts.

Beyond the impact of reviews on the success of an author’s book, hearing feedback also just means a lot to authors!

I really enjoy going through reader reviews to see what people think of my book. Positive reviews make my day. Even reviews that aren’t stellar still help. Bad reviews can give me insight into a different opinion, or at the very least, give me an opportunity to develop a thicker skin.

While all authors benefit from reviews, I’d encourage you to especially dedicate review-writing time to indie or self-published authors. A lot of these authors might only offer Kindle versions of their books, so Amazon reviews make up a huge part of their marketing and impact.

Thank you for all the ways you support authors!


The HARDEST Part of Promoting a Book

Promoting a book you’ve written is pretty hard.

Not only do you have to solicit reviews, design graphics and flyers, blast social media, enlist the help of friends, and host giveaways and chats, you have to believe in your book…and yourself.


As someone who works in marketing full-time, most of these things don’t scare me. Is it work? Yes. Do I cringe internally every time I hit send on a message begging a book blogger to read my book? Yup. But I know those things are part of the process and nothing fantastic comes easy.

But the hardest part of promoting a book, for me, is consistently believing in my book, no matter what anyone else says.

My first review on Amazon was 4/5 stars, which sounded pretty good initially until I saw the first sentence: “From the blurb, I thought Cailin Riley would be a lot funnier and kinkier than she actually is.”


As an author, comments like these can slap hard, but I’m slowly learning to see things from a wider standpoint. For example, this book is just one part of who I am. Maybe that reader wanted something more risque than I offered. That’s fine! But that’s just one opinion, and that reader doesn’t know me personally. (As for how kinky I am, let me go survey all my past hookups and get back to you.)

It’s just as tough to keep believing in your work when you hear no feedback at all, like a tweet that goes nowhere. Feeling like you’re yelling into an echo chamber can drive anybody to feel like they want to quit.

But nobody else is going to do the work for you. Many self-published authors also have to be graphic designers, event coordinators, and publicists all rolled into one.

It’s hard work, but it’s also very satisfying to look at something and know that you were the one that made it happen.

Speaking of making shit happen, I CANNOT believe that my paperback is dropping next Monday! Eeek! Keep an eye on Goodreads and my Instagram that day, as I’ll be hosting some giveaways. 😉