How much money does an author make per book?

If you’re planning to write a book, how much can you expect to make? This is a VERY frequently asked question with no definitive answer. Answers vary from “none” to millions. It’s also possible to lose money. Let’s delve into how authors are paid to obtain insight into your possible bottom line.

Fees and Royalties

Most writers hire an agent to negotiate their fee and royalties. We don’t recommend dealing with the publisher directly even if you know a bit about contracts.

If you strike a deal with a major publishing house, you’ll generally receive a percentage royalty for each copy of your book that is sold. Normally, you’ll also get an advance against those royalties prior to the publication date. Again, we advise you to let your agent negotiate these terms.

The amount of the advance depends on the topic of the book, your publishing and sales track records, and how salable the publisher finds the book (ex. story, style of writing, flow, etc). Last but not least, your platform is taken into account.

Your Investment

Writers invest a lot of time and effort in researching, developing, and creating their books. Sometimes, they invest money as well, for example if they need to travel to do their research.


A lot of authors turn to self-publishing as a way to minimize cost and risk. Sadly, neither of these happens. That said, an author who has created a high-quality book knows the book market and how to penetrate it. If he or she invests the required resources, there is a good chance of seeing some returns on the investment.

Self-published authors who sell well can use this to their advantage to negotiate a book deal with a traditional book publisher.

Usually, self-published authors don’t make a profit. They lose money more often than not, because the average self-published author never manages to sell more than 200 copies of his work.

The Numbers

Data of “The Red and the Black” series show that the top 12 books sell over a million copies a year. Between 100,000 and a million copies of the next hundred are sold. Around 75% are sold as paperbacks, and the remaining 25% – as hardbacks. Paperbacks make less money than hardbacks. Most of the royalties for a mass market paperback are around 10% level, with the price being around $8 per copy, or royalties of $0.80 per sale. This comes to $80,000 per 100,000 copies sold.

Normally, a mass-selling hardback has a list price of $22. It gets 15% of the list price per copy sold because most of the royalties are in the “after 10,000 copies are sold” range. This comes to $330,000 per 100,000 copies sold, or $3.30 per copy.