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novel writer pay

The thought of purchasing items online using your bank information can seem scary, especially with the rise of security breaches and hacking. Fortunately, there are multiple ways you can purchase things online with relatively little risk. When you do choose to shop online, make sure you’re shopping on a secure, reputable website. You also want to make sure the URL to the website starts with the letters “HTTPS” and shows an icon of a padlock to the left of the web address, which indicates it’s a secure server. Once you’re done browsing, consider using one of these payment forms to complete your purchase.

One of the most common ways to pay for something online is to use your debit card that’s linked to your bank account. This method can be risky though, so you should exercise caution when you choose to use it. When you use a debit card over other methods of payment, you’re putting yourself at risk of being phished and having someone steal your account information because you aren’t protected against fraud as thoroughly. This is especially true if the online account you’re paying through stores your card information. If debit is your only option, it’s simple to select your items, proceed to checkout and enter in your debit card information. Once all the necessary fields are filled in, you’re able to submit payment and finalize your order.

Online Payment Company

Online payment companies, such as PayPal, Stripe, Due and Square, can be a lot safer than using a debit card that’s linked right to your bank account. These methods keep your bank account information private, preventing phishers from accessing that information. Many of these companies have applications you can download on your phone and/or tablet, making it easy to keep track of your purchases or make them on the go. Programs such as PayPal are free to use and don’t have any monthly maintenance fees that a bank normally does. Even though these types of companies are more secure, you should still use caution and keep an eye on your account, checking for any signs of fraudulent activity.

Credit Card

Credit cards typically have more protections in place for keeping your information secure. You should still use caution when using a credit card online though, making sure you shop only on secure websites and never on public servers. Always make sure your computer’s antivirus software is up to date, too. If you’re not sure about a certain website and are worried about payments online, you can always check the Better Business Bureau to find out more information about the company.

Prepaid Debit Gift Card

Prepaid debit cards work just like regular debit cards, except they aren’t linked to your actual bank account. You can purchase a prepaid debit card at most retailers and fill the card with the necessary funds using cash, debt or other payment methods. Many prepaid debit card companies can send you an online statement so you can keep track of your spending. It’s a lot safer to use this method because if a hacker was to get any of your information, the only money that would be put in jeopardy is the money on the card and not the money in your bank account.

Apple Pay is a payment method used on Apple products such as the iPhone and iPad. You can use this method in physical stores, on apps and for making secure purchases online. With Apple Pay, you can even learn how to take payments online from other people. One of the benefits of Apple Pay is that you don’t even have to download an app to use it — simply ask Siri. You set up Apple Pay by adding the information of the debit or credit cards you wish to use. Then, when you go to pay for something, you can choose which card gets charged.


novel writer pay

The Average Author's Salary for One Book

How Do Publishers Get Royalties for Audio Books?

How much money do magazine writers make, how much does a children's book writer make a year.

Authors don’t earn a salary for a book, be it one book or several. Book authors are self-employed contractors who receive payments in the form of advances based on anticipated sales, and royalties from percentage of actual sales. In some cases, writers are hired under contract to assist or ghost write for a lead author. Even in that event, however, the payment is considered an advance.

Advance Ranges

Publishers pay authors advances that range from as little as $1,000 to amounts in the high six figures for fiction and non-fiction. But a drop in overall book sales and the impact of lower priced e-books has reduced the amounts of advances publishers pay out. Major publishers are publishing debut novels of literary fiction less frequently, making authors turn to small independent publishers. Independents pay an average of $1,000 to $5,000 for advances compared to the $50,000 to $100,000 advances that major publishes had typically paid for debut literary fiction. For popular fiction, major publishers generally pay advances of $7,500 to $10,000, or as high as $15,000 if a novel has a good marketing hook. Authors with a solid track record can earn much more.

Payment in Installments

Instead of paying an advance all at once, publishers are now paying the advance in installments. A typical installment structure would have three payments: one-third when the author signs a contract; a third when the author completes revisions, known in the business as delivery and acceptance; and the final third on publication. Other publishers pay in two installments, half on signing, the remainder on delivery and acceptance. Author Constance Hale on her blog site "Sin and Syntax" quotes literary agent Andy Ross as decrying the practice. While an advance had originally been intended to give an author enough money to complete the book, “Now, essentially you’re getting an advance after the book is written,” Ross said. “That’s not even an advance. That’s a behind.”

Since an advance is based on anticipated royalties, an author doesn’t receive any royalty payments until the royalties reach the amount of the advance. As a result, experienced authors say the advance payments are often the biggest checks they receive, and in some cases, the only checks. The typical royalty an author receives is 15 percent of the retail price for a hardcover, and 25 percent for an e-book. But the prices for e-books are less than half the retail price for a hardcover, reducing the cash payment to the author.

E-books and Self-Publishing

The rise of the e-book market and the relative ease for authors to self-publish these days has dampened retail prices and reduced the viability of brick and mortar bookstores. Self-published authors on average, however, are hardly reaping a fortune. Amazon provides the largest avenue for e-book sales. In a discussion of 2017 corporate earnings, the company revealed 1,000 authors earned in excess of $100,000 using the company's e-book publishing platform. However, major success stories are not the norm. In a 2013 Writer's Digest survey, the median income for self-published authors is $5,000 per year with many authors earning nothing.

Tom Chmielewski is a longtime journalist with experience in newspapers, magazines, books, e-books and the Internet. With his company TEC Publishing, he has published magazines and an award-winning multimedia e-book, "Celebration at the Sarayi." Chmielewski's design skills include expertise in Adobe Creative Suite's InDesign and Photoshop. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.

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How Much Do Authors Make? Salaries [With Examples]

Posted on Mar 7, 2023

by Bella Rose Pope

If you’re looking to become an author, you might be thinking how much do authors make? Is it a sustainable career option?

Many will look at being an author as being a “starving artist.” And while this may have been true when the traditional publishing industry turned away almost everyone, it’s just not the reality anymore.

There are so many people out there making a living writing and publishing books. And not just barely making a living, making a full, healthy full-time income while pursuing something they truly enjoy.

With self-publishing becoming more and more relevant, people looking to become a full-time author can make more now than ever before, which is actually something we teach our students to do in our Become a Bestseller or Fundamental of Fiction & Story programs .

We’re not just here to tell you how much authors make—we’ll also teach you how to make the most, and even earn a full-time living from your books if you read this whole article.

Here’s what you’ll learn about how much authors make & how you can make more:

There are self-published authors who can make a living writing with a sustainable income of $5,000 per month to $8,000 per month, even some self-published authors who make an excess of $10,000 per month.

Remember to use our royalties guidelines (below) to calculate accurately!

Sps Book Profit Calculator Img5 E1652366566663

Book Profit Calculator

Enter Your Information Below To Cacluate Your Potential Book Sales

Enter your details below to see your personalized book profit estimate!


Here's What You'd Earn:

Your profit per book: $20

In 3 months, you'll make: $90,000

In 6 months, you'll make: $180,000

In 1 year, you'll make: $365,000

How Much Do Authors Make a Year? Salaries [With Examples]

Authors can expect to make a full-time living provided they have multiple books, know how to market them well, and an active, engaged fan base.

There are a ton of factors that play a role in how much authors make in a year, including books sold, royalty rate, and book printing costs . No two authors will make the same amount, though we all wish we could be lumped with the income of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

Depending on which route you take to publish, your earnings will differ. Here, we use the example of Justin and Alexis Black, students of ours who sold over 6000 copies of their book in under a year, and authors of Redefining Normal compared to the average traditionally published author:

Traditional Earnings:

Book retail price: $14.99

Initial Royalty Rate: 10%

Income per book: $1.79

Books Sold: 6000

Earnings: $10,740

Self-Published Earnings:

Initial Royalty Rate: 60%

Income per book: $5.74

Earnings: $34,440

As you can see, there’s more than a $24,000 difference between traditionally published authors and Alexis and Justin’s book, at the same number of copies sold. These two students of ours were actually able to buy a home with their additional book earnings, as well as quit their jobs to pursue their author and business goals. (Small disclaimer: the above calculations were made using print copy rates only, they may have sold variations of types, including ebooks).

While most people think traditionally published authors make more than self-published authors because of the fame of authors like Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, that’s not actually true.

How much an author makes per year depends on:

The averages actually swing higher in favor of self-published authors, as you can see in our real example above.

Note : Traditional publishing houses may have a lower printing cost through partnership deals or owning a printing press, but a $4.45 printing cost was used in the above calculations for both.

Regardless, you can see the major difference between the two: several dollars per book for a self-published author and sometimes not even a full dollar for traditionally published authors.

For example, using the book calculator tool above , plus the information in the chart above, we can estimate how much a self-published author could make selling only 35 units of their book each day (on average), on Amazon, and retailing the book for $4.99. That author could expect to make over $9,000 in profit (before advertising costs, etc.) on their book in only 3 months.

Imagine how much that author could make if they only charged a little more, or simply sold more books!

How much money does a new author make?

This is such a common question we get here at Self-Publishing School, and it’s understandable. Most people think you have to be really well-known to make money as an author.

However, that’s not true. All you need is the right process to increase visibility for your book on Amazon, which is what we do with our Become a Bestseller and Fiction Publishing program . The example above of Alexis and Justin Black is representative of new authors who committed and worked hard.

We even developed a calculator to help you see just how much you can make in profit right here. Try different price points, and different royalty rates to see for yourself!

This will help you understand how to price your book and help you calculate sales goals in order to reach an income level you really want.

Many of our students sell 2 -3 books per day and with many having multiple books, this number increases rapidly.

For example:

Using the example above, pricing a book at $13.99, selling 3 books a day on Amazon, an author could expect to earn a little over $750 per month. Price the book a little higher, the number could go up (just make sure you’re pricing your book to fit with others in your genre or people may skip over it).

Sell more books, the number will go up.

Selling books as part of a series is a terrific way to stack earnings for new authors, helping them earn a full-time income writing and publishing books for a living .

Additionally, many new authors also use their books to help grow leads for their business or to gain them access to speaking opportunities to grow their audience. Using a book this way, the immediate profits can be much higher.

Ultimately, if you want to make money as a new author, your best bet is to write often, publish often, and create series or at a minimum, multiple books.

What are common author royalty earnings?

Since we covered this above for the most part, let’s give a quick overview of what author royalties look like.

Self-published authors can make between 40% – 60% royalties on a the retail price of a single book while traditionally published authors usually make between 10%-12% royalties.

First-time authors who want to traditionally publish can get an advance, which is usually $10,000 (usually not that much more for a first-timer). However, with traditional publishing, you do not start to earn royalties until you have sold $10,000 worth of books at your royalty rate .

Basically, you have to earn back that $10,000 before you actually start to earn a royalty check from your publisher. And many publishers make a deal with the author that if they sell X amount of books, their royalty rate will go up, hence the difference there.

Experienced and proven traditionally published authors can negotiate a higher royalty rate, with 15% being very rare .

For self-published authors, you start making money from your first sale and every sale after at an average of 60% royalty rate.

Ways to Make More Money as an Author

So now that you have an understanding of how much authors make, we wanted to let you in on a few tips for making more money as an author.

Here are our best tips for becoming a full-time author.

#1 – Choose between self-publishing or traditional publishing

First and foremost, you’ve got to learn the difference between self-publishing vs traditional publishing , and then make the choice that will be best for you.

Setting yourself up for success with this is crucial if you want to make the most money you can as an author.

There are successful paths with both avenues. Just know that traditional publishing will take longer (2-3 years with the entire process it encompasses) and you might not see big returns unless you end up getting lucky with a bidding war between publishing houses.

