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. 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 as soon as you finish writing.|
So, let's go over the distinction between traditional and self-publishing since average book royalties differ between the two.
P.S. PublishDrive is an online 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? What are typical author royalties per book? Well, book publishing royalty rates vary across book formats like print 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 standard royalty rates for authors is under 10% for traditional publishing and up to 70% with 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 or above $9.99
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 an easy-to-understand 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.
This example does not include any advance that a traditionally published author may have earned, however, it’s important to remember that all royalties are generally held by a publishing house until the author has earned out their advance. That means that royalties don’t start flowing to an author until the publisher’s investment (the advance) has been made back.
Obviously, self-publishing has some very favorable math. Here are a few more insights to think about –
Which Publishing Route to Take?
Most reputable coverage of the publishing industry has documented 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. Since 2020, the demand for digital books has skyrocketed. In 2022, authors made 200% more sales via PublishDrive. And 56% of those sales came from international markets. You have to self-publish internationally. This should be a key part of any savvy author’s plan for sales and career longevity!
Royalty Software for Self-Publishers
A lot of authors pursue traditional publishing contracts because they like the idea of having a company take care of finances and marketing and distribution. For self-publishing folks, taking care of everything from can seem like 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 this royalty software for self-publishers.
Earn the Maximum Amount of Royalties With PublishDrive
Now you know all about the average royalty rate for authors. What’s next?
✅ One dashboard is all you need to self-publish globally, in no time.
✅ Get support with manuscript formatting, book marketing, royalty reporting, and more.
✅ Join published authors who made 200% more book sales in 2022.
✅ How much royalty do authors get with PublishDrive? The platform works on a flat rate pricing model instead of charging you additional royalties per sale. You get the full amount of royalties you earn in each marketplace as if you’re publishing directly with stores.