How To Make Money As An Author: A Step By Step Process
If you are an individual who loves writing books, we have some excellent news for you: You can make money as an author. So whether you’ve written a short story, you write blog posts, or you simply sell books part-time, it’s easier to make your dreams a reality than you think.
In this article, we talk about several steps you can take to become a successful author. For traditionally published authors, book advances and royalty rates significantly contribute to their overall author earnings. For self-published authors, royalty rates are usually higher, but there is no advance.
We break down the publishing industry to discuss everything from literary agents to publishing houses. This article also discusses the difference between book sales with traditional publishing in a brick-and-mortar store, such as Barnes & Noble, to self-publishing your book on Amazon.
From there we dive into the power of your book cover and break book sales into eBooks, audiobooks, and direct distribution. Whichever of the above forms your published books take, with the correct guidance and hard work, you can make money as an author.
So, if you’re ready to make money being an author, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive in!
1. Traditional Publishing
How authors make money traditional publishing is dependent on several factors: The publishing house the author publishes with, the amount of their book advance, their royalty rates (after making up their advance), and sub-rights. While other components contribute to their overall author pay (such as the percentage literary agents take), we focus on the four factors listed in the sentence above.
The publishing industry is ever-changing, but publishing houses typically follow similar guidelines. If you dream of being traditionally published, let’s start by discussing the gatekeepers to your dream.
Publishing houses are where your book needs to be if you want to publish traditionally. However, before your book makes it with a publisher, you’ll want to make sure your writing is up to industry standard, sign with a literary agent, let them pitch, and then negotiate your book contract with the publisher.
After your agent negotiates your book contract, your publisher will give you an advance (a portion of the anticipated return on their investment) before you sell a single book. Book advances vary depending on the publisher, previous books, and genre. For example, Stephen King received a modest book advance for the hardback of his debut novel, Carrie. However, the paperback advance was significant enough he told his mother she could stop working.
Royalties are a percentage of book sales a publisher pays an author for the privilege of publishing their book. While traditionally published book royalties are typically less than self-published, the publisher pays the editing, graphic design, and marketing expenses.
According to Author Learning Center, a publishing deal only gives a publisher the right to print, manufacture, and distribute the physical book. Any other right can be licensed to a different entity. This entity could be a publisher who creates a foreign language edition, a film company that films a movie based on the book, and other avenues that promote your book, such as being chosen for a book club. “Subsidiary rights are a way of making money above and beyond sales of the physical book produced by the publisher.”
Thanks to traditional publishing, authors can make money through eBooks, audiobooks, and direct distribution in self-publishing. However, their royalties are higher because the author acts as the publishing entity and does not split costs with an agent or publisher.
The reason eBooks are a great form of distribution is because there are so many platforms to list your book on: Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Barnes & Noble Press, Apple Books, Kobo Writing Life, and Google Play Books are just a few of the platforms. So, if you self-publish, getting your book out on multiple platforms could greatly benefit your marketing efforts.
Audiobooks are another way to take advantage of readers’ preferred book-listening scenarios. A commute to work, road trip, gym time, and early morning self-care routine is all timeframes. If you self-publish, invest in a good microphone, recording room, and speech class. If you don’t choose to record your audiobook, hire a professional narrator.
Direct distribution can go between the author and the reader via the author’s website. Direct distribution cuts substantial financial investment from the reader, as the author can ship their books to the reader at cost, plus a potential shipping fee.
How Much Does It Cost To Self-Publish A Book?
How much it costs to self-publish a book varies based on certain factors. For example, it depends on the book’s length, the level of quality you want in book design, editing, and how much you choose to invest in marketing. However, most authors spend between $2,000 – $4,000 self-publishing their book.
Is Self-Publishing Worth It?
Self-publishing is worth it, depending on your publishing goals. Some writers just want to get their books out there. Meanwhile, others want to score the best publishing house possible to gain a larger audience.
Some writers are great marketers, so their self-publishing returns on investment (ROI) are substantial. Other individuals decide to publish books on Amazon first and make this platform for distribution. Amazon can be a great way to land on bestseller lists and boost your writing credentials. So, it depends on your business goals.
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: What’s the Difference?
The difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing usually lies within the process it takes to get a book on the market. Self-publishing can be done with or without quality, while traditional publishing has an industry-standard that writers must adhere to.
Traiditional Publishing Writing Process:
Self-Publishing Writing Process
Learn to write
Write the book
Sign with an agent
The agent shops the manuscript to publishers
Sign a book deal
Promotion and distribution
Write the book
Self-publish the book
However, it is unlikely this form of self-publishing will help bring credibility to your name or high ROI in sales. On the other hand, when done well, self-publishing can reduce the time involved and bring more financial investment, as well as higher royalties.
Alternative Self-Publishing Writing Process
Learn to write
Write the book
Hire an editor
Hire a graphic designer
Likely obtain an ISBN
Create marketing plan
Promotion and distribution
Whichever method you choose, do what’s right for you and your specific writing goals.
3. Hybrid Publishing
In hybrid publishing, a writer pays a publisher upfront to produce their manuscript with a particular distributor. Not all books shopped to a hybrid publisher will get published. Like traditional publishers, hybrid publishers choose what books they do or don’t distribute. In hybrid publishing, a writer typically pays the publisher to publish under their name and get something (book formatting, marketing help, branding, etc.) in return.
