Self-publishing is a quickly growing industry. Authors have found a step-around for the toiling, exploitative traditional publishing industry, and they’re taking hold of their own career and art. While the creative freedom, quick turnaround, and higher royalty rates sound amazing, how much money can you actually make self-publishing your books?
A major platform for indie writers is Amazon. As a tool, Amazon can be tricky to learn and master. But with a little research and a strong strategy, a self-published author can make $10,000+ per month publishing their own books on Amazon.
If you’re considering self-publishing on Amazon, you probably have one question: How much money can I actually make as a self-published author on Amazon?
Great question! And good for you on doing the research before you jump in with two feet. It’s a complicated question, and obviously varies greatly from author-to-author, genre-to-genre, and every strategy in between. Let’s talk about it.
The income self-published authors make on Amazon varies greatly from writer to writer. The format of your book, how many you sell, and decisions you make when you’re setting up your book for publication can all affect the money you make.
This answer to how much do self-published authors make on Amazon covers:
- Royalty rates on Amazon
- How many books are sold
- Number of books available
- How to calculate royalties for self-published authors
- Anyone can self-publish books and make income
Royalty rates on Amazon
The royalty rate on Amazon changes based on your format and a few other factors. eBooks and paperbacks, for example, each have their own rates.
eBooks have two possible royalty rate options on Amazon. One is 35%, and the other is 70%. What would make an author choose half the royalty rate? Not every title is going to be eligible for the bigger royalty rate. According to KDP’s website, these are the qualifications to get the 70% royalty rate:
- The list price must satisfy the price requirements. Currently, the USD minimum requirement for a 70% royalty rate is $2.99. Any price below that will be rated at 35%
- The list price must be at least 20% lower than the price of the physical book listed on Amazon. This means you can’t be eligible for the 70% royalty rate if you sell your eBook and physical books at the same price.
- The eBook must be available everywhere in the world the author or publisher has rights. That means you can’t have the 70% royalty rate if you limit your book’s availability.
- The 70% rate is also only available in certain regions.
Depending on your goals with your book, you might opt for the 35% rate. For example, if you want to offer an eBook for 99 cents as a sales funnel for your business. But if your goal is to make as much money as possible, you’re likely going to want to cater the way you publish to hit those requirements for the 70% royalty rate.
Paperback royalty rates are a little different. Through Amazon distribution channels, KDP offers a 60% royalty rate. If users enable expanded distribution, the rate drops to 40%. According to the KDP website, paperback royalties are calculated with this formula:
(royalty rate x list price) – printing costs = royalty payment
So if your book is listed for $16, the printing costs are $5, and you’re selling through Amazon distribution channels, this is how you would calculate the royalty you receive on each book:
(.60 x $16) – $2 = $7.60
Which gives you $7.60 per book sold! Not too shabby, right?
How many books are sold
Let’s say we’re making $7.60 per book. Now all we need to know is how many books are being sold to calculate our income as a self-published author on Amazon. There’s no real way to know how many books you’ll sell until you try, but there is a way to roughly determine how many books other authors are selling on Amazon.
All you need is the book’s Best Sellers Rank (BSR) and a calculator. For example, let’s look at The Cyborg Tinkerer by Meg LaTorre and calculate what she potentially makes per month in Amazon sales.
If we scroll down to the BSR information, The Cyborg Tinkerer is currently ranked #1,124,955 Then, by inserting that number into an online calculator, like this one from TCKPublishing, we get the estimated number of copies the paperback sells each month.
If we assume LaTorre is selling her paperbacks at the 60% royalty rate, and that sales number calculated with her BSR is accurate, that means she’s making roughly $1.50 per month on paperback sales for The Cyborg Tinkerer. If she were selling her book at the price we used in the formula in the previous section, that number would be closer to $30.40 per month.
That’s just one example of how much a self-published book sells. Try plugging in your favorite indie author’s numbers and see how much they make to get a few more ideas of what to expect.