Those bidding wars are what usually get authors massive advances, like those 6 or 7-figure deals you hear about. Otherwise, an unproven author may only get a $10,000 advance to start.

If you want a quick overview of the main differences between the two, here you go:

Traditional Publishing


#2 – Write to market

Did you know traditional publishing houses have staff who come up with book concepts that are “trending” or hitting really well in the market, and then they also employ writers to bring those ideas to life?

Sometimes it’s the same person, but not always. They do this in order to have the biggest chance of making money by capitalizing on what’s “hot” in literature right now.

The best part? You can do this yourself as a self-published author.

But how do you write to market? And is it a less “legitimate” form of being an author?

There’s an argument between some more entitled authors and those who write to market under the guise of writing to market being a “sell-out” or some of the equivalent.

That’s just people being, well, entitled.

The truth is that if you love to write and can come up with story ideas easily, can write quickly, and are able to publish quickly, then writing to market is a legitimate (and smart) career opportunity as an author.

As a self-published author, you can write to market by looking at categories you enjoy creating stories in and seeing what types of stories are doing really well.

An example would be the Age of Vampire Novels that was initially kicked off by books like Twilight , triggering an explosion on vampire stories by many authors and publishing houses. And these sold really well.

Today, vampires aren’t quite as popular as Urban Fantasy in the Young Adult category.

If you’re someone who likes to write fantasy , you can benefit from writing those types of books and publishing them frequently.

Check out this post we made all about how to write to market to more tips.

#3 – Write every day and publish often

The coach for our Fundamentals of Fiction and Stor y program here at Self-Publishing School helps more than 30% of our students write and publish more than one book .

After they get one done and published, they’re itching to do it again, and again. This is our best advice for making a living writing .

Our coach actually started the InNoWriLife within our exclusive fiction Mastermind community, which is a knock-off NaNoWriMo, and it stands for: International Novel Writing Life.

[Check out our Fundamentals of Fiction & Story program if you want to be a part of InNoWriLife]

The idea is to create a lifestyle with writing your novels. Instead of dedicating an entire month to it, you dedicate your life to building habits around writing every day.

Because if you want to make money as an author, you have to make it a habit, a part of your life, and a job .

So we recommend creating writing habits you can stick to in order to always be working on a story.

#4 – Write & publish series

If you truly want to “make it” as an author, writing and publishing a book series is a fast way to get there, especially if you publish multiple series.

The reason you make more money with publishing a series is simple: one customer is more likely to make multiple purchases.

If you have a great first book, they’ll buy the second and then the third, etc. This means you can make more money off of a single person.

This idea is explore more (with a calculator for understanding how much your series is worth) in our post here: Fiction Readthrough Rates & Calculator.

And not only will readers buy more books, but if one customer buys every book in your series, they’ll also usually leave reviews as well as buy other books you’ve published that aren’t in that same series.

Series establish a strong fanbase, which keeps you “employed” as a full-time author.

#5 – Put together an email list or other platform

Having a singular way you can communicate with people who have said “yes!” to wanting information from you is crucial. It’s like having a sales list.

We always recommend authors build an email list because you own your list. Whereas with social media platforms, the company owns your followers, you don’t.

So if anything were to happen to a social platform and you lose all those followers, you’d have no way of communicating with them–just imagine if a social platform went down the DAY of your launch.

Email lists are also a great resource for recruiting beta readers , launch team members, and getting people excited about your book come launch time .

Here are a few things you need to create an email list:

#6 – Commit to being an author

“If you treat writing like a hobby, it will pay like a hobby.” – R.E. Vance (our Fiction writing and book marketing coach).

Just like with any other job, you have to work whether you’re in the mood or not.

One of the best pieces of advice we have for you is to make a commitment. You can’t expect to make a full-time income if you’re only sort of interested in writing or you only work on writing when the mood strikes.

This is the biggest mindset shift our fiction coach Ramy instills in our students. So much so that our exclusive community decided to take InNoWriLife a step further and track their progress with each other in a massive spreadsheet.

This is their dedication, and it’s why these students are so successful in being authors.

They wanted it and they made the changes needed to make it happen, like investing in Self-Publishing School to teach them the ropes.

How does one “commit to being an author”?

It’s not just our fiction students who are growing income from their books. Our Become a Bestseller nonfiction students are just as dedicated and have created the same habits.

Want to know how much you could make as an author?

Check out the Book Profit Calculator at the top of this post !

novel writer pay

Bella Rose Pope

Most popular blog posts, what is self-publishing school.

We help you save time, money, and headaches through the book, writing, marketing, and publishing process by giving you the proven, step-by-step process and accountability to publish successfully. All while allowing you to maintain control of your book–and its royalties. Learn to publish a book to grow your impact, income, or business!

novel writer pay

By Concepción de León

Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild , a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.

According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

“In the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle-class living just writing,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, citing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever. Now, most writers need to supplement their income with speaking engagements or teaching. Strictly book-related income — which is to say royalties and advances — are also down, almost 30 percent for full-time writers since 2009.

Writing for magazines and newspapers was once a solid source of additional income for professional writers, but the decline in freelance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors to write for pay. Many print publications, which offered the highest rate, have been shuttered altogether .

The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market, Ms. Rasenberger said. The conglomerate charges commission and marketing fees to publishers that Ms. Rasenberger said essentially prevent their books from being buried on the site. Small and independent publishers, which have fewer resources and bargaining power, have been particularly hard hit. Book publishing companies are passing these losses along to writers in the form of lower royalties and advances, and authors also lose out on income from books resold on the platform.

In some ways, these changes are in line with a general shift toward a gig economy or “hustling,” in which people juggle an assortment of jobs to make up for the lack of a stable income. But the writing industry as a whole has always eluded standardization in pay. In a conversation with Manjula Martin in the book “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living,” edited by Ms. Martin, Cheryl Strayed said , “There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, ‘Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million!’”

In a recent call, Ms. Martin said that “the people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income,” adding that this creates barriers of entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience. There is also, she added, a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a valuable vocation.

“Everyone thinks they can write, because everybody writes,” Ms. Rasenberger said, referring to the proliferation of casual texting, emailing and tweeting. But she distinguishes these from professional writers “who have been working on their craft and art of writing for years.”

“What a professional writer can convey in written word is far superior to what the rest of us can do,” Ms. Rasenberger said. “As a society we need that, because it’s a way to crystallize ideas, make us see things in a new way and create understanding of who we are as a people, where we are today and where we’re going.”

Written Word Media

What Makes a $100k Author: 8 Findings Every Author Should Know

Last year we conducted an extensive author survey to tease out the strategies and tactics successful authors were using to achieve their success. It was one of our most popular posts in 2016 so this year we did it again! Last year, we focused on emerging authors and financially successful authors, isolating what the financially successful authors do differently than the emerging authors. This year we tweaked the survey to reflect changes in the publishing industry while also revisiting many of the same questions from last year. Thanks to everyone who completed the survey. We (literally) could not have written this post without you 😉


Last year we looked at authors earning over $5,000 per month vs. lower earning authors to tease out the differences. This year, we compared authors making over $100,000 in a single year vs. authors who earn less than $500 / month from book sales.  We’ll call these two groups 100Kers and Emerging Authors . The following article will examine the differences between these two groups of authors with an aim towards helping authors get to that $100k goal. Approximately 11% authors surveyed fell into the 100K bucket, so it’s a pretty exclusive club but also one that is within reach.

100kers = Authors who have made $100,000 or more in a single year from book sales

EAs = Emerging Authors who earn less than $500 / year from book sales.


The article below is based on self-reported data from our Authors. Authors are, on the whole, an honest group and we are trusting their input for these results. If you are a market research professional or statistics professional, take a deep breath. We are drawing conclusions based on survey data, not doing heavy statistical analysis. Some of the findings run into the causation vs correlation challenge, and in those cases we do our best to tease out the relevant takeaways.

Finding #1: Success Takes Time

We wanted to look at the amount of time an author has been writing, but since that’s a tricky question, we focused on the publication date of their first book as a proxy for how long they have been in the publishing game. 88% of 100kers have been writing more than 3 years, compared to only 59% of Emerging Authors. On average, that means 100kers have just been at this longer. Experience counts for a lot and emerging authors shouldn’t get discouraged. It takes time to build an audience for your books.

Finding #2: Indie Publishing is a Viable Pathway to Success

We wanted to know if there was any correlation between how an author was published and whether or not it got them to the 100k club. The results were pretty surprising to us. Of all 100kers none were purely traditionally published.  To be fair, only about 5% of overall respondents were solely traditionally published (James Patterson did not take our survey), so traditionally published authors didn’t make up a big part of the surveyed audience, but none of them were in the 100K club.

Of the 100kers surveyed, 72% were indie and 28% were hybrid . Publishing Independently rewards authors with higher royalty rates which means it is easier to start generating meaningful revenue when you self publish. The Author Earnings reports are showing a trend in which indie authors are taking share from traditional publishing, despite the fact that titles of indie books are priced lower than traditionally published titles.  In May 2016 Author Earnings also reported that “the vast majority of traditional publishing’s midlist-or-better earners started their careers more than a decade ago. Their more-recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well. Fewer than 700 Big Five authors authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon — from all of their hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook editions combined. By contrast, over 1,600 indie authors are currently earning that much or more.” The takeaway here is that publishing as an indie author may be the most viable path to financial success.

Looking at the graph below, you’ll notice that there was a much higher prevalence of Hybrid Authors among 100kers than Emerging Authors (28% vs 17% respectively), which means a lot of the 100kers have signed a publishing contract for at least one of their books. This can mean two things: 1) For some authors, publishing as an indie enables them to then get a contract with a traditional publisher. So indie comes first and traditional publishing comes second. Anecdotally, we’re hearing from publishers that they are looking for authors who already have a track record and a reader following before they extend traditional publishing contracts. So this lines up. It can also mean that 2) some authors who have traditional contracts are then subsequently publishing as an indie due to the higher royalty rates and earning power an author achieves as an indie. This means that publishing independently gives authors a greater opportunity to make more money from their books and achieve monetary success. As we wrote about earlier this year, hybrid publishing gives authors the perks of both paths : access to the support that a publishing house provides while also earning higher royalties per book on the sales of their independent titles. Many very successful authors are taking advantage of this “best of both worlds” scenario to facilitate success and earn more.

How are authors published graph

Finding #3: The Great Wide vs. Exclusive Debate is not Settled

The term ‘going wide’ is used to describe authors who have books available on multiple retailers (for example, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, etc..). They are available through many stores, so they are casting a ‘wider’ net. Compare this to authors who have books in KDP Select, where those books are required to be exclusive to Amazon (for more on this read our article What is KDP Select ). The pros and cons of being Amazon exclusive is a big topic of conversation among the author community. Overall, more people in both groups chose KDP Select over going wide, but the breakdown was the same in both groups. This means 100kers are not doing this differently than EAs. The takeaway here is that the choice to go wide or stay with Amazon doesn’t change your probability of making it to the 100k club. 100kers are doing the same thing emerging authors are doing here, experimenting. Knowing your audience and having a solid marketing plan has a larger impact on success than KDP Select enrollment alone.

Finding #4: 100kers Have Professional Covers and pay less than $1,000

Last year we found that 68% of financially successful authors spent over $100 per book cover. This year we found strikingly similar results. 68% of 100kers spent more than $100 on book cover design, whereas only 44% of Emerging Authors spent more than $100 on their cover. Interesting to note, this percentage of Emerging Authors moved up from last year when only 39% of emerging authors dedicated that much money to cover design. This indicates a trend that Emerging Authors are starting to spend more on book cover design. We’re happy to see this, as we know book cover design is a hugely important factor in determining a book’s success. Another interesting note, NONE of the 100k club spent more than $1,000 on a book cover, which means that there is a reasonable cap on what authors should be paying for this service.

