Book authors don’t actually earn an author salary, per se. Instead, they are paid royalties based on their number of books sold. Depending on the book publication method used to publish a book, authors can expect to earn different royalty rates. (You can learn more about today’s three primary book publishing methods by clicking here.)
Traditional Author Salary (Physical Books)
Traditionally, whenever a physical book (e.g., paperback, hardcover) is published, there is automatically a large run of 1,000 or more copies printed. The publisher and/or its distributor(s) store these copies away in large warehouses. And this large print run means a higher upfront cost for that publisher on each author’s book.
Traditional publishers tend to pay authors a 7-to-10% royalty rate based on the retail price of a book. They can’t pay much more due to all the expenses associated with publishing/printing/selling physical books: editing and design; publicity; printing and distribution; shipping costs; deep discounts given to retailers (45% of list price) and wholesalers (55% of list price). With all these costs eating away at their bottom lines, there’s not much leftover in the end. Traditional publishers also lose money from the high waste of book returns they receive from traditional retailers.
So, let’s put this into perspective. With the average retail price of a paperback book listed at $9.99, that means authors can expect to be paid $1 per book in royalties. In other words, a publisher would have to sell 5,000 copies of that book for its author to earn $5,000 … less income tax. Ask the average traditionally-published author how many copies of his or her book were sold. Likely, those authors will tell you they sold way less than 5,000 copies in total.
Contemporary Author Salary (Digital Books)
Obviously, ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks/hardcovers have lower upfront costs to produce. Other than editing, design, and publicity, you can eliminate almost every other cost. Authors can expect to earn a way higher royalty rate on digital books as a result. In fact, today’s self-publishers are earning up to 70% royalties (e.g., between 45% and 70% royalties on Kobo books versus between 35% and 70% royalties on Amazon books).
The best way to sell books in today’s world is to utilize the power of search engine optimization (SEO). Effective digital publishing requires a little more finesse than simply combining traditional offline sales and marketing methods with modern online techniques. Doing so can actually be counterproductive. This is because traditional publishing takes time while digital publishing requires momentum.
If you want to succeed at publishing and selling books nowadays, you can no longer “waste precious time” by publishing only one book per year or one blog entry per month. The Internet rewards speed and productivity, and the Internet is your greatest ally. Used right, it can help you stand out among the millions of books being published worldwide each year. It can help you earn a six-figure income. Believe it or not, many of today’s online self-publishers are earning that much. If you’re willing to do the work, the world is your oyster in today’s digital world.
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