How Much Money Do (Indie) Authors Make?



we're gonna talk about royalties how to calculate how many books and authors selling kind of put that together to give you good expectations for your own career and then what success even is as an indie author and then also we'll talk about why in the authors and authors in general have a lot of side hustles okay in this video we're gonna talk about how much money do indie authors actually make I've got a bunch of notes for you penny wants to be included on this video she's feeling needy so don't mind her she might disappear at random we're gonna try to be as transparent as possible in this video and I just really want to help you guys and set expectations that's very distracting thank you stop though is that oh my gosh I can't even do this this is why you're not normally in videos in this video I want to talk about the royalties that an indie author makes per book which is just how much money an indie author makes per book and I also want to show you how to calculate how many books an author is selling like a general idea of it on Amazon and we're gonna talk about how to set expectations for how many books sold equals success for an indie author and why most indie authors and authors in general have a side hustle but let's start with author royalties I think you're gonna have to go by the way I want to show you guys my shirt that I got on the way home from book con I love it I love love love this shirt okay where was that okay let's start with the indie authors royalties so I'm gonna say something that's a little bit frustrating I'm sorry but the truth is that every single book is different I'm still gonna try to give you some specifics but let me explain why it's really really tricky to give you an actual number besides the fact that the indie author business isn't like other companies where you get like a set salary like obviously we all know that that isn't true but it actually boils down to a ton of different factors so for example the price of the book is gonna play a huge role the number of pages actually plays a huge role as well ebook verses paperback versus hardcover vs. audio and even the genre is gonna play a role in how much you make per book for example if you're an indie author you're probably gonna want to do competitive pricing so you're gonna want to match up with these genre standards and if you've read you know in different genres and bought books and different genres then you'll know that the books are always priced the same like certain genres are allowed to price their books a little bit higher than others and I don't totally know why this is but I do know that if you are in you know like thriller versus romance versus you know why a versus like text books you're gonna price your books differently obviously if you price a book differently you're going to make a different amount of money off of that I feel like that's common sense but if you just think it through like a twenty dollar book versus a fifteen dollar book versus a ten dollar book versus like a dollar ninety-nine ebook those are all gonna make such different royalties just because obviously the amount of money coming in is changing a lot and then you got a factor in the number of pages so as funny as it sounds the printing cost actually goes up as you add pages so a 200 page book versus 300 page book versus 400 and up page book are all gonna cost very different amounts to print and that brings me to the next thing which is that the print on demand company actually takes out the printing costs before they do the royalties before I even talk about printing cost though let's talk about how first of all every print on demand company is different so I'm gonna use numbers from KDP which is Kindle direct publishing but then there's you know Ingram spark and Lulu and Barnes Noble Nook Press and all these other places might get completely different royalties so yeah it's tricky but let's stick with KDP and just talk about their royalties which is typically 70% but in certain cases they will only do 30% and that's usually when you make your book really cheap like for example if you have a dollar 99 ebook or a 99 cent ebook they will only let you do 30% royal is because I think it's like anything under $2.99 and I'm pretty sure paperback has some restrictions as well so let's just say that you're making 70% royalties but are you really let's just say for the sake of argument that you are making 70% royalties as an indie author and let's use a really really simple number to do the math here because I'm not a math person let's pretend we have a $10 book so if we have a $10 book then the royalty should be $7 right no wrong that's when printing costs come into place so unfortunately for an indie author they take out the cost of printing before they calculate the royalties so that means that in the case of the $10 book it could cost for example $6 to actually print that book so the page number comes into play maybe you have a thicker book so it's more expensive to print so it's six dollars taken out so you actually may have $4 left over and then they calculate your royalties so if you have $4 left over and the printing on demand company is taking their cut and you get 70% then you're going to make roughly two dollars and 80 cents per book on a ten dollar book you're making you know less than three dollars that's just that's just a general idea now again it's really tricky to give you guys any specific number because obviously the printing company comes into play and their specific royalties and the number of pages in your book and the genre of your book and the price that you set for your book and the format of your book so it's really really tricky but I will tell you from my personal experience that I have seen royalties generally on the low end unless I'm running a sale and I make like almost nothing if I'm running a sale and I just want to get the word out and I make nothing generally the lowest that I get is like around a dollar and then the highest that I've seen you know in my particular genre with my books and my pricing is I think the most I've ever gotten was four dollars and that was really rare so generally my average if you kind of just average it out is about you know two