Finding #5: 100kers Almost Exclusively Have Professional Editors

The results here were crystal clear. 96% of 100kers choose a professional to edit their books, and most Emerging Authors made the same choice (56%), but that still leaves a big portion of Emerging Authors who weren’t using a professional editor. In fact, almost 20% of Emerging Authors edit their books themselves. It’s been shown time and time again that having a second pair of eyes read your work helps minimize typos and unclear writing.

How much should you pay for editing? While prices certainly vary based on quality, about half of 100kers spend between $250 and $500 on editing, and 20% of 100kers spent between $500-$1000 for editing services. Emerging authors definitely skewed lower, selecting the bargain price of under $50. However, our takeaway is that 100kers consider editing to be very important, and always pay a professional to button up their novels. If you want to ensure good reviews and a good reader experience, then planning to pay $250-500 for an editor should be in every author’s launch budget. That said, we know lots of authors simply don’t have that money to spend. If you don’t have the budget to pay a professional editor, at least have someone else who is not you do the editing. Authors swapping editing services is a decent option: you edit mine and I’ll edit yours.

Editing cost by author salary graph

Finding #6: 100kers Use Paid Marketing Techniques and Handle Marketing Themselves

At Written Word Media, we’re marketers. We love marketing and we love helping authors with marketing – it’s our jam – so this topic was of particular interest to us. When we looked at who handles marketing for authors, the overwhelming answer was that they do it themselves. For both 100kers and Emerging Authors, over 90% of them report doing their marketing themselves. The only difference is that 100kers can hire some help. 45% of 100kers reporting having a ‘helper’ like an intern or assistant who helps with marketing. This makes sense, once you make $100K, you can afford to hire someone. Learning how to market your books yourself is very important part of the process, but once you have figured it out and have some budget to spare, it becomes a prudent business choice to hire help so you can focus on writing. Here at Written Word Media, we work with lots of Author Assistants who book features with us on behalf of their Authors.

To take the Marketing question one step further, we wanted to know which promotional techniques 100kers were using. In the graph below, notice that 100ers use 3 techniques more than EAs: Discount Deal Sites, Facebook Ads, and Amazon Ads. All of these are paid marketing techniques that require a budget. Additionally, notice that there are 3 techniques used more by EAs than 100kers: In-person signings, social media, and Book Giveaways. All of these are mostly free or very low cost but are more difficult to scale and may not be as effective. The pattern is clear, paying for marketing works, and 100kers have figured that out.

Finding #7: Don’t Quit Your Night Job

Many authors have day jobs to pay the bills. Writing takes time and not everyone can financially afford to take the leap right away. Of Emerging Authors, 66% have a day job (either by themselves or a member of their household) that pays the bills. Additionally, almost 20% of 100kers reported having a day job that supports their writing. Our takeaway is that having a day job or relying on a spouse’s income is pretty typical for writers of all kinds. Work during the day, write during the night, and never, ever quit your night job!

Finding #8: More Hours = More Books = More Success

Emerging Authors spent 19.8 hours per week writing, compared to 100Kers who spent 28.6 hours per week writing. That’s a 46% increase! The 100kers write a lot more than the emerging authors. This is pretty consistent with what we found last year. All that extra writing pays off. When we look at the total number of books published we see a huge difference. The 100kers have on average 30.3 books in their catalog! Emerging authors had around 7 on average. Averages don’t tell the whole story when we looked at the 100Kers the maximum number of books was 63 and the minimum was 7. Which means the 100ker with the least amount of books still had 7 books in their backlist! Spending more time writing yields more published books, which appears to be a successful strategy.

Average Hours Spent Writing by Author Salary Graph

In Their Words

These findings are based on the data, and what we see in the marketplace. We work with over 34,000 authors at the time of writing this post, so we have a lot of experience to draw from. That said, there’s nothing like hearing advice from a peer to lend credibility, so we collected advice from our 100Kers and put some of our favorites below. The quotes are pasted verbatim from the survey results.

Don’t expect to get rich. Don’t expect to sell a lot of your first book. This is a journey.
Write and don’t stop. Get the next book ready, but take your time to make it excellent. Try to write and hold a book in a series so you can release the books more closely in time. And marketing is important, so learn how to do it, but don’t spend all your time doing it.
Commit your body and soul to producing the best work you can. Every reader is precious and connecting with them the most important thing you can achieve.
Being an Indie Author is a profession best done independently. Write what you love, write the way you want to, and forget everything. However, market trends should not be ignored in cover design and book title. Learn the market and how to promote within it yourself. Every aspect of your business. Authors are their own best marketing tool. Don’t trust someone else to do for you want you haven’t bothered to learn yourself.
Use a professional cover and hire an editor. If you can’t hire an editor right away, find a teacher or someone with excellent grammar. Also, when starting out, Kindle Unlimited is probably the best route to go unless you can market heavily and pay for advertising.
Write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration. If you were an accountant, you wouldn’t wait until you were inspired to go to work.
Never give up! I was told I could never make it, but I proved everyone wrong. I was rejected by one 300 agents and publishers. And it was a blessing in disguise!!! I now run my own ship and make my own rules. I keep 70% of my earnings! Getting shot down by publishers was the BEST thing to ever happen in my entire life! I wish I could give them a hug! They did me a huge favor and I found indie publishing.

Share your experience as an author in the comments below.

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151 comments on “ what makes a $100k author: 8 findings every author should know ”.

Very interesting. I’ve shared it. I edit and critique more than 200 manuscripts a year, and I’m stunned by the amount writers are saying they spend on editing in this article. In the US, an average-length book costs about $2,500 for a content edit and proofread. Writers should not expect quality editing (certainly not professional or thorough) for only $250. I’ve never seen it. Nowhere close to that amount. So this stat, while it may be founded in research, isn’t the norm and I think doesn’t serve authors well (for them to expect to pay so little to have their book edited).

I’m glad you chimed in, I felt I must be a chump for what I’ve been paying all the while I thought I was getting a deal compared to some big firm’s advertised prices! Thank you.

Yeah, I was shocked to see such a low price. $1500 is average for a full court press on my 80-100K words novels.

Agreeing with C.S. Lakin here. Quality editing costs money, so definitely I would urge writers to investigate and ask for personal recommendations from authors who have successful indie books in the market. And remember, as good as some proofreaders may be, this is a different service than editing.

(I’m not an editor for hire, just stating an opinion.)

The responses for the prices on editing were pretty clear from our survey data, but remember, our data is limited to the respondents who filled out our survey so it’s great to get an outside opinion. Thanks for sharing!

Then it’s kind of a disservice to publish that figure the way you did, and your article should make it clear that the data you put in there may not be entirely accurate for the industry because it just reflects a small sample that filled out your poll. There’s no way to verify those authors actually spent that amount, just that they told you they did, and there’s nothing in the article that indicates the writer finds this trend odd. Indie authors who are successful need quality editors, not a $50 spell check that’s called editing.

Michelle, thanks for your comment. I’m glad that people are speaking out and sharing their data so we can show multiple viewpoints. I certainly understand your perspective – there are lots of professional editors out there that charge a justifiably higher price for their services. It is not our intent to do anyone a disservice.

As you correctly point out, our data is both self-reported and based on a sample of our authors. We cannot verify the actual sales of the authors, nor can we verify what they paid for editing, we’re trusting their responses. That’s why we add the disclaimer at the beginning of the article, to make sure people see our presentation of the data as both honest and imperfect.

Additionally, take a look at the graph and you’ll notice that 32% of 100kers spend $500 or more on their editing, which does support a higher price being paid for editing for a third of the 100kers.

How many “authors” responded? It is extremely rare for an author to pull in $100K from a book.

Hi Michelle, I can see your point, but I’d like to chime in that I understood from how they presented it at the beginning that this was a sample of volunteer (and mostly self-published) authors. I can see your point, and don’t think you are wrong. However, I wouldn’t perceive the article was misleading because they did not reiterate that in the paragraph.

Michelle, if you send out a survey, and the surveyees respond, and you publish it — how can that be called irresponsible? It’s the results of your survey, for God’s sake. Not every opinion that’s different from yours is ‘irresponsible.’ They’re just the opinions of a number op people who responded to a survey. I shouldn’t be reading blog responses …

Yep, as a professional editor, I’d be insulted if someone wanted to pay me $250 to do a full-length novel. However, this explains the number of people who say “never mind” when I quote my rates. Depressing.

Ecru, I’m a professional editor, too, and when I went to a per page rate those “never mind” comments diminished. There’s something psychologically more palatable about hearing $4.25 per page (or whatever you charge) than hearing $1,275 for your 300 pages. Also far easier to manage on a daily basis. 🙂

I actually charge by the word! :/ But oh well. I’m not living under a bridge in a box yet, so I guess I’m doing OK!

Isn’t the entire point that these people, despite whatever they are paying for editing, are clearly making over 100k? Increasing their margins is just a part of that, and it means that the meticulousness of the work itself isn’t necessarily their path to success.

Apart from a very small percentage who seemed to write utter rubbish and get away with it, I would imagine most of those earning good money are paying decent money for a decent editing job. Plus while they might have initial success in a particular marketplace I highly doubt it is a path to long-term success! having read some of the reviews on these authors books it would seem the readers agree.

Why are you assuming that? The data above (and also personal anecdotes in the comments of everybody’s high-rolling author friends) is telling you repeatedly that $100k authors for the most part are not spending that much on copyediting. And yet they are doing well and to sustainably make $100k as an indie author in 2017 producing “rubbish” isn’t an option. You might have a lucky outlier but this isn’t 2009 or even 2011. It’s actually competitive out there now, and yet these authors are competing successfully without spending much money on editing services.

It could also be that they have multiple people look at their writing before they send it to a professional editor. I think editing is important and they deserve to be paid well, but I also understand that budgets are very tight, especially for writers who aren’t established and lack confidence they can make back what they put in, much less a profit. I had several friends help “edit” my manuscript, so it was fairly polished before I sent it to a professional editor. If you have multiple eyes before catching glaring and obvious problems and are diligent about rewriting anything that trips them up, you could get away with an editor without higher prices or as much experience and still have a decent product. In an ideal world, everyone could spring for $1500 for a highly experienced editor and another $1000 for a great cover, but most people are working with limited resources and doing the best quality that they can at a time. But I can see the point that a writer who is making six-figures could make that jump.

Well said! As a professional editor with over 30 years’ experience, I echo your suggestion that it would cost about $2,500 to copy edit a typical book length manuscript . The figures quoted in this article are unrealistic and misleading.

The article is not off. Most indies don’t pay more than $500 per book for editing. I’m a member of a number of indie forums and that amount is spot on. For most indies an in-depth edit isn’t necessary. They are writing pulp fiction, not literary masterpieces. A check for spelling, grammar, and plot consistency is about all that’s needed or wanted.

Please note that a significant number of indies surveyed did pay more than $500 per book. But in general indies are putting out a full book every month. They don’t have time for months and months of developmental edits. This isn’t a personal insult to you – but a result of what the market is demanding right now for. Again, these books are the equivalent of the old penny dreadfuls. So spending huge amounts on them wouldn’t’ make sense for the author.

I have never paid more than $300 on an edit and have never received any negative reviews regarding typos, grammar or plot holes. My books sell well because people like the stories. Most indie authors would not be able to afford $2,500 when first starting out. Even now that I can afford it, I would never, ever pay that much. I found the article to be very useful, thank you! I publish under a pen name that is suitable for my genre, because my real name is impossible to fins a domain for!

