How Much Does a Full-Time Author Earn?

At the end of 2019, Forbes announced its list of the world’s highest-paid authors. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, is on top of the list, earning $92 million before tax. Her books are still best-sellers, and she earns from sales from movies, plays, and theme parks about the young wizard.

Any aspiring writer would dream of becoming like J.K. Rowling, but it’s not easy to write a best-seller. However, writing a book can be a sustainable career. A lot of writers — whether they choose to self-publish or go to a traditional publisher — have made a living while pursuing something they enjoy.

Factors Affecting an Author’s Income

An author can make a full-time income if they know how to promote their work and have an active, involved fan base. There is a variety of factors that go into an author’s annual income, including:

  • Number of books published per year
  • Number of books distributed across multiple channels
  • Scope of book promotions
  • Size of audience
  • Royalty rate earned for a book sale

Authors under a traditional publisher tend to have lower royalties than their self-published counterparts. According to mystery author Alan Jacobson, he earns 10% of the retail price of every hardcover book sold. The royalty rate increases when he sells more books.

Traditionally published authors also don’t make royalties until their upfront advance is paid back to their publisher. It will take some time before you earn if you choose this method of publishing.

Royalties by self-published authors depend on their distribution channel. For example, Amazon KDP, which publishes works on Kindle, gives the author up to 70% in royalties.

However, self-published authors are responsible for producing your book. They tend to earn more when they publish their work as e-books instead of having physical copies printed.

Maximizing Your Income as an Author


Setting yourself up for success is essential to make money as an author. Here’s what you can do to start earning:

Do your research

Traditional publishing and self-publishing have their pros and cons. You may earn more from royalties by self-publishing, but be prepared to do your own promotions and shoulder other expenses. Traditional publishing takes a longer return, but you won’t have to worry about printing and promotions. Find out what avenue is best for you.

Look at the trends on the market

Publishers look at book concepts that are trending on the market. This ensures that they can capitalize on the hottest genres in literature.

Whether you want to self-publish or go to a traditional publisher, it pays to learn what people are reading right now. Do your research and figure out how you can incorporate these trends into your work.

Publish often

Once you’ve published one book, prepare your next work. It might seem daunting, but it is possible by developing a daily writing habit.

If you can’t come up with a different concept, create a series around your first work. If you have an excellent first book, your readers will want to buy the second and third books.

Thanks to a variety of publishing options, it’s possible to turn writing into a full-time, sustainable career. But don’t expect to be a millionaire after your first book. Like other jobs, research, planning, and commitment are what it takes to earn money from something you love doing.

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