How Much Does A Self-Pub Author Make?
Self Publishing Series – How many books do I need to sell to make a living? The MATH behind the BOOK!
There are plenty of people, both authors, and readers who love to read about DATA, the cold hard facts of the existence of the author life. Most want confirmation of the dismal attempt at making a living as a writer, others want to see hope that anything is possible! And the answer to that, is both.
It is possible to make a decent living as a writer…
But it is also possible to spend more than you make producing a book, and bringing it to the hands of readers.
So, I’ll start with a small post about how much you can make self publishing. And I’m not talking about yearly incomes, that’s all subjective. This first post will be about the dreaded… MATH.
That thing teachers said you would use throughout your whole life, but most insisted was nonsense.
If you’re listing your book less than $2.99
Which most of self-pub authors list their first book lower to gain interest from new readers.
99cent books are only 35% –> That’s 35 cents for each book sold.
So that one dollar spent to read a book, gives an author 35 cents for several hours of effort, and when I say hours, I really mean months, and sometimes years of bringing a book to life. Which is fine for most authors, because honestly if a writer is in this business to begin with they value sharing their world with people over income.
But if you are a reader, and you enjoyed a book from a self-published author and received that book for free, as most readers of self-published authors do, please take a moment to share that book with others, review it, and help spread the word about their book. Or if you’re feeling especially generous you can purchase the book and become a verified reviewer.
Okay, let’s say you price your book at $2.99 on Amazon? Now, you get up to 70% of the royalty. The author can now get $2.03 for each book purchased, or if they are WIDE, then 35% would give them 99cents.
Now, with those three scenarios, let’s do some math!
How many books do you need to sell of that book to make your preferred living?
For this experiment we are only focusing on E-book sales, because as much as I hate to admit it as a self-publisher myself, print books do not make me money, but they do help the algorithms choose to show my book over others to readers. So, for me the print book is merely a tool to increase likelihood of someone purchasing my e-book.
99cent book -> 35cent royalty = Y
$2.99 book -> $2.03 royalty = Y
$2.99 book -> 99cent royalty = Y
M= How much you want to make
A = How many books
T = Tax Rate (according to Nerd Wallet for 2021 that’s 15.3%)
M = (A x Y)(1-T)
Lowest average salary for Washington State is = $36,000
36,000 = (A x .35)(.847)
36000/.847 = 42502 (how much you’d need to make to have take home of 36,000)
42502/.35 = How many units of the book to sell = 121,437 units of the book
Average amount of books sold per release? 5,000 to 10,000 But for an indie… you may reach 5,000 sold, but most of those units might be free.
So, how do you make it as an author?
And having the rest of your books be more than 99cents after you’ve built an author platform.
Let’s do the numbers for $2.99
Consider the first book you ever write (if you aren’t supported by a Big 5 publisher, or a publisher with a healthy marketing budget) to be your platform builder! Don’t expect to make any money on this one. Breaking even on your investment to bring it to life is enough. And even losing a bit of money on it is also okay!
Back to the formula:
42502/2.03 at 70% exclusive with Amazon = 20,937 units
Getting closer to that average book sold marker, but still not quite there. What does that mean? Have more than two books out to make a living being a self-published author.
The math gets a bit more complicated than this when you include how much it costs to bring the book out.
And since this is a trickle down amount of money, as books take up to a year or even two years to bring in their potential income, and there are marketing/production costs for bringing a book to life. You can surmise that if you want to make a living being self published for an average author, you need to be writing at least 3 books a year, and bringing those three books out to market the next year, rotating your efforts between writing, editing, and constantly marketing throughout the year.
This is both inspiring, because it’s achievable for anyone with a great book to make a living at it, but also scary because it takes a lot of dedication and investment before you start making money.
All the risk and cost is upfront, and the reward is delayed.
But, if you’re anything like me… the results are worth it!
Here are the numbers for 3 books (AFTER your platform builder)
Let’s say you have two books exclusive with Amazon, and the other is wide to gain more exposure to readers.
You’ll have two be 70% and the other 35%
$42502 = (2A x (2)2.03) + (A x .99) —-> 3A(5.05)
$42502/5.05 —> 8,416/3 = 2,805 units (average of around 3k units sold per book is now a very doable number)
And all those numbers change depending on what you sell your book at, but keep in mind if you’re starting off Indie and don’t have your author platform built yet, this can take time to get to these numbers. It’s unlikely to happen on a first release.
So, my advise if you plan on going indie, and want to quit your day job?
Spend your free time writing, revising, and perfecting your books. Have four books lined up and ready for your launch plan, and do one uncomfortable thing a day to build up your platform as you go!
For those of you that are readers only, as you can see self-publishers go through a lot to bring a book to life for you, and making a living at it is difficult. So, if you liked their writing, and want to see more from them.
Support Indie, buy their books if you read it for free. Don’t have money? A review is worth so much! Share your thoughts with a review, and post that review where ever you like to hang out. Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook Groups! Follow them on social media and like/share their posts. Even if you already read and enjoyed it, sharing it brings more visibility for the book to be seen.
Disclaimer: I am not a MATH wizard, so if I did my algebra incorrectly it’s okay, because it’s merely to get an idea and set expectations or goals to shoot for.
That’s it for this first post in the Self-pub series! More insights to come, including marketing, and process!
Stevie Marie is the author of the Divine Series Trilogy- a YA Paranormal Fantasy about energy vampires, demons, witches, and a prophecy that could change the supernatural world left in the hands of an inexperienced teen growing through self discovery, and going from meek to badass.
Recently, contracted for a traditional small publisher in the Pacific Northwest for her upcoming Sci-Fi Alien Fantasy Romance about a drone pilot that discovers she’s been working for a company ran by magical beings, and her best friend has been kidnapped for entering a tournament of champions meant to find the strongest warrior to help the prince protect the people of Acatalec.
Upcoming self-pub release of a fae fantasy romance adventure in 2022 (see books to find out more!)
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