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How Much Do Book Authors Earn?

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Figures describing the amount of money authors of books make can be misleading. For every book that becomes a best seller, many more linger on the shelves, making an estimate of how much an author can expect to earn largely guesswork.


Typically book authors are paid an advance, or advance against royalties. The amount of this advance varies with the amount publishers can reasonably expect to make back on sales of your book. The amounts of advances can vary dramatically, from a few hundred dollars to millions, depending on factors such as the fame of the author and popularity of the topic. Do not expect significant advances until you become an established writer.


Authors should also be paid a percentage of the money their books make. This percentage, called a royalty, varies with both the type of book published and the number sold. In some nontraditional publishing arrangements, authors are paid only royalties on the books they sell. For authors who have received an advance, royalties begin to accrue after the publisher has recouped the amount of the advance. Hardcover fiction books usually garner higher royalties than paperback mass market titles, as do books that sell more copies.

Average Income

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the mean income for independent writers in 2020 was $67,120. However, you must also take into account the fact that the minority of writers that earn much more than average are included in that average and therefor pull the mean to a higher earnings estimate than most writers make.


Since authors are not directly employed by their publishers, they are responsible for their own medical insurance and other benefits that employers typically provide. Take these expenses into account when estimating potential earnings.

Writers and Authors salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $133,460 ($64.16/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $67,120 ($32.27/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $35,880 ($17.25/hour)

Mike Smith began writing in 2007. He wrote for and edited his school's literary magazine and wrote film and music reviews for the school newspaper. He has also been published in "Indianapolis Monthly." Smith graduated from Franklin College in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.