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  • Writer's pictureMaria P Frino

How Much do Authors Actually Earn? Author's Earnings are a Touchy Subject

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

This is not a subject I like talking about. But... I'm going to because many readers think authors are compensated well for their work. Author's earnings are a touchy subject.

As a self-published author, I can earn up to 70 or 80% royalties on my published books. This sounds like a good return on my time invested in writing, proofing, editing, designing, and printing books. Right? Well, once costs are taken out there isn't a lot left.

If you're an author and search online for author earnings you will be depressed. Most authors don't make a full-time living from their writing, many have a day job that pays the bills.

This video shows the fiction short stories and novels I have published. I have had these stories professionally edited, they have a cover designed by a graphic artist, and I proof them even after they have been edited. I buy printed author copies to sell myself and I visit bookstores to ask them to place them on their shelves (except when we're in #lockdown). My books are also available in selected libraries.

The time it takes me to write a story depends on its length - anytime between a week and a year. In fact, my debut - The Decision They Made - took me five years after I shelved it for twenty. This being my first published novel, there was a big learning curve and as a novice, I made many mistakes.

Back to author earnings and how much. There is no straight answer because it depends on a number of factors.

  1. How the book is published?

  2. Where the book is published?

  3. Is it a print or eBook?

  4. Are author copies purchased?

  5. Is there a book launch?

  6. How is the book distributed?

  7. How much marketing is done per book?

  8. Travel expenses.

  9. Speaking engagements.

As a rough guide, earnings can be anything from 5% to 40% per book depending on whether it is a print book, eBook, or audiobook. When you tally this with the hours, weeks, months, or even years it takes to write a book, the rate per hour is abysmal.

A book open to the prologue page with a red bookmark on top. This prologue is from a fiction novel by author Maria P Frino titled The Decision They Made.
The prologue of my debut novel, The Decision They Made

To give you an idea, once I tally all my expenses, I may earn on average $3.50 per book. That's not a lot from the price of $29.99rrp. And my short stories sell for less. However, these stories are eBooks so I don't have printing costs involved with them. It can be heartbreaking when I receive my royalties, or not at all for some months. I have had royalties as low as .50cents.

The moral to this is 'unless you are passionate about writing, don't do it'. I enjoy writing and everything that goes with it so I don't rely on these earnings. I'm lucky to be able to pursue what I love purely for pleasure. Having said that, it would be nice to cover my costs.

The publishing industry is a minefield of failed authors who have given up due to the system, some of which can be cruel and costly, like vanity publishers (more about this in a future blog). All successful authors, or the ones like myself who enjoy and love writing, should keep doing what they're doing. Remember, someone out there is entertained by what you do. This is the main reason I love writing fiction books, people enjoying my stories.

Remember that every time you purchase a book you are supporting an author who may be relying on the royalty and for a mere $29.99 (or less), you are being entertained and taken to a world beyond your daily life.

Happy Reading

Maria P Frino

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