I agree. The only book that I did receive negative reviews was one where I spent over $1,000 for an “assigned professional” editor. Even in my early twenties and not completely competent, I found issues with her editing. It was my first book, so I didn’t know how to handle it. But when I released the next two books, I oversaw the publishing process and did pay for editing, as well as studying and cleaning up the manuscript as much as I could on my own. I never got any complaints about those two, even though they aren’t perfect. With all that said, now that I know more about the publishing world, I feel the first editor was not truly professional, though she was assigned to the company I published through.

I would agree with that. Many new authors might only make $2,500 in a year on a book – so expecing them to lay out in advance their potential full earnings is unrealistic. It’s okay if an editor is freelancing for Random House or Doubleday or editing an already well established author earning $100 K plus – but outside of that I would have thought laying out that sort of money in advance is unrealistic compared to the potential earnings for most indie authors.

Can you give me the name of different indie forums? I am wanting to get familiar with sites as I look for a home of my writing.

C.S. – I think that what you’re seeing is a skew based on the SORT of edit being done. For the $100k+ crowd… Most have 30+ books out. The *average* was 33. At that level, most trad pub writers don’t get content/developmental editing anymore. They don’t NEED it anymore. Ditto in the indie field, where at a certain point your story skills have advanced to the point where you’re better at the bits of the work involved in content editing than anyone except the very top dev editors in your genre. Who all charge so much that the value return is usually not worth the expense. (If a dev edit moves a very experienced writer’s book up 2% in sales, but costs $5000, it’s not a cost-effective business expense.)

What you’re seeing for that $250-500 is a copy edit. What you’re calling “proofreading”. It’s just typo correction, for the most part.

A really good comprehensive/content edit is still enormously helpful for “apprentice level” writers – those in their first million or so words of fiction. The main value at that stage of a writer’s career is really education – learning what things they are doing wrong in storytelling, so they can do it better the next time. The education value for ALL future books written by that author makes the $2500 price tag you’re talking about an often worthwhile investment.

“Typo correction” IS proofreading. Copy editing is far more than that. I’m sure that someone who edits and critiques 200 books a year might know the difference and use the proper terminology.

I disagree that established authors don’t have things edited. George R. R. Martin has his work edited and he is edits other people’s books. I think it’s not so much that it is needed as much as a second set of eyes just helps.

I’ve see so many books that I assume haven’t been professionally edited and the author says it has. Self-published books. I think it’s important to get a good editor. I have a BA in journalism, yet I would still have my book edited. But only by someone who I can trust will do a good job. Like George R. R. Martin. As he is clearly out of my reality field, I’ll need to chose someone else but I feel people should be very, very careful, in choosing an editor.

Would I pay 2-4k? Of course. It’s worth it.

I wrote over the years and just filed things away. I have several things and they are all about 80k words. I would pay according to the length and also for the expertise of the editor.

Anyhow, I just wanted to say, im pretty sure even the pros use a professional editor.

I also enjoyed the article. Thanks to the author.

Many new writers don’t understand the differences between editing services. I think the term “copy editing” is loosely thrown around as a catch all for all forms of editing which we know it isn’t. A lot of indies only get proof reading and that reflects that lower cost.

Yes, thank you, Ecru! Proofreading and copy editing are not even close to the same thing. Copy editing is not just checking for typos, inconsistency, and grammar mistakes. Professional copy editors (ones who know the Chicago Manual of Style inside and out) make $4.50 a double-spaced typed page — or more. And they’re worth every cent. I think the confusion comes from the large number of people in the indie field who set themselves up as copy editors without really knowing what the profession is about.

My first novel, in 2014, was professionally edited for $1400. It carried around 55k words. That said, I recently reread, and there were many issues with the amount of money I had spent. In my personal experiences, I’ve learned that once you know how to properly use MS Word, the program does much of it for you. I, like many, can’t afford to spend $1000+ for editing all my books. That would be over $30k! And that doesn’t include covers.

Every reputable editor needs to be paid for their time at a rate that covers their mortgage and living expenses and more – they don’t just want to subsist. It usually takes 4 hours or longer to even critique of a 32 page picture book for 3-6 year olds with editing suggestions, further advice on a couple of re-worked versions and providing written, encouraging and useful feedback at each stage …and then a final grammar, punctuation and spelling check. (And surely the author expects to pay a trained and experienced editor at the same rate as a garage mechanic or electrician – or at least, the hourly rate they earn themself?) This presumes that the author wants to produce a book that enhances their own reputation among professionals – librarians, magazine reviewers and awards judges, as well as to provide children with the best quality possible …which they need and deserve. Best-selling traditionally published picture books have often been edited both by the author and an editor to create 50 or more drafts over several years prior to publication.

I think you made a very good distinction when you say best selling traditional published authors have upwards of 50 drafts over several years before publishing. Best selling Indie books typically take months, not years to produce, and certainly not 50 drafts. Its a much quicker process, and that may be where part of the price point difference comes in as well

As you’ll have noted, I was specifically talking about picture books. I’ve read that Mem Fox’s ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ (about 160 words and that’s sold millions of copies) took 3 years and at least 50 drafts. It’s not exceptional.

I’ve self-published and had books traditionally published and I’ll continue to do both. Those who traditionally publish usually have a number of books in progress and work on some of them for years.

I’ve recently mentored and edited a picture book for a friend. She had spent months developing it, had it critiqued by beta-reader buddies and really believed it was ready, but it took 4 more drafts before I thought it was anywhere near time to choose to self-publish or approach editors/agents, whatever is her choice.

The other big difference between traditional and indie published picture books is that self-publishers often try to control what the illustrator draws, which is mostly a big mistake if the author wants a truly wonderful and acclaimed book that will sell by recommendation. Trad publishers remove all illustration suggestions that the author inserts and choose the illustrator who is most likely to create what no one else would imagine from the words, and the author and illustrator will have no contact. Hard for the author, but the way the most satisfying books are produced.

In one of my books the words say that Crocodile invites a brolga bird to afternoon tea. I imagined a sly scary crocodile, but the illustrator has shown it in Fred Astaire poses tempting the bird with fancy dance steps. And I and children love it. Giving the illustrator free rein has made it ‘our story’ rather than purely my story …and it’s a better and more popular book than I would have designed.

In 2012 I had a 176 page non-fiction book traditionally published on calligraphy for greetings cards and scrapbooking. 600 emails were exchanged with suggestions and revisions in the editing process over 18 months. I’m very grateful that the publisher paid a freelance editor for this – her input made the book far far better than I would have created on my own. I wonder what the publisher expected to pay and what the editing actually cost them. If I had chosen to self-publish that one, to be honest, I would have ceased paying for editing much earlier in the process, with consequences to match.

C.S. So glad you made this comment because if you hadn’t, I would have. As an editor myself, I’d be hard pressed to earn even minimum wage at those prices.

I totally agree! That’s exactly what I thought as well. Editing is crucial. In my mind it is a huge aspect of writing a book.

I think the Authors who spent the lower end of the range would have had smaller books – say between 10,000 to 25,000 words. So it is hard to compare when there are different word counts.

Editing for $250 is not plausible. I believe many people are using the term “editing” to refer to mere proof-reading, with perhaps a few editing comments thrown in.

I agree. I pay a lot more in NZ and don’t regret a cent. I think people are being a bit economical – with the truth!

I paid $6 per double spaced 8.5×11 page with 12pt font. My editor helped launched Steven King and John Grisham.

C. S. Lakin, you spend less than two days per manuscript and make half a million dollars per year? Genuinely curious.

I love getting new info especially when backed up with studis and stats. Good job. I found the info useful. It justifies my spending habits; like paying for a great editor which incidentally is as hard to find as a great doctor or a great car mechanic. I shopped around for nearly 10 years until I found a great editor who came along with a good graphic artist. I’ve been working with them for nearly 3 years now and have been satisfied.

I also discovered FB ads which I now use for my opinion posts twice a month and my book posts twice a month. I haven’t tried Amazon ads bit I’m thinking about it. I do post on their Author Page and in their Amazon Forums. I publish on Kindle, Createspace and Smashwords . I tried NOOK and Kobo for about a year but I never sold any books on either one. I also advertize on ASK David, Indies Unlimited, Twitter. I post on LinkedIN and Goodreads when I remember but I don’t use them on a regular basisi since I stopped doing GR Giveways. I hired a consultant to post on about 150 groups on FB but I stopped recently.

Once again thanks for your article.

I wonder if i can use some of your findings and blogs in my marketing magazine. All articles are linked to original and author is named if known.

My magazine is called Indie Publishing News. I have a group on facebook where i help Indie Authors.

To suggest that authors should find $250-500 to be a fair price for editing a BOOK is absurd and shows either a total lack of understanding of the time editing takes and the value editing brings, or an absolute lack of respect for professional editors and the fact that we have to make an actual living.

Absolutely correct. If I charged $250–$500 to copyedit a novel-length manuscript, I’d be making less than minimum wage.

Beta readers are great. Having other writers look over your work is great. Just know that writing and editing are different skills, particularly when it comes to copyediting. A Pulitzer winner might not know that the comma always goes inside the quotes in American English.

For $500, you get 7 hours of my time as a professional, certified editor with 20 years experience. That isn’t enough time to *read* a book, let alone edit one. This value is absurd. For a realistic estimate of the time and cost, Google “copyediting instant estimate.” For just one round of copyediting on an 80,000 word book, my lowest-paying client would pay over $2000 even to a fairly new editor.

I think you left a zero off the amount a 100ker would pay for editing. Even $2500 would be low. The real charge for a substantive edit would be in the range of $3000 to $5000, and $2500 to $3500 for a copy edit of an average-length book. Editors are professionals and their fees reflect their experience and training. In this field you get what you pay for, and $250 will not get you a professionally edited book.

I edit my books first. Then, my editor does a proofreading in two comprehensive checks. All for the price of £250. The results are excellent and I am blessed I don’t have to spend more than that on editing.

This is what I do. My writing group goes over everything in process, which takes the place of a developmental edit, and beta readers catch problems before the MS goes to the copyeditor. I paid $250 for a 52,000 word MS recently – it helps that it was pretty clean to begin with.

I applaud your statement that 100kers consider editing very important, but as a copyeditor I must chime in about the editing costs mentioned in this article. Thank you, Adrienne Montgomerie, C.S. Lakin, Dinah Forbes, and Oona O’Shea. There’s no way I could copyedit a typical-length book for $500. It takes much, much longer to copyedit a book than to read the same book. And it takes a professional. Second, I disagree that authors swapping editing services is a decent option. Even the best writer isn’t necessarily a skilled editor. Editing is a profession that requires specific training.

why does it matter that you disagree that authors swapping editing services is a decent option? What is it to you if an author decides to do that? If their book sells well and their readers are happy then what business is it of yours? Who cares what you think a decent option is? Just like editors, authors are running a business and have the right to make the decisions that are best for their situation. This goofy snobbery of “you must spend xyz on editing services I just so happen to offer” is just bizarre.

The comments from editors are correct in saying that it’s not reasonable to expect to get a full length novel edited for $250-$500.00. What isn’t addressed in the research published here is the fact that many of the 100kers write novellas, compendiums of short stories, and contribute to anthologies (shared editing expense among several writers). We don’t know (from what’s been published here) how many of 100kers crank out six to twelve short books per year, or write formulaic books that require little change from one to the next except location, names, type of threat/protagonist, etc. There is a difference between writers who sweat bullets to bring a story to life, and writers who do it solely as a means to make money. Perhaps some research into these things would add a layer of useful data.