five per book that's how much I make generally in royalties but you can play with your prices you can make your books more expensive if you want I just I think that kind of hurts you as an author so you really have so many factors that it's really tricky to say I know I've said that a lot but I just I don't know what else to say it's like really really hard to give you exact numbers all right so that's step one and figuring out how much indie authors make is to figure out how much do you make per book and then step two is actually to calculate how many books in the authors actually sell and so again you're gonna be trying to do this for yourself so you're gonna find somebody an authors published in a similar genre to you at a similar following level to you and you're gonna try to figure out how many books they sell so I'm actually gonna teach you how to calculate a general idea of how many books and authors selling using Amazon and a website called Kindle entrepreneur hold on this out right it's called the Kindle preneur calculator and I will link that below but I'm also gonna show you right now but on my computer we're gonna go through it right now so if you go to google you're gonna look up the Kindle preneur calculator and this is just a super awesome website it's pretty easy to understand and it's fairly accurate and so you're gonna scroll down and you can read through how it all works if you want to they explain it all completely they're gonna teach you how to do it but you're gonna go to this little calculator at the top first of all you need to look at a specific book so we'll start with the stolen Kingdom which is Newark and you're going to look up the Amazon bestsellers ranks so you can see that if you scroll down to product details it's the biggest number in the whole store so not the little categories with the ranked in the whole store you're gonna take that number you're going to type it into the Kindle bestseller calculator without any commas and it's gonna tell you how many books you're selling per day and so that looks great for the stolen kingdom right but that's because it's brand new and also just so you know this is calculated by hour so it does change alright let's pause the video here because I just want to chat heart to heart depending on where you are in your career that could look like nothing or that could look really good so for me personally about right around two years in so for me personally that is really really good like I was not doing that well when I first started out with one book brand new barely any following my average you know after release week was a couple of books a month so just being really honest with you guys it takes a while to get to this place typically as an author but before you walk away thinking that's how much Bethenny sells of her books every day of all her books let me just stop you right there with another truth bomb so to speak which is that newer books obviously sell better the Amazon bestsellers rank changes hourly and it fluctuates like nobody's business so this number is going to change often a lot it can change day to day hourly it can change weekly monthly when it's brand-new it's gonna be a lot higher than when a books been out a few years so let's take a look at Evelyn's number next and I just want to show you an example of just how different this can be so Apple and summer is my oldest book and if you go to the Amazon bestsellers ranking not the categories but the Amazon bestsellers ranking you will see that it is in a much different category so let's hop on over to the Kindle preneur calculator and type in that number and you're gonna be seeing a very different number less than a book a day this is more average for me for my older book so it's going to really really depend on how old your book is if you're running ads for it if you're doing consistent marketing for it even after release just like with royalties there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to figuring out a true number of how many books an indie author sells per month or per week so that's my newest book versus my oldest book let's take a look at how your book sells itself which came out about three months ago and after that first month release on Amazon the book will tend to kind of plumb it it doesn't always have to and if you do ads it probably will do better still but I am not currently doing ads so if you look at this it says that I'm still also selling less than a book a day okay so that is how you calculate how many books on author sells per day but as you can see it's going to vary greatly and just the fact that I have more than one book out is also helping me sell more than one book a day so as I put up more books and as I put more time into growing my following and just learning to do ads better just in general all these factors come into play that will help me sell more books and so again you can see how it's really really tricky to give you exact numbers but you can go and look up some authors who are in a similar following to you who are in a similar genre to you who do similar marketing strategies to you and you can go ahead and look at their Amazon bestseller ranking plug it into that Kindle preneur calculator and find out generally how many books that they sell per day per month per week of course to get a really accurate picture though you would have to probably pick multiple authors in the same genre as you and the same kind of standing as you currently and then take a look at their bestsellers ranked multiple times per day for probably at least a month to get a true accurate picture of how much they're really selling because like I mentioned the Amazon bestsellers rank is calculated hourly so it's going to change and fluctuate a lot and if an author talks about their book they're going to sell more books that's what I found anyway personally is that whenever I actually intentionally talk about my books and I say you know the stolen kingdom is amazing it's an Aladdin retelling you should go check it out because it's fairytale fantasy it's amazing that right there is an example of something that would drive people to go look at my book 1 otherwise they wouldn't have so the more marketing you put in the more people are gonna go buy your