So you want to earn extra revenue as a published author. Or maybe you want to sell books as a full-time gig. In either case, you’ll need to know how typical publishing royalties work for both traditional and self-publishing routes. We’ll figure out what is the typical royalty rate for an author, especially in a post-pandemic landscape. Let’s dive in.
First, a quick rundown on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing
By traditional publishing, think “getting signed” with an editorial house or management team (e.g. Penguin Random House). Self-publishing is the alternative “indie” path where you take matters into your own hands.
|Rights||The publisher has the rights to your book deal. Exact conditions depend on the publisher.||Keep all the rights.|
|Decisions||The managing team makes most of the decisions.||Make all the decisions.|
|Timing||Publishing a book can take up to two years.||Your book can be on the shelves within months.|
I have to make sure you understand the distinction between traditional and self-publishing since average royalties for a book differ between the two.
P.S. PublishDrive is a self-publishing platform that gets you into thousands of stores like Amazon, Apple, and Google.
Also, what are book royalties?
To put it simply, book royalties are how you’re paid as a published author. Royalty rate refers to the percentage you get for every book sold, based on the retail price. For a deeper understanding, check out Book Royalties: What to Know.
So, what is the typical royalty rate for an author?
How much royalties do authors get? Well, royalty rates vary across book formats like prints or ebooks. They also vary across publishers (if you’re on the traditional route) as well as stores (if you’re self-publishing to them directly).
Generally, the average royalty rate is around 10% under traditional publishing and up to 70% under self-publishing.
Paperback: 5-8% royalties
Hardcover: 15% royalties
Ebook: 20-25% royalties
Amazon KDP: up to 70% royalties for books between $2.99 and $9.99, 35% if below $2.99
Apple Books: up to 70% royalties
Google Play Books: up to 70% royalties
Barnes & Noble: up to 70% royalties for ebooks, 55% for prints
Kobo: up to 70% royalties for books priced more than $2.99, 45% if below $2.99
McZell Book Writing gave a spiffy example of the average author royalties for both routes:
|Revenue||Traditional author earnings||Self-published author earnings|
|Book retail price||$14.99||$14.99|
|Initial royalty rate||10%||60%|
|Income per book||$1.79||$5.74|
|Number of books||6,000||6,000|
|Earnings in total||$10,740||$34,440|
That’s right. In the example above, self-published authors make over $24,000 more than traditional authors for the same number of books sold.
Obviously, self-publishing is looking pretty convincing. I close this write-up with a few more insights to think about –
Which publishing route to take?
Here’s the thing. There has been a “drastic decline in [traditional] author earnings over the last decade.” One report “blames this decline on Amazon’s dominance of the book marketplace. There’s no getting around the reality of this. Amazon’s share of the market grows each year, and their ability to insist on better terms and increased coop and other fees increases proportionally.”
In other words, self-publishing with spaces like Amazon is flourishing. This trend is not exclusive to Amazon; it’s widespread across stores and countries.
Self-publishing is a global force to be reckoned with. During the year of the pandemic, authors made 85% more sales via self-publishing platform PublishDrive. By the end of 2021, indies doubled their book sales. While physical bookstores struggled, readers have significantly turned to online mediums: formats like ebooks and stores like Kobo.
If you ask me, indie publishing is the way to go.
Royalty software for self-publishers
For self-publishing folks, taking care of everything from distribution to finances can be a lot. But don’t be intimidated, there are a ton of self-publishing software and tools to help with the workload. Abacus is one of them, a royalty calculation software for indies selling in channels like Amazon, IngramSpark, Kobo, and more. It’s also a fabulous collaboration tool for co-authors and larger teams. Learn more about the royalty software for self-publishers.
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