I appreciate your comment, Dan, and the word count of the manuscript is definitely important. But because the article didn’t mention the average manuscript length, I think that a lot of indie authors will be misled into thinking that those editing costs are valid for full-length novels. In addition, even in your example of an author who “cranks out six to twelve short books per year” or “writes formulaic books that require little change from one to the next except location, names, type of threat/protagonist,” copyediting is necessary and important. And that copyeditor will examine each and every word of the manuscript, which takes time.

Lol at the people that are whining at the article for daring to mention authors are not willing to pay them more than what their book is probably going to make.

Written Word Media didn’t magically create those numbers, you can go nuts on them all you want. Indie authors aren’t willing to pay your prices. Screaming a lot in comments sections won’t change that.

No one is screaming; we’re commenting on an “error”, in that the article specifies to put aside $250-500 for editing, and that’s nowhere near enough. Indie authors can do what they like, but the amount cited low-balls the cost of a real edit to the tune of $2000 or more. If I wanted to publish a good (rdited) book, I’d want to know how much that would actually cost.

I’m not going to pay you to “rdit” my book. I’m just saying.

Indie, I don’t consider what I wrote “screaming.” Rather, I’m trying to provide information. If an indie author hopes to become a $100k author, he or she needs a high-quality editor. Such an editor won’t work for the prices cited in this article—even if the manuscript is a novella rather than a full-length novel. I understand that authors must think about how much profit their books will make, but we editors must think about earning a living wage. Would you really want to hire an editor who’s struggling to earn even minimum wage? Just my two cents.

But you’re missing the point. You are saying if an author expects to become a $100k author then he/she needs a quality editor (which according to you will be $2,500). But you’re glossing RIGHT PAST the fact that the people who were surveyed ARE $100k authors. I personally know several high selling authors who don’t pay that much for editing. Who knows, maybe you all are right. Perhaps the books are deeply flawed and poorly edited but if that is true the readers of these books aren’t complaining about it, and these authors continue to make bank. So like it or not, yes you CAN be a $100k author without spending what you personally seem to feel is the least that should be spent to accomplish the job of making sure the manuscript is clean and solid.

Lol rather at editors becoming filled with rage at successful authors who minimize their roles. Very interesting to see the conflict of interest here.

I earn over $200k a year and I never use an editor. However, a good proofreader is golden.

How can you not use an editor? Are you a trained CMOS editor? I can’t imagine publishing anything without it being professionally edited. I’m a copyeditor so I do my own books, but, as I said, on average it costs a writer about $2,500 US to do basic editing on a full-length manuscript. Often more.

I’d say these numbers are pretty spot on. I paid $455 for my last edit (65k words) and an additional $350 for a final round proof read. And my formatter commented that it was one of the cleanest manuscripts she’d ever seen. Roughly 3 errors she fixed. I think part of the difference is a lot of indies do several rounds of beta editing with bloggers or even other authors before sending it off to editing. So they skip paying for content editing all together. Not only does it cut that cost out, but it gives a more up-to-date view of what readers are buying. Plus, I can use different people from different walks of life to get my feedback versus one person’s eyes. This came in very handy when I wrote a book where one of the characters had childhood cancer. My editor never went through that experience. But one of my beta readers did. Her feedback on the process and emotion it entails was way more accurate than my editor’s ever would have been.

I’m also going to agree that these numbers seem spot on.

That some editors charge more than $500 for a copy edit is…well, that’s their problem. Plenty of quality editors out there do basic editing for $250-500, and do a fine job.

Frankly I’m stunned the average was SO HIGH. Let’s not forget that 8% of those writers making $100k or more pay $100 or less for editing. Which means they’re probably counting their subscription to Grammarly or some similar tool as the cost, and they’re actually just editing the thing themselves. Which is what I do, on about half my books.

Interestingly enough there is NO pattern of sales or reviews based on which I self-edited and which ones I paid someone to edit.

I think if you weren’t a trained editor (and what’s that thing about nobody should edit their own books like nobody should be their own attorney?) then you wouldn’t be willing to pay this amount for “basic editing”. It seems to me that you are doing the same thing that many in the comment thread are freaking out about “editing your own work” or “finding cheaper ways to get the job done”. That you think someone has to be “professionally trained” to be able to edit a book to the standards of the average reader shows a lack of awareness of the average reader.

Also, in the long run, for most of us it would be a MUCH better investment to just get “professionally trained” to be editors than it would be to pay someone $2,500 for every book.

After reading this article and the comments, I would suggest incorporating something like the following questions on next year’s survey: How much, on average, did you pay for developmental or content editing (improvements to plot points, characters, point-of-view, etc.) of one book? How much, on average, did you pay for line editing (grammar, punctuation, stylistic changes, paragraph breaks, etc.) of one book? How much, on average, did you pay for copyediting (for grammar and punctuation) of one book? How much, on average, did you pay for someone to proofread one book? If you used software to proofread your book, how much did it cost? In addition to showing a more realistic rate for editing, these questions would also allow this study to examine how many authors are opting for developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading and how many rely on software rather than people to do it because these are very different things. The wording of these questions needs work, but this is just an idea on how you could perform a more nuanced analysis next year.

Given that students in my university English classes don’t understand the difference, I am not surprised to see this kind of confusion here. For example, Shawn Coyne, the author of The Story Grid, is a developmental editor. He identifies where parts of a story aren’t working and suggests how to resolve issues with plot and character arcs, turns in scenes, missing genre conventions and/or obligatory scenes, etc. On a somewhat related note, I edit a lot of grant proposals, abstracts, and other research-related material every day. The first read through involves checking global issues like headings and content blocks, which is somewhat like what Shawn does but for non-fiction. The person then fixes those things and sends it to me again. During the second pass, I make suggestions related to consistency (e.g., defining acronyms properly, maintaining consistent nomenclature, etc.), grammar (misplaced modifiers, subject-verb agreement, etc.), spelling, puncutation (comma splices and omissions, etc.), and style (eliminating passive voice and nominalization, etc.). (I tend to line- and copy-edit at the same time, not everyone works that way.) Once the person I’m working with corrects the draft, I proofread it one last time. They make those corrections, then it’s ready for submission or publication.

Outside of academia, I write science fiction. I am an author and therefore understand some of the authors’ concerns here. I do understand the concern about paying someone a lot of money to edit one’s work when the odds are against any ROI (return-on-investment). However, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: a slap-dash publication is unlikely to do well if content problems or errors prompt readers to stop reading. Yes, there are outliers where it doesn’t seem to matter, but those cases are the exception and not the rule. I would argue that we practically guarantee we will fail if we don’t engage in the actual writing process – everything from honing our craft to revising, editing, and proofreading. Even though I have hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of editing and proofreading under my belt, I still hire a proofreader (at the very least). I don’t balk at paying $350-500 for someone to do it; my earning potential is not their problem and they do not share my royalties if I somehow make it into the $100K club, do they? Like me, I assume editors enjoy putting food on the table and making a living wage. I would not, however, expect to pay the same rate for line-by-line or developmental edits as for proofreading. The former is much more time intensive, so I expect the rate to be exponentially more. I do not, however, see this structure reflected in the material here, but oversights like these happen.

One commenter, and this is not to pick on the individual but rather to rectify a factual error, claims that “Written Word Media didn’t magically create those numbers.” While this is veiled as a logical appeal, it really exhibits an availability bias fallacy. That is, it blatantly ignores wider implications of or problems with the data – namely that this survey does not take into account different types of editing and the rates thereof.

No one is forcing authors to pay anything at all, but I would tend to agree with the editors who have chimed in here that these rates seem delusional for actual editing (as opposed to proofreading). There is, however, a likely reason why that is: the survey likely didn’t ask authors what kind of editing they procured for their book, how much they paid for those different services, and whether or not those services were performed by a person or a piece of software. To that end, I hope the authors consider the questions I proposed at the beginning of my comment. I suspect attending to these distinctions would result in more realistic expectations for services and awareness on behalf of authors that editing is a multi-faceted and time-consuming endeavor. For the editors out there, the thing that many authors don’t realize is that they devalue their own work when they devalue yours. I suspect cultural ideology that diminishes arts and language is somewhat to blame. I suspect we’ll see a reversal in this ideology sometime over the next decade or, alternatively, embrace Idiocracy in its entirety. (Yes, that’s a terrible joke… but I’m appalled at what I’ve seen in self-published children’s books in particular. Suffice it to say that I comb through my son’s books very carefully before he’s allowed to read them. Indies aren’t off the table for him, but I check them more rigorously than traditionally published works. Children tend to reproduce what they see, and I don’t want my son to be one of the 20% of high school graduates in my state who rank at the lowest literacy level in the US. As far as editing goes, let’s think of the children…)

Anyway, I would like to thank Written Word Media for gathering, analyzing, and sharing their data. Your work has certainly given me a lot to think about, and I thank you for your contribution. I hope that my response is taken for what I intend it to convey: thoughtful consideration of the material. I do not intend to be rude, ungrateful, or to otherwise ‘troll’ this site or any of the commenters. I did, however, have some thoughts I wanted to share. As an academic, the pursuit of knowledge is paramount to me. Subsequently, I thought I’d put some suggestions out there on how this study’s methodology could be improved. As new needs are identified, so too are new metrics – you are not alone in this. It happens to me in my research all the time. Thanks again for your work. I sincerely appreciated data-driven explorations like this 🙂

Thanks Kris for your feedback and for pointing out the different types of editing that are out there. We are always looking to improve our methodology and will incorporate your suggestions into next year’s survey.

Research is always an ongoing process, and the survey you conducted is a great starting point for everyone involved in book publishing. Thank you for reading and considering my feedback. All we can do is adjust when we learn more about everyone’s needs and expectations. Thanks again for this great piece on what $100K authors are doing. I felt somewhat vindicated to learn that I didn’t waste my money on a professional cover designer 😉

This is as very, very good point. I don’t pay for developmental editing because I go through several rounds of beta reading with other authors as crit partners, some bloggers, some voracious readers. They find the plot holes, timeline issues, things that need to be worded differently, boring areas, etc. (The key is, of course, finding people who are good at this. It’s taken me a few years to find a handful of people who have a natural talent at this kind of beta reading). This cuts down a significant part of the cost, but by the time it goes to an actual editor, I’m only paying for line editing. And of course she’ll point out anything significant that jumps out at her, but usually it’s all been fixed by that point. Then I pay for a final round of proofreading with a different set of eyes. There’s nothing wrong with my method. I’ve been complimented on how clean my books are. And there’s nothing wrong with paying for developmental editing. It’s just a different process with a different price point.

No, there’s nothing wrong with your method; it’s quite similar to mine, actually. I do a short-form grid to check turns and whittle down the middle (if there’s any bloat) then I give it to two beta readers: one is a plot-hole ninja and the other is a grammar nazi.

You are quite right: having the right people to do this is essential. I am very fortunate to have a mother-in-law who’s a retired LANL technician and voracious multigenre reader. She has both the science background and a eye for detail, so she acts as a litmus test for plot holes, scientific plausibility, and consistency. My mother is a grammar nazi and was compared to Steinbeck by a couple of reviewers when she was still writing and doing the traditional publishing circuit. This is, however, a mixed blessing.

She doesn’t understand the Indie world and thinks I ought to go the same route she did: the traditional route. She doesn’t think I ought to have to market my work, give a sample or samples away, invest time into building a mailing list, etc., and claims that is for “losers.” Yes, some people still stigmatize self-publishing. I guess we’ll see how much of a loser I am within the next three years. More positively, she’s doesn’t hold anything back in her critiques. The trouble with family is that they sometimes sugar-coat their feedback. I am fortunate that both my beta readers won’t hold back, which is ultimately better for my books. I only mention this because authors need to consider dynamics with their families and friends if they go that route.