book as well obviously are you feeling overwhelmed yet because it's overwhelming alright I know that this topic is massively confusing so in the third step I'm gonna help you kind of put the two together and kind of try to help you set expectations and help you understand like the general numbers okay so again I have to refer to what I wrote down here because it's complicated but let's say for example after we put those two factors together of an average book royalty for an indie author being 250 and a very very very beginning in the author selling like a book a month typically that means that a brand-new indie author is going to be making about 2 dollars and 50 cents a month now let's say that you sell 10 books a month then your average just using our example numbers it's not accurate but you know just to give you an idea you would be making about 20 dollars and 50 cents per month and then let's say that you're starting to grow or maybe you're putting out multiple books depending on you know what you do you might if you sell a hundred books a month you might make $200 and if you are one of those indie authors who's selling a hundred books a month and doing fairly frickin well for yourself because that's kind of amazing then times that by twelve months in a year and you are making as an indie author roughly two thousand four hundred dollars in an entire year this is the moment where I put in some sad music and we just cry together because this is this is some of your actual numbers you asked for it I'm here to give it to you don't hate the messenger and that leads to the fourth thing that I want to talk about today which is expectations and I just really really really want to talk about setting correct expectations for what equals success because number one is that if you are growing and how many books that you sell per month you are successful if you start out selling one book a month and you move to two three four five six seven eight nine ten you are successful just because you're not selling thousands of books per month does not make you unsuccessful I really really want to just pound that home okay because so many people will look at an indie author and if they look at those numbers someone like me who's selling you know in theory 10 per day although again it fluctuates so much that it's really hard to get an exact number especially when you calculate in other books and when they're new releases versus when they're not but let's just be honest here I feel very successful and for a long time I didn't want to talk about numbers because if I tell people selling 10 books per day a lot of people are gonna be like that's nothing and like even back when I first started and I was selling you know one book per week roughly was probably around when I first started out to me ten bucks a day still didn't sound like enough but now looking at it like I'm growing and I think that it's really important to see that if I stick it out that number is going to continue to grow because the more books I put out the more money I make naturally and then if I learn to do ads well and I mark it better than more people will see the book as well I understand that these numbers are super annoying because number one nobody is the same and so we're all going around comparing to each other and there's always gonna be somebody who's doing better than us but I would just encourage you to look at yourself and compare to yourself because if you are growing then you are successful okay that's number one and then number two is unrealistic expectations because all right let's just be honest we all want to be New York Times bestselling authors and I don't know if this is a commonly known thing but I looked into it and the fact is that to be a New York Times bestselling author you have to sell believe 10,000 books during release week now I'm not sure about that timeframe maybe its release month or something I don't totally know I think it could be even today but 10,000 books okay so if you've been watching me do the numbers and if you look at indie authors in general and traditionally published authors numbers in general on Amazon you will see that that's not very common like ever and the second thing that you should know a that I have found is that typically in the traditional publishing world if a book sells 2,000 copies and its lifetime as in typically the two years the first two years that it's out that's like a shelf life for a traditional published book typically always typically remember that 2,000 books is normal for a traditionally published author like a general average then how can we expect ourselves as brand new authors in the authors all by ourselves with no backup and no marketing experience whatsoever to sell more than a traditionally published author would with all that back up and all that marketing experience so realistic expectations you guys I just need to say it get realistic expectations am i saying that it's not possible no I am NOT saying that because I love looking at authors like for example Chris box and Sarah cannon from heart breathing's which you should follow up both of them and their YouTube channels by the way they show their numbers they are indie authors who are doing freaking amazing and I'm so so pumped to watch authors like them who are making it because to me that says it is possible but is it common no and is it going to happen right when you start out not unless you're a marketing genius okay not unless you have a lot of skills besides writing to back you up so I just really really want to say like let's get some realistic expectations here for how much indie authors make because I think some people will be deterred by that honestly going into it if they realize that this is not a cash cow for most authors it's just not then that might actually deter them from going into it and for those of you who still love writing and who just want to go into it for the love of it because you want to self publish and you enjoy it it's going to help you not be so discouraged and not be so down on yourself and not give yourself such a hard time for just being a beginner because everyone starts out as a beginner that's how it is I have a little bit more math for you that I just want to bring into this video