How much can you make from writing a book?

How much money can you make from writing a book?

When people think of writing a book, one of the first questions they ask is how much money they can make.

The fact is, most books do not make back what their publisher spent on printing them. So, while you can make a lot of money from a traditionally-published book that becomes a bestseller (while I couldn’t find any exact figures, Prince Harry’s 2023 memoir Spare has likely generated over $100 million in revenue—it was the fastest selling nonfiction book ever released—and Harry himself was paid $20 million for his advance), many, if not most, books do not make tons of money for their authors.

In other words, if you want to write a book and get rich from it, you can, but your eventual success is a long shot.

How do you make money if you write a book?

The ways you can make money when you write and traditionally publish a book are as follows:

  1. Book sales. Each time your book sells, you get a small percentage, called a royalty, of the sale. Naturally, the publisher and the bookseller make higher percentages of the sale price than you do, but if you sell millions of copies of a book you can indeed make millions of dollars. Royalties for hardcover books are about 15% and are lower for trade paperback and mass-market books (7.5% and 5%, respectively). Thus, if you sell a million copies of a hardcover book that lists for $22.95, you might expect to make $3.4 million or so, since publishers calculate royalties based on the book’s retail—not wholesale—price. Again, selling that many copies is quite rare, but when you sell that much you can expect to make money.
  2. Speaking gigs. Instead of selling tons of books, many people who wish to monetize their book, whether they self-publish or publish traditionally, make money through their book rather than from sales of it. What this means is that if their book is well-written and well-received, the author can then use that book, and their new title of author, to book speaking engagements at businesses and associations, where fees can start around $5000 per keynote address. From there, fees can go up to $100,000 or more for speakers who are famous and in-demand. So, if you want to write a book and make money from it, booking speaking gigs thanks to your book is the best way to make money, or at least recover some costs to print and write your book.
  3. Sale of story rights. If your book, even if it’s nonfiction, tells a story that a filmmaker could possibly convert into a movie or television miniseries, you can sell the rights of your book to a producer or production company. That company then typically has so many years to turn your story into a movie or series.

Who is highest paid author?

The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. Many say that it  is J.K. Rowling, whose net worth is allegedly over $1 billion, though some of her income has come from the movies as well as the sale of books in her Harry Potter franchise. James Patterson is high on the list and is followed by the likes of Stephen King, Danielle Steel, John Grisham, and others.

How much does it cost to publish a book?

If you publish a book traditionally (i.e., Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Haper Collins, or other big publishing house), you as the author pay nothing. The publisher pays the costs to finish editing, typesetting, and printing your book. If your book shows enough promise and looks like it might sell, they will even market it for you, though the trend is for publishers to spend less money and less time marketing their books, leaving much of that up to the author. Of course, that all depends on who the author is; generally, the more famous the author, the more a publisher is willing to spend on marketing even though less marketing is needed.

But again, if you publish traditionally, you pay nothing to get your book into print.

What if my publisher asks me to pay some of the cost?

If a publisher asks you to pay some or all of the printing costs, you are not dealing with a traditional publisher but a vanity press, hybrid publisher, or self-publishing company.

There is nothing wrong with using a vanity press, hybrid publisher, or self-publishing company to print your book. Just know that your distribution will not be as wide and that you will pay for some or usually all of the upfront printing costs.

When you self-publish or publish via a hybrid publisher, you can still earn royalties on your book sales. And when you self-publish your book completely by yourself, you alone will reap the royalties. Of course, you alone are responsible for hiring a printer and getting your book printed and bound, but you get to keep what you sell—after meeting your expenses of course.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book?

Costs to self-publish a book can vary greatly, depending on whether you take on the job all by yourself or use a self-publishing company. Costs can also vary by the amount of books printed or ordered, the length of the book, and whether the book is soft cover or hard cover.

Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere between $3 and $5 per book, again, depending on how much of the work you do yourself and what company you choose, your book’s trim size, and the quantity ordered.

Of course, the more books you print, the lower the cost per book to print them. Hardcover costs much more than softcover or paperback to print, and the longer the book (the more pages or signature there are), the greater the cost. Add color pictures (sometimes called color plates) or any kind of embossing on the cover to your book, and your cost can go up significantly.

Because of this, most first-time authors who choose to self-publish keep their books simple: softcover, no images or black and white images only, and no special printing.

Happy writing!

If you feel that I've missed something or have further questions about writing, how much writers make, or what it takes to publish a book, contact me via the form below, especially if you have some questions about writing your own book:

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