Nonetheless, I revise according to their comments, and then I line edit from the last sentence of the manuscript all the way back to the beginning. For whatever reason, going in the order opposite to how I wrote it allows me to catch more errors. After that, I send it to my proofreader. She charges 5 cents per word, so I pay $350-500 per manuscript. (This is the same method I recommend to my writing students, and I pair them with a classmate ‘proofreader’. We also cover Lanham’s Paramedic Method to help them eliminate wordy structures in their writing.) Because I write science fiction, my manuscripts run a little longer than most. I could see people paying $250 or so for something shorter like a fast-paced romance or a novella. While I pay for proofreading, I do not pay for editing…. yet.

Because I’m just starting out, it’s hard to justify paying $1,500-2,000 to have it edited. In my case, I had to decide between using the money for a book cover and formatting or an editor. I went with the book cover and formatting, and I’m so glad I did. However, I wouldn’t continue DIY editing if my books sell well, but I wouldn’t expect to pay someone less than $1.5K to line edit my work. That would be grossly unfair, and I don’t want that kind of exploitation on my karmic plate. Still, I recognize that my time is better spent writing. However, I’m still curious to see how many other authors use an approach like ours… maybe next year. Happy writing, Just An Indie! “May the odds [of joining the $100K club] be ever in your favor” ?

It doesn’t matter what you would or wouldn’t accept to edit a book. The results are what they are for this particular survey. The authors were given several price points to choose from, one being $500+. Obviously some paid less than that, unless they lied, but what purpose would that serve? Moving on.

I think the point some of the editors are trying to make here is that editing doesn’t refer to a single endeavor – there’s developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. These are different things with different price points that reflect the time and work that goes into each process. As an author, I’d be curious to learn what kinds of editing the $100K authors opt for and whether or not they hire a person or use a piece of software.

While the authors were given several price points to choose from, this survey does not reflect the range of editing types, which is problematic. It has nothing to do with being honest or not, but it has everything to do with the categories the respondents had to choose from. In this instance, this survey only presents part of the picture. That is, an author may have paid $100 for someone to proofread a 20,000-word novella, but that’s very different from line editing a 120,000-word science fiction novel, now isn’t it?

I’ve noticed not a single author has chimed in to decry the numbers presented in this article as false. Some have tried to say that editors have a role and I agree with a few caveats.

Editors make far more than the average author these days (Average being those who make considerably less than even 50k a year). You are asking people to pay you $2000 for something they might see 200-500 dollars off of in the first year. That’s not a good ROI(Return on investment) for most authors if they put out 10 books a year(and yes you can do this without resorting to formulas; if you’re writing 3k words a day you’re going to come out with a smidgen over one million words a year).

Even if they make 100k a year that’s 20k gone when the author will probably only see about 50k of that 100k after things like taxes, accountants, and marketing are taken care of. I’m not saying your rates are unreasonable, I know the time it takes to properly edit something. I’m saying there are cheaper editors out there, and yes you might get what you pay for but editing isn’t going to make or break book sales.

It’s not devaluing an author’s work to say 250 is fine, it’s being realistic to a proportional average return. There are people who are making 40k paying their bills with their writing, and 2k a book isn’t realistic for them. Saying “well, they shouldn’t publish then,” is frankly horrible when there are even errors in books put out by the big five (or six if you count Harlequin which is synonymous with the romance genre).

The average reader’s not going to catch nor care about run on sentences, comma splices, garden path sentences (most don’t even know what this is), etc. That’s not to say editors aren’t necessary, but the price point is the difference between Moet and Stella Rosa. It might be nice to get Moet, but most people can’t afford to drink it–and Stella Rosa is 13 a bottle and the average person can’t tell the difference.

Harlequin is now part of the big 5. It was bought by HarperCollins.

Thanks for that!!! I was sitting here reading all the editors comments. I worked with an editor who complained constantly about all the work he had to do for the little amount he was making. I paid a lot more to him than I ever made on my first novel.. I would love to spend more money on editing. And my dream is to reach a level of success that would allow me to pay editors what they are worth. But as one of the EA’s two years into publishing fiction it ‘s absolutely not in my budget.

In the end who is anyone to say someone shouldn’t publish if their book doesn’t jump through some arbitrary set of standards and cost some arbitrary amount of money to be “properly whatevered”. That’s why people went indie to begin with, to break past gatekeepers. In the end, readers decide what they are and are not willing to pay for. If someone can do their own editing and readers don’t complain. Awesome. If they can get by with a mix of beta reads and an inexpensive copyedit or proofread, awesome. If someone can do their own cover and it look professional, awesome. Nobody here knows anybody else’s skill levels in anything (except maybe their skill at blog commenting). So you can’t actually discern what someone else “needs” to make their book a quality product. And if readers are happy and it’s selling like hotcakes, I think suggesting authors need to shell out irrational amounts of money just to “prove they did this right” is just nonsense and not good business sense.

I am a professional editor and I do believe that you can find a hobbyist to accept $250 to edit your 80,000-word masterpiece. A professional editor won’t do it for that.

I would be interested in who answered your survey because actual editors are reporting hourly rates for copyediting of $35–$50 USD for fiction. Developmental edits are more expensive. That is what editors are reporting.

Please understand that a heavy copyedit of an 80,000–word manuscript can take ninety to a hundred hours. There really are people who think skilled professionals should earn $2.50 to $3.00 an hour, but I won’t work with those people. I favor authors who know what a good editor can do.

I am aware that some professional editors will allow themselves to be exploited this way—mostly because most editors are women and we as a rule have not been taught how to advocate for ourselves.

As an aside, I did give birth twice. Neither time was I paid for my time conceiving, gestating, or giving birth to either child. I still have no problem with the fact that the obstetricians were paid gobs and gobs of money to deliver my children.

Please send me your details – re-editing

But one assumes you aren’t trying to sell your children?

It does no one any favors – not writers, copy editors, or the reading audience – to create expectations that editors will work for the laughably low pay that you claim they will. I have no idea how you came to such a conclusion, or who you interviewed, but please visit the Editorial Freelancers Association website at and look at their (very generalized) rate chart that they provide. Devaluing our hard work – especially in a piece aimed at writers earning $100K – is terribly insulting.

I agree – I’m insulted by this and think it gives indie authors damaging expectations of the cost of hiring a professional editor.

I would think that the editing quote is because most of these authors are probably only getting proofreading done.

Echoing the comments of other editors here, writers will be sorely disappointed if they only budget $250-$500 to have their MS edited. Editing takes years of experience and professional development. Simply having ‘a good eye for grammar and spelling’ or being an English teacher in no way qualifies someone to be an editor. The rates we charge should be commensurate with our professionalism.

No, it doesn’t. I am an English professor, and I know better. It’s like equating a GP (me) with a heart surgeon (you). I don’t balk at paying more to see my specialist than my GP, so why would editing be any different? They are very specialized and different endeavors. While I rock academic writing and editing, it’s very different from fiction. Even in academic writing, the conventions for each discipline (chemical engineering, medieval studies, etc.) and form (grants, articles, essays, etc.) are very different.

The same goes for fiction: genre expectations are different. What works in romance won’t work in science fiction. Indeed, there are structures that may be grammatically incorrect or misspelled in dialogue, but those structures work for the character’s voice. Getting rid of those ‘mistakes’ would make the character fall flat. Editing is about so much more than grammar or spelling. In fact, good writing is sometimes about breaking some rules while following others – Russell Hoban, anyone?

I suspect the rates reflected here refer to proofreading – and proofreading for something on the shorter side of the spectrum. Good editing requires much more than reading and adding a few corrections to a manuscript. Editors look at the macrostructure (global story), microstructure (paragraphs all the way down to semantics), and everything in between, which I don’t presume to know.

If being an English teacher doesn’t qualify someone to be an editor then it seems the level of skill is way outside the scope of what is rationally needed in our society. I think editors have elevated what they offer almost to some kind of sacred rite. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy the “magic of expensive editors”. I think a lot of people are starting to see through it, which is why so many editors are so upset and “insulted” in this comment thread. I’m insulted so many editors seem to think authors who have studied their craft (which includes learning proper grammar, punctuation, story structure, etc.) are incompetent to perform these tasks without you guiding us for a few thousand dollars a pop. I mean seriously. o.O

Outside of snotty bragging rights “I paid xyz to a top editor”, in what way exactly does a $2,500 copyedit increase my bottom line? I know plenty of $100k authors who pay much less and have scores of rabid readers who aren’t complaining about editing. (And I’ve read their books. They are WELL edited). Like what imaginary market is this premium service supposed to be serving if maybe less than 1% of the population can tell the difference in your editing and mine.

A good editor, especially a good developmental editor, helps a writer improve his or her craft. You can compare a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald to one by a moderately successful genre writer and find that both are relatively error-free when it comes to spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You may also find that one writer has achieved a level of expression and depth and eloquence that the other has not.

A good editor can be more coach/ trainer than proofreader/spellchecker. They can help develop strengths in a writer the same way a trainer or coach develops strengths in an athlete. And if you think trainers and coaches don’t matter, take a look at how much those people get paid. The right trainer/coach can help make the difference between a journeyman and a champion.

So, yeah. $2500 is too much to pay for a spell-checker, grammar checker, or basic proofread. But when you broaden your conception of the editor’s role, and you find a good editor, you’ll find they’re worth the money.

Yep. Traditional publishers are only concerned with maximum profit and saving costs as much as possible. They would not pay expensive editors if they were not necessary or they believed they could produce good books without them. All authors, no matter how famous and how experienced, work with a structural and line editor at these houses.

Are the responding authors really getting a developmental edit for only $500? I doubt it, but the question is too broad as is and captured all the varying forms of editing within one response as if they were all equal in time and attention.

The disconnect for the “How much authors pay for editing” response stems from the broad definition of what “editing” a book means. There are varying degrees and forms of editing that range from the deep dive of a story/character developmental edit all the way up to a final proofread.

The same thing happens with the definition of a “book”. When I see someone advertise, “I will show you how to write a book and publish it in 24 hours,” they aren’t talking about a 1,000 page fantasy novel. When I think about the word “book” I think of a fiction novel, not a less-than-100-page non-fiction title; and I laugh when I try to imagine writing a 250,000 word novel and publishing it in only 24 hours.

I feel a more specific definition around the types of editing services being paid for, and at what price, will bring a better understanding of what the responding authors are actually doing in their process from first draft to published.

I also feel that for the next survey this should be broken out into several questions and not just one. The varying editing forms need to be specified and the price for each type of editing accounted for in turn.

As for my books, I usually paid about $600 for final proofing of my ~110,000 word thrillers, but these were to catch those misspellings or homonym words that slipped past previous “editing” phases.

I certainly couldn’t expect anything more for the same amount of money.

— Steve DW

Terrific article. I endorse the points you’ve raised here. I’ll share your article

I think something that also is missing in the survey is if authors, after publishing their work and seeing a profit, go back and have the book professionally edited at some later point. I’ve seen remarks from several successful indie authors who do just that. They release a book, check the interest level in it, then determine if a more thorough edit is justified.

In other words, they have friends, family, beta readers, and an inexpensive editor go through their work, then publish. If they don’t get a lot of movement in the project, they abandon it and move on. If they see a strong interest, on the other hand, then they’ll invest more money to get a more professional job done on it.