just to help you understand if I think in the US I think it was either 30 or 40,000 was the average income per year for easy math I'm gonna do 40,000 if you wanted to make 40,000 a year per writing and we're gonna go with the highest royalty that I mentioned which is if you make $4 per book for every book that you have out there you would have to sell 10,000 books a year to make that kind of money and that's before taxes my friend before taxes just so you know for self-employed people taxes are getting better right now which is amazing but they still are a huge chunk so just want you guys to be really aware of that that this idea of selling 10,000 books a year it's going to be unrealistic in the beginning but it is possible like if you work and where it can work towards it it could happen for you I'm not saying that it can't happen I just want to start everyone out because I feel like if you're watching my channel you're probably like towards the beginning cuz you don't need my help if you're further down the road you already know all these things so if you're like me and you're still kind of starting out on the road I just want you to have really realistic expectations of yourself and give yourself the understanding that success is if you are growing in your sales then you are successful okay last but not least we're going to talk about number five which is side hustles and I just wanted to mention it in this video because I think it's gonna be obvious at this point like if you guys have been watching and if you're still here with me then you know authors don't make a lot at least when they're starting out and the reason that I want to include it in this video is just to help you guys understand when you see because there's so many of us authors in the writing community especially on author tube who are starting to you know build up side hustles whatever they might be like in my example I have obviously patreon I love my patrons and I put so much work into helping them and being there for them as a thank you for them supporting me and you'll see patreon has kind of become a big thing in the author Tube community in general and then you'll also see in my case I have book trailers like a business where I help other authors by making them book trailers or you'll see people like my friend Brittany Wang who has her author website creator course and she has the bootcamp to help people create author website or my friend Mandy Lin who has her cover design business and she actually creates book covers for other authors or I also have some friends who offer editing services which is another big thing that you can offer in the writing community so I just want to say two things about sign hustles and the first one is that if you're going to offer a side hustle it's really really important I believe to make sure that you have the authority and the experience to back it up editors should have editing experience like for example for me when I've done developmental edits in the past I have said very clearly that I have not only an English major with a writing emphasis and I had training and becoming an editor because that was my goal originally in school I also have testimonials and a lot of experience in editing and a lot of proof that I know what I'm doing so if you are going to go into something you should make sure that your authority is clear and that you have experience in it if you don't have those things my personal suggestion to you would actually be to start out offering those services for free and build up your experience in your authority offer your help to people and do the work for free and build up your portfolio and your experience and your authority and ask them for testimonials so that when you are ready to offer something as a service first of all you make sure that you actually like doing that thing and then second you make sure that you do have the authority and the experience to back you up because that's so so so important and then the second thing that I want to say is that while I do totally get why some people are frustrated with courses in the author community because some courses are a complete sham and that's really unfortunate and really disappointing to see but in other cases people are getting picked on for having side hustles and people are like you know the author community is going downhill for having all these side hustles and I just want to say cut that out right now because you are gonna see when you get to that point when you're trying to publish your book and you're making no 2,400 a year max you're gonna see that this is not always a full-time job especially in the beginning and you were going to completely understand why authors have side hustles because we want to make a living off of writing we don't want to be stuck in an office we want to do the writing and if that's our dream and our goal then sometimes it takes a side hustle to get there and so I'm just gonna stand up for all the people who are having side hustles because they don't think we get enough with that side like yes again to be really really clear it's super important to me that you actually have the expertise the authority and the experience to back up your side hustle but if you want to have one as an author then I think that's 100% okay I completely backup anyone who wants to do that and just because it's a newer thing in the author Tube community does not make it a bad thing so I might you know be a little bit controversial saying that but I think if you were here long enough to hear the numbers then I think you'll understand this has been a really tricky topic to talk about so I really hope that it was helpful to you guys if it has been helpful definitely give it a thumbs up and make sure you subscribe and ring the bell so that you're notified next time I have a video if you want to buy my books and help me out as an indie author that would be amazing I do have a limited number of sign copies available on my website as of now from book cons so if you are interested in that I will definitely leave all the information below and that's all I had to say today so I hope you guys have an amazing day and I'll talk to you again soon bye you stole my chair penny you stole my chair this is gonna be tricky