Number of books available
Another factor that will affect what an author makes is the number of books available. Having books available in all formats (paperback, hardback, and audiobook) will lead to more sales, but having more books published will also boost sales. The more regularly you publish books, the more money you’ll make, for several reasons:
1. The Amazon algorithm favors more regularly productive accounts, which means the more often you drop books, the more Amazon is likely to suggest your books to new readers.
2. Having more books makes you more visible–there are literally more products for readers to stumble upon and for Amazon to suggest to them.
3. If a reader loves one of your books, they’re likely to seek out more. They can’t buy another one if you don’t have another for them to buy.
Because of those three factors, you’re definitely going to want to publish more books to make more money, especially if those books are in a series.
How to calculate royalties for self-published authors
As we covered, different formats offer different royalty rates. Paperback, hardback, ebooks, and audiobooks will all pull different prices, different sales numbers, and different royalty rates. Even if you’re self-publishing outside of Amazon, this will be true in most cases. eBooks have the highest royalty rates because of the low cost of production. Hardbacks typically sell for more, but they also cost more to print. Which format you make the most money on will depend highly on your pricing structures as well.
Where you publish your books will affect your royalty rate. We already discussed Amazon’s, but there are venues for self-publishing outside of Amazon. For example, IngramSparks’ current royalty rate per eBook sold is 40%. If you meet the parameters for the 70% royalty rate on Amazon, you’ll make more money publishing through KDP. If you don’t meet them, you’ll make more money with IngramSpark. Be strategic with where you’re publishing your books to make the most money.
How to earn more as a self-published author on amazon
You can make more money as a self-published author on Amazon by strategically releasing and marketing your books. Here are five ways you might increase book sales on Amazon.
1. Publish more books
Not only does having more books increase your revenue because there are more products being sold, but the Amazon algorithm favors accounts that publish regularly, pushing your books in front of more readers in suggested sections.
2. Offer your book in multiple formats
Even with a single book, you can have more “products” available by offering your book in multiple formats. Hardback, paperback, audiobook. You might even republish your books in different formats, like compilation books for series, companion novels, or new editions with fresh covers.
3. Write a series
Publishing a series can be more lucrative than publishing a standalone novel. If you write a stellar first book, one customer purchase can turn into several, as they come back to buy each new installment of the series. It’s also easier for readers to get immersed in a series, just because they’re spending more time with the story and characters. That immersion can translate into them recommending the series to more friends, making fan art, buying merch, preordering the new books, and other actions that greatly boost sales and lead to more readers.
4. Increase readthrough for your books
To make more money, you should have a strategy for increasing readthrough on your books. Readthrough refers to how often readers are buying more of your books–particularly more books in a series. There are a few strategies for increasing readthrough, including:
- structuring your endings in a way that makes your reader want to read more
- publishing your books as a full box set instead of one at a time
- setting advanced pre-orders so your readers can commit to reading more even with a slower publishing schedule
- encouraging your readers to follow you on Amazon and socials so they stay plugged in and updated for your new releases
Regardless of your strategy, increasing the readthrough for your series will boost sales.
5. Continuous marketing
And obviously, marketing your books well will lead to earning more. This could mean participating in Amazon’s advertisement programs, or it might mean utilizing your author platform to draw in more sales. Some strategies include:
- Hosting book readings and other events
- Offering limited time sales and specials
- Making a special event of bookiversaries and other significant milestones
- Social media campaigns, like the one below
Here’s an example of an Instagram challenge I hosted to boost pre-orders for my book, Starlight. It shared snippets of the stories, as well as writing prompts based on the stories for my followers to write their own shorts. This put my book in front of every participant’s followers, as well as getting those potential readers invested in the book because of this kind of hands-on participation leading up to the release date.
The marketing for your book doesn’t end after the launch. Try to plan how you’ll market your books for years after the publication to keep sales consistent and increase your income with every publication.
Check out this article for a different perspective and way to answer: how much does an author make?
Anyone can self-publish books and make income
You’ll see a wide range of income sizes from different self-published authors. If you want to make a living through self-publishing your books on Amazon, do your research, track your data, don’t be afraid to experiment with different strategies, and don’t give up!