My books made just under £150,000 last year. I pay 400USD for copy editing on a 60-70K book. My editor takes a week to work on the manuscript and does an excellent job. In my opinion, the survey accurately reflects the amount many writers are paying for copy editing. I’m sure developmental editing cost more, but I don’t know many authors who pay for that.

I don’t see how any editor can make a full time living working for those rates. I presume your editor is a hobbyist/part-time editor as their rates are not sustainable or in line with the minimum recommended rates for editing.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they are a hobbyist. The question was how much do you pay for an edit? Authors are getting their books edited for that price as evidenced by the survey and the comments here from other authors.

It’s funny to me how you all care an awful lot about editors making a living but don’t give a single crap about authors (the people who you want to pay you large sums of money) making a living. Authors are saying they can’t afford those rates and make a profit on their books. So they find alternate ways to bring their books up to a standard of quality that their readers are happy with. But that’s not good enough for you because we aren’t willing to mortgage our lives to pay your bills.

It isn’t even as though we are asking any author on this thread to work for lower than their rate. I would NEVER ask and editor to give me a cut rate. But I’m also not going to work with someone providing services I don’t need at prices that aren’t smart for my bottom line. Because at the end of the day I’m running a business, and editors aren’t the only people allowed to eat food. The myopic navel gazing here is extraordinary.

*any editor (not any author)

I’m an indie author making closer to 70k. I pay about $750-$1000 per book for edits, but only because I have dyslexia

Most indies swap for content edits (plot inconsistencies, characterization, etc.) and we also get our fans to read our work pre-edit. Our fans love the sneak peek, and they are more likely to “get us” than a regular editor would. I write very unmarketable fiction, but I still get by because my fans like *my* style and don’t try to push me to write in the way that is “hot” at the moment.

After my fans / swap editors are done I hire a grammar editor ($500). After he/she is done I send to a final, very picky fan, and then I send it for a last edit for grammar and punctuation. ($250-$500 depending on who is available at that time.)

Lastly, I send to my ARC readers. Whoever catches the most mistakes wins an Amazon gift card.

You get what you pay for. Good professional editing costs more than that.

I agree a good editor is important. However, the fact is that the market a.k.a the readers have shown that they have a high pain threshold for mistakes if the plot is strong enough and the cover draws them in. Which is why indies can afford to skimp on things like developmental and copy edits while even borrowing money to get a good cover. Add in the fact that we now have sites like ProWritingAid that do some of the work copy-editors do, and it’s no surprise that the rates stated by the respondents were so low. The one essential editor most indies agree on is the proof-reader and you can find low-cost proofreaders everywhere these days.

I’m chiming in as an indie author that earns over six figures. The editing costs are spot on. I’ve been publishing for over three years and I don’t know anyone that has paid more than $800 for editing.

The people in my circle mostly earn over 100k, several over 500k and a few over 7 figures. Average cost is probably between $150 and $500. On books that are highly rated and hitting lists.

The editing is mostly proof-reading. I’ve worked with a few editors for developmental edits and they charge under $500–their developmental edit is a content edit–a read of the book and a revision letter pointing out areas that need addressing, or continuity things they may have noticed, but mostly it’s a focus on how to make the book better, more conflict, less confusing,etc. These are editors that worked for Big 5 houses.

I think $500 for a developmental edit is very fair. I do it for a few friends for free and it would probably work out to $125 an hour for an average 100k book for me. I do read fast.

Thing is, as editors you can be outraged by these prices, but they are realistic for what most indie authors are paying. The market dictates pricing.

I’m sorry but there is no way you can edit a full-length oil in 3/4 hours. It normally takes at least a week if not longer. A professional editor has many things to consider when working on a manuscript and it has absolutely nothing to do with how fast a reader you are. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to find a decent editor for such a ridiculously cheap rate – but I can almost guarantee they’re not a professional editor earning a living from their craft. Think how many books you’d have to edit a month to earn a living at $500 or less a book? Not to mention an 80,000 word book can take 2/3 weeks for a full edit. Do you think $500 is a good rate to earn for 3 weeks of full-time work?

It doesn’t take 3 weeks for a developmental edit–that is what I was referring to. That is when you read the book and then give suggestions on how to make it better, expand this area, more conflict, this confused me, that kind of thing. Very different from a line or proof edit.

It can take much longer than three weeks for a developmental edit if the book is sufficiently long/complex. Maybe you’re thinking of a briefer editorial review? A developmental edit involves detailed comments in the margins about specific passages, not just an editorial letter summarizing the issues.

No, it includes detailed comments…but on story, not on grammar. It just doesn’t have to take three weeks. I do it in an evening or two for several friends and I’m very good at it. I also love doing it.

Yes, on story, not grammar. When dealing with mechanical errors it’s better to simply make the changes directly. But do you write comments in the margins (with Word’s commenting feature) as well as writing up a summary?

Also keep in mind that professional editors have more than one client. A project that only takes two or three days might not get back to the writer for a few weeks if there are other projects in the queue.

This is what is involved in projects I get 5 cents a word for:

Where necessary for narrative clarity and quality, move paragraphs or sections from one place to another. Delete sections that are repetitive or detract from the narrative, or flag such sections that, in editor’s judgment, should be deleted Determine the language and reading level appropriate for the intended audience and medium, and edit to establish or maintain that language and level. Establish or maintain a consistent tone, style, and authorial voice or level of formality appropriate for the intended audience and medium. Flag sentences or paragraphs that require further development by author for effective narrative quality and flow. Reorder sentences within a paragraph where necessary to ensure that the paragraph has a clear and coherent focus. Adjust the length and structure of paragraphs to ensure variety or consistency, as appropriate to the audience and medium. Ensure that transitions between sentences and between paragraphs are smooth and support the coherent development of the text as a whole. Only where necessary, rewrite sentences, paragraphs, and passages to resolve ambiguities, ensure logical connections, and clarify the author’s meaning or intention, in harmony with the style of the material. Does not include research or writing original material. Render jargon into plain language while leaving terms of art intact. Eliminate wordiness. Ensure consistency of spelling and punctuation. Ensure references are formatted pursuant to the Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition. Some elements may be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition, forthcoming in September 2017, if known. Notice that these are consistent requirements across genre.

Performing those tasks as a trained professional editor can goes at the pace of 5–8 pages an hour. If it’s ESL it’s more like 2–4 pages an hour. The second pass can be more like 10 pages an hour. Anyone who says they can do all that in three days is lying.

Most people don’t have the foggiest idea what goes into editing or what you have to know to do it properly. So naturally someone can claim to be able to do tasks like this in less time than it would take to actually read the book.

I’ve run a small business for many years in addition to writing and I would suggest that an editor who takes several weeks to get back to an author because they have other things they are working on, should maybe manage their time better, so they can give a faster turn around. I have one editor friend who couldn’t keep up with the demand because she was so good at this, turning things around quickly. She managed her time well and didn’t sit on projects–she booked them according to realistic timeframes so that when she received the manuscript, she could then turn it around swiftly. This is one way an editor can give themselves an edge and even charge a premium for a rush project.

So if we have twenty projects in the queue, we should be able to rip through all of them within a few weeks?

Efficiency only gets you so far, and we do have to sleep.

I do sympathize with the editors here, and I do think that for consistent, long-term success, and particularly if your goal is to write “evergreen” books that continue to sell over time, editing matters. You want a tight book, whatever that is for your genre, without distracting errors, plot holes, or WTF moments.

I’m an indie as well as Montlake Romance author. My developmental editor for Montlake was a very well respected acquisitions editor at a major romance house. She’s done a line/developmental edit on a 110K Montlake book for me in as little as 3 days. Generally it takes her a week. That’s comments, letter, etc. I write very clean so there’s no grammatical stuff in there and little editing for clarity. Mostly I found her useful for pace and for the suspense part of those books as I’d never written real-deal romantic suspense before.

I used her for one indie book to see. She charges $2K for a one-pass dev edit on indie clients, but she only works with Montlake authors who also write indie–people who already know their stuff pretty well and don’t require heavy editing. It was an interesting exercise, but I don’t think necessary. I know how to write my main genre, and I use alpha readers as I go that serve the purpose of a developmental editor for me–they are critical readers who think about the story. Mainly they focus on character development and how a character is coming across, which is what my readers care about as well.

For the record I am publishing my 23rd book. I’m on track for high six figures this year, and earned 125K my first year in publishing with my first fiction. My background is in legal and educational publishing–first the copyediting and then the marketing sides.

I can assure folks that there are indeed many indie authors putting out well constructed, clean books. My Montlake books, which go through three rounds of developmental editing, a copyedit, and a proofread, are ranked about the same as my indie books: for books written in the past few years, everything has a 4.4 to 4.8-star review average. I have thousands of reviews on Amazon. I guess you can say that “reviews don’t mean anything,” but an author who does mid-six or seven figures every year for five years and has consistently high reviews is doing something right–and there are plenty of us.

Karen – you just made my day!!! What a great parallel! I will NEVER again be able to think of book-writing as anything other than a laborious gestational journey. BUT, I think editors might have to go through a lot more mire than an obstetrician!!

I didn’t take the survey, but I make high six figures, and I do pay more than the average here for editing, though it should be pointed out that people whipping out a book a month are probably writing books on the shorter side. I see a lot of 30,000-word “novels” in the romance categories. I know I started out doing 120K-ish fantasy novels and am now more typically in the 75K range. I pay about $1,200 for a copy edit on a 100,000-word novel, which my editor typically turns around in five days or so. This is her day job. I am happy to pay her a rate at which she can make a decent living.

You shouldn’t need developmental editors after you’ve been doing this for a while. Many of us have beta readers who chime in on some of the big-picture things. I pay my beta readers (not as much as my editor, but a “thank you for taking the time to do this every month” amount). I also have fans who typo hunt for me for free copies.

Your comment is a direct reflection on the differences between writers and what the editing needs might be. Others have pointed out that after writing several books and running arcs past beta readers, they don’t need developmental editing. Someone learning the ropes probably would. Those who crank out eight or more 30,000 word books per year are writing machines who’ve identified their target market, romance, fantasy, erotica, etc., know how to hit every trope and have the formula so firmly fixed, they have no need for developmental editing. Many of their readers wouldn’t be bothered by grammatical errors either, some only read five pages at a time on a tablet as they ride the metro. Such writers only need basic proof reading not even true line edits. There are writers who hit $100K because of the superior quality of their writing. Others have superb marketing skills and write for profit only. Some get a boost from a traditional publishing house that provides all the skilled professional services. They pay nothing for editing. Others pay premium prices for multi-level editing. We’re all writers, but our methods, motivations and philosophies vary.

I make five figures a month. I had a developmental edit once. It was a wonderful experience I paid I think $500 for. These days my developmental edit is called a plot. Which addresses each character arc, stages of intimacy, sub plot arcs, etc before I even start writing. (50kish words). My editing process it to run it through two different spell checker, send it to alpha readers, send it to good proofreader for two passes, send it to beta readers and then to the ARC team. I’m getting several layers of editing from MY TARGET AUDIENCE. For between $150-$250. Hell, I sometimes know that isn’t anything cause after eight hours of self editing I need a drink and some hair implants. But the thing is, bemoaning that editing should be $2k a pop is like me moaning about .99 books. I hate that price point. It devalues the work. But that is what a large part of the market wants.

The point is, we’re making $100k+ on decent sized catalogs. So we must be doing something right. Gotta adjust to the market, man, or get left behind.

This is pretty much my process too! The only professional editing is generally proofreading.

Hard to believe that none of the high-priced editors pointed out the mistake in the last paragraph:” I was rejected by one 300 agents and publishers.” Interesting article by the way.

Let’s be clear here. You don’t make $100,000 on self-published books by focusing on making high-quality books and putting them up on Amazon for people to discover and market for your through word of mouth. The authors we’re talking about here don’t give a rat’s ass about quality (judging from the pittance they’re willing to spend); they are totally focused on marketing (to their great financial benefit). They sell the sizzle. Once the customer has paid, it doesn’t matter how tough the steak is. So they don’t have to provide USDA prime beef.

Instead of us book editors getting our knickers in a twist about these cheapskates, let’s just acknowledge that they are not our target market and focus our own energies on reaching people who want books they can be proud of.

You don’t? And yet that’s how all the big earners I know do it–the mid-six to seven-figure authors. They focus on high-quality books. No, they don’t only rely on word of mouth. Some do a lot of advertising, others don’t do all that much, but they all have an engaged and large readership–that’s how you get to be a six- to seven-figure author. 🙂

You don’t build a career, and certainly not a high-earning career, on inferior books. You build that on repeat business. How do you get repeat business? Quality.

Marketing isn’t a dirty word. Marketing is, you know, how you let people know you wrote a new book. Or how you let people know your editing services are for sale. I mean, you could just put up a website for people to discover and rely on word of mouth, but . . .

First off, this is an article targeting writers, but I see more comments from editors. Why is that? Could it be that editors are afraid writers will finally start realizing their high-priced services are overrated?

I’ve never met an editor who didn’t think he or she was the best editor ever, and who didn’t think they were an absolute necessity. I’ve also never met an editor who returned a perfect piece to me. If I have to read over an editor’s work and catch mistakes they missed (mistakes I PAID them to catch for me), then what’s the point? If I can still find errors in Big-Five-published books that have been reprinted numerous times and have undergone multiple edits, then what’s the point?

Oh, I know most of the editors here would claim they are much more qualified and worthy of the highest pay rate, and they would brag that they never miss a thing. Well, if that’s true, then why are there so many grammatical errors in the comments that editors are leaving here? If I claimed to be the best plumber who ever walked this land but you came to my house and saw a ton of leaky faucets, would you hire me? Similarly, I’d never hire an editor who couldn’t string together two perfect sentences.

As a writer, I don’t claim to be perfect and I’m no editorial genius. However, based upon the comments I’ve read by many editors here (not all, because some of them impressed the hell out of me), I’ll keep my hard-earned money and take my chances.

Lastly, to the editor who talked about not working for the “laughably low pay” mentioned in the article–welcome to our world. It takes a writer MANY more hours and MUCH more creative energy to write a book than it takes for an editor to merely edit it, but do you know how much money most writers earn on any one title? As a hint, it would be much less than your “laughably low pay”.

Editor here! Gosh, where to begin.

“I’ve never met an editor who didn’t think he or she was the best editor ever, and who didn’t think they were an absolute necessity.”

You either haven’t met many editors or you’ve been meeting the wrong ones. Experienced editors will know their own limitations. Anyone who tells you they’re the best ever is on the wrong side of Dunning-Kruger. I’ll argue that EDITING is a necessity, but not necessarily from me. I might be a good fit for, say, your YA novel. I’d be a bad fit for your mystery novel or your medical textbook.

“I’ve also never met an editor who returned a perfect piece to me.”

You never have and you never will. None of us are perfect.

“If I have to read over an editor’s work and catch mistakes they missed (mistakes I PAID them to catch for me), then what’s the point?”

The point is to make it much better than it was. We strive for excellence, not perfection.

“Oh, I know most of the editors here would claim they are much more qualified and worthy of the highest pay rate, and they would brag that they never miss a thing. ”

That’s easily tested. Hey, editors! Do you brag that you never miss a thing?

“Well, if that’s true, then why are there so many grammatical errors in the comments that editors are leaving here?”

It’s been a while since I scanned all of the comments, and I don’t remember seeing “so many” grammatical errors. I’m sure there were a few typos, though. We’re not going to devote the same effort to a blog comment as we would to a professional piece of writing—we don’t have that kind of time.

Now, if one comment has a ton of errors, you’re right not to trust that editor with your manuscript. I doubt that most of them had a ton.

“If I claimed to be the best plumber who ever walked this land but you came to my house and saw a ton of leaky faucets, would you hire me?”

No. But one leaky faucet of three or four might simply be a faucet you haven’t had time to get to yet. In any case, it’s not a great analogy. Plumbers can work on their own faucets and do a good job. Writers who are also editors can edit their own work up to a point, but then they hit the same wall every other writer hits—they can’t see the flaws and mistakes because they’re too close to it. I’m writing a book, and you’d better believe it’s going through at least two different kinds of editors before it sees the light of day.

“It takes a writer MANY more hours and MUCH more creative energy to write a book than it takes for an editor to merely edit it, but do you know how much money most writers earn on any one title?”

Not much, usually. Your point? There’s a large difference between deciding to write a book that you want to write, knowing that your efforts might not be rewarded, and working for somebody else.

“As a hint, it would be much less than your ‘laughably low pay’.”

Doesn’t matter. You can opt out of editing if ROI is all you’re concerned about, but if you do hire an editor, you need to pay for the editor’s time and labor and expertise.

Let’s go back to your plumbing example. If you hire a guy to fix your leaky faucets, you have the right to expect that when he’s done, your faucets won’t leak. You don’t have the right to blame him if your house doesn’t make it onto the cover of _Better Homes and Gardens_.

(As an aside, are you British? If not, the period for that last sentence goes inside the quotes.)

If you’ve published, I’d be curious to see some of your work.

I write between one and two books most months, with a few weeks off (40- 60k words). I write in series and expect each book to earn between 3-5k in the first two months and then continue to earn lower amounts in the long run. Every book earns something every day. Income goes up with each book I release and I publish box sets every three or four books which further increases income. I’ve never hired an editor or proof reader and do minimal advertising. My books garner reviews in the 4.3 – 4.6 average area, and only one reviewer has suggested hiring an editor (they still gave a four star). I’m not disputing the fact that an editor would make my books better, but I’m writing pulp fiction not literary masterpieces. I understand that I’m not a best seller, but you don’t need to be to make money, and that’s all this gig is about for me.

I am on book 5 comprising of a trilogy and two stand alone, with two more in the pipeline. BEST advice i ever received-get a professional editor (They cost money well spent) and a professional cover (They cost money well spent). I followed that advice and have NO regrets.

How much did you pay for your professional editor? Because no one here is saying not to hire an editor. The reason why some of these editors are complaining is that they don’t view a $200-$500 editors as professional enough. I guess there is a dollar threshold of well over $1,000(if not $2,000-$4,000) that magically makes an edit a good one.

In fiction, acquiring editors are de facto developmental editors. They send revision letters, approve or battle over the author’s revisions, and eventually decline or purchase the ms. and send it to a line editor. If they buy the ms. first, then the line editor does some or all of the battling. The author is not charged for this. Developmental editors in nonfiction are subject matter experts as well as publishing pros. In traditional publishing, such editors are paid by the publisher, not the author.

While it can be extremely useful for a beginning writer to have the benefit of a full developmental edit at least once, it is not always necessary, and there are inexpensive substitutes, such as judges’ comments from contests, critique group comments, free and paid beta reads, and short paid developmental edit samples.

So where do we get these low prices? From authors who only ask for a very limited level of editing or who have a sweetheart deal going. The majority of indie authors do not have a budget for developmental editing, and in my opinion shouldn’t. DIY authorship requires mastering key writing skills, not depending on an editor to fix story, fix characterization, fix theme, etc. A genre-knowledgeable beta reader can point out the weaknesses in a story very quickly and easily because the beta reads as a reader, not an editor. Then it’s up to the author to make changes or not. Even a non-editor friend can help with that kind of reaction.

The reason to obtain editing of any sort is that most authors are not editors. They need help. There aren’t many published authors who sell significant numbers of books who do not make sure they obtain some kind of editorial oversight. The level they choose should match their own skill level. Beyond that, there are no absolutes.

I had no idea there were so many successful, I mean really successful six figure indie authors out there. Or maybe it’s just that the successful ones read this blog?

A cursory Google search, however, leaves me to believe there is some disconnect, that would be between what people are saying in the comments here and reality.

The website Pay Scale has the average Canadian author making $40,866 annually. For full time work that breaks down to about $25.00 per hour.

The Writers’ Union of Canada says “the average writer’s income ($12,879) is a full $36,000 below the national average and represents a cultural emergency. This despite the fact that writers have invested in post-graduate education in large numbers.”

Here’s some other quotes lifted from various sites regarding the income of writers.

“Average earnings in the UK were around £26,500 in 2012.”

“Australian authors earn only $12,900 from their writing, a new report says .

“The Guardian” newspaper in London conducted a survey that found the average amount earned by self-published authors in 2011 was $10,000. And while there are some superstars like Amanda Hocking with sales of $2.5 million, the survey found that half of self-published authors made $500 or less.”

“It is sometimes very difficult to make money as a novel writer, let alone get published. Talented and successful novelists, however, are able to make a decent income from royalties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(USA), salaried authors and writers made an average income of around $65,960 in 2010.”

I know some of these statistics are dated but with the glut of self-published authors in recent years is it likely our incomes increased? Could the fiction some of us write be seeping into the comments we post?

Most authors are honest about how much or how little they’re earning. Some are open about the dollar amounts, which is very helpful to newbies who don’t have any idea what is fair under various circumstances.

Compare this to other small home businesses; millions of them have sprung up because of the internet. How many really clean up and make a fortune? Very few. In many cases, people do not share how little their businesses earn them. (Especially people caught in the network marketing web.) Authors tend to be more forthcoming, and DIY authors are far more forthcoming than authors who accept advances or no advances from traditional publishing companies. Of course nobody wants to admit their books are not selling well, but it’s even harder to admit they got euchred when they signed a contract with a traditional publisher.

Note: Salaried writers usually get more money up front than the majority of authors, either indie or traditionally published, but in most cases that’s work for hire without a royalty ingredient. Their incomes are not comparable to most authors, regardless of how those authors are published.

There is a huge difference between the mean and the median income among self-published authors. The mean is much higher, because the slope is extremely steep at the top. By that I mean: a relatively small number of authors make the bulk of the money, skewing the mean.

You can look up author ranks or use tools to estimate what an author is earning. Amazon’s ranks are right there to see, and so is the price of the book and whether it’s self-published (earning 70% at $2.99 and up). A little research can show you how to do that, if you don’t believe any particular author. Or just go look up somebody on Amazon with no tools, and see how their books are doing. That would probably give you some idea.

Thanks for doing this. I know how much work it took. Always good to see what’s working for other Indies.

Well, all I can say is Wow. All these editors crying foul, and no one is noticing how little cover designers are paid? Even by the 100K’s? As an indie author and artist and member of many writer’s groups, I hear a lot of discussion about how much indie authors are willing to pay for covers and illustrations; and all I can say is, if you editors think you have it bad, try being an artist. Seriously, for $100? The only artists able to make a living on that kind of money are living in third world countries, which is why so many authors are complaining about their difficulty with their projects and contracts with these artists. I can’t begin to tell you how I cringe when I see indie authors posting their DIY book covers using stock photos and funky text. It’s been said time and again that the cover accounts for half of a books sales. If you will pay an editor thousands of dollars why would you then slap a $100 cover on it???

And as a side note on picture books – illustrators are typically paid the same amount as the author. Think about how many words are in your typical picture book. Then compare that to 16-32 fully rendered illustrations. There is no comparison. Illustrators don’t have the luxury of grammar check and