Author Barbara Linn Probst says that hybrid publishing “Resembles self-publishing because the author carries the cost and financial risk; thus, it involves an investment of your capital. However, it also resembles traditional publishing because professionals, not you, carry out the tasks required to transform a Word document on your laptop into an object called a book that people can buy and read.”
Pay To Have Your Book Published
While there are various options when it comes to hybrid publishing, only you can choose what’s best for you. Consider hybrid publishing similar to hiring a professional contractor to build you a website. You pay the contractor upfront for their expertise, they do their job, and they leave you with full ownership of your website. When considering this type of publishing, a factor is whether or not the publisher has an effective distribution method.
Fulfill Certain Steps and have Your Book Published
In hybrid publishing, you are responsible for writing your book to industry standards and for a myriad of other factors. This responsibility is a welcome relief from the time spent pursuing a traditional book contract for some. However, doing these steps mostly on your own can be overwhelming for others. Therefore, before choosing a hybrid publisher, conduct your research and ask hybrid authors about their experiences.
4. Public Speaking
Public speaking is another excellent avenue to make money on your book. That’s because when you speak on topics related to your novel, the results are two-fold. First, someone may want to learn more about you and look you up and find your book. Likewise, the topic you speak on could pique the interest of another person who wants to learn more. That person may ask you for more information which prompts you to talk about your book.
Here are a few avenues where you can use public speaking to help you make money on your book:
Schedule a reading of your novel at a local bookstore or library. At the beginning of the reading, give a brief synopsis of the book, and use time in the end to have open discussions related to your novel. This type of public speaking offers viewers a snippet of what your book is about and piques their interest immediately.
College Campus Presentations
Saadia Faruqi, the author of A Thousand Questions and several other novels, makes roughly $15,000 per year speaking at schools. Depending on the type of novel you write, you can use it to schedule a presentation at a local college or university.
If your book focuses on self-help or other educational topics, you might offer to speak at a freshman seminar or other university event. Often, campus bookstores will let you set out a table with your books so students, parents, and faculty can purchase them as well.
One of our favorite ways for authors to use public speaking as a book ROI is giving a TEDx talk. The TED platform is a fantastic avenue for sharing knowledge and getting your name out into the world with thousands of views. While you can’t speak directly bout your book in the presentation, you can talk about topics related to your book, which piques interest within your audience. As more people watch your talk, the likeness of individuals searching for you and finding your book increase.
5. Coach Others On Your Book’s Topic
Like college presentations and TEDx talks, coaching is a fantastic avenue to make money as an author. People gravitate towards that credibility when you publish on a particular topic. As humans, we often search for knowledge, so what better way to share your knowledge than by creating a coaching course or offering consulting in an area relative to your novel?
If you’re offering one-on-one coaching, suggest your clients purchase your book as part of the curriculum. Likewise, if you create a course, include book snippets and provide a purchase link to it somewhere in your client journey.
Alternative Ways To Make Money On Your Book
If you’re looking for alternative avenues to make money on your book, consider the opportunity freelance writing gigs can afford you. In addition, companies worldwide need writers to help with their blog content.
Consider finding organizations whose topics sync with your own, and write about them. You may even be able to quote your book or link out to your novel via a line you use in the blog.
Social Media Ads
Paid social media ads are a fantastic way to market yourself and your book. If you know how to set these up yourself, get to work, or partner with a freelance marketer that can set up proper audience targeting parameters for you.
The ad caption can include a snippet of your story, spiking the reader’s interest in purchasing your book.
Book trailers help promote your novel across social and digital channels like movie trailers. Often these trailers utilize still photos or small-scale videography to explain the book’s narrative. These are lovely avenues for attracting book buyers as they tease prospective groups into learning more about the book.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
How Much Do First-Time Authors Make?
According to the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author’s Survey, 54% of “traditionally-published” authors and nearly 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year. This income level is why it’s essential to market yourself via alternative avenues and take up freelance gigs at the beginning of your writing career.
How Much Money Does An Author Make Per Book?
A traditionally published author makes 5–20% royalties on print books, usually 25% on ebooks, and 10–25% on audiobooks. Meanwhile, companies like Amazon offer self-published authors 70% on ebooks priced 2.99 to 9.99, and 35% on ebooks priced outside of that. They also offer 60% off printing costs on paperbacks sold on their platform and 40% off printing costs sold via expanded distribution. -Source Bookriot.com
How Do Authors Get Rich?
To make the kind of money that gets you from barely making it to living like a king or queen, you’ll need an idea and novel worth talking about. Think about famous authors that you might know like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Token. Their books are detailed, unique, and take time to create.
Another way you can make more money as an author is by ghostwriting for well-known individuals. If someone has a social following or is otherwise known, it’s easier to sell their product to their followers. Therefore, partnering with someone who wants to publish a book but doesn’t necessarily want to be the one who writes it can help you earn serious cash.
Do you Have to Pay An Agent?
You never need to pay an agent out of pocket, and most agents take a 15% commission on your published work. This commission means agents do not get paid until you make money from your book. Then, as the author, you simply need to query an agent to sign a contract, and they do the work of shopping your manuscript to publishers, free of charge.
How Much Do You Have To Market Yourself For Traditional Vs. Self Publishing?
While in traditional publishing, the publisher already has hired marketers to help get your book out there, you act as your sole marketer in self-publishing. Regardless of which method you choose, marketing is crucial to sales. Whether you traditionally publish or self-publish, it’s crucial to market your book. A traditional publisher will help you in marketing, but either way, it’s vital to spend time marketing your book on your own.