23 thoughts on “How Much Money Do (Indie) Authors Make?

  1. Have you checked out the 20booksto50k Facebook group? Very helpful. Top 3 things I think you need are a story, discipline, and patience.

  2. This was such a great, transparent video! I wish more people would do stuff like this!

  3. I have a genuine question that I really don't want to be taken the wrong way. I love watching both you and Mandi, I've bought (fiction) books from both of you (currently unread but my TBR shelf is overflowing) and I think you're both really sweet people. I'm just curious about how you can consider these sales numbers to give you the depth of knowledge to release "self help" type books with titles like "How your book sells itself" and "Book sales that multiply". Again, I'm not trying to be mean or contrary or anything, just, as someone who was seriously considering buying these books, seeing these numbers makes me second guess that decision.

  4. this video is great, i was at irst expecting one of those videos where when they talk about how much money is made it's really vague and means nothing. i like the information about the calculator for how many books will sell (hopefully) and what to expect to sell once the hype you've hopefully generated for your book dies down. i'm about to publish my first book Field's Gate on the 25th and this was really really helpful to solidify what i was somewhat expecting, and to kind of banish those "i'm going to sell over 1000 copies my first week" kind of thoughts lol. also, the thing about the side hustles was really eye opening and i'm considering to offer my design knowledge and see if i can do some covers for people 🙂 so hopefully that goes well

  5. Great video and you are spot on with what you are saying. Love the shirt, my wife now wants one, lol. 🙂 I have no issues with what you call side hustles. It's diversifying your portfolio and expanding your influence to help with not only your following but with your bottom line as well. Everything helps, especially when you are trying to help put food on the table and paying the bills. With me, I work my full-time job and plan on doing so until I start doing enough to justify me quitting that job. I am planning on putting out my first book in 2020 and long as the plan holds, so I'm definitely in the beginning stages and love your channel, and yes I follow both of the others that you mentioned. Keep up the great work, love your dog. Sorry for the long comment, just giving my two cents.

  6. Thanks for the transparency Bethany! Expectations are so skewed (even in the trad world) because of the 1% of big earners. But that doesn’t mean we give up! We keep trucking along and writing and pursuing our passion. My side hustle is ghostwriting because royalties rarely pay the bills (I’m Digital first so I don’t get an advance for my book but do get higher royalties). I agree as long as you have the credentials and experience there’s no issue offering other writerly services as a side hustle. :0)

  7. Here is the issue with book sales: a LOT of income comes from Amazon Kindle Unlimited, which doesn't count as "sales" but rather "page reads". A lot of people get a lot of page reads from kindle unlimited, but don't have as many downloads or sales. Plus there are audiobooks that are ranked separately.

  8. This was…sobering to say the least. I’m not published in any sense but I thought that self published authors (who put effort in and everything) made at least 5k. And again, the numbers depend on the person but I forget the months after release slow down. But like making a little under 3k is tough, that’s like the cost of developmental and copy editing alone depending on the editor. It’d be like making enough sales for the money you put into the book but not making much of a profit. But like you said, it’s a long run game. The more experience in writing and marketing will make those sales better.

  9. This video made me feel a bit better about my sales. I used the calculator, and my books are selling around the same amount as others in my genre. I thought I wasn’t doing well, but for my first book I’m doing okay 😁

  10. great video! thanks for all the specifics on numbers and for the suggestions. 🙂 i did recently buy one of the books you and mandi wrote together and i'm excited to read it! also i just can't get over your corgi <3

  11. Great video, Bethany! This was a great peek at what to expect in the beginning or the middle of an indie author career!

  12. I perused kindleprenuer briefly and could not find the calculator. Do you have the link? Did I miss it?

  13. Thanks for sharing Bethany! I always appreciate the insight and vulnerability! I agree with what you said about authors having side hustles. Nothing wrong with it so long as they are qualified.

  14. The royalties on e-books have been better for me. It's a real challenge to become noticed though. I've sold about 75-100 books. Several of those I've purchased. My plan is to make my next book a free download on Smashwords.

  15. I always tell aspiring authors or new authors that it's a marathon not a race. Building a proper following and making decent money takes a lot of time and patience.

  16. I broke even for the first time last year, doing lots of events helped. Being 4 years into my author journey has been very educational, I've learned a lot from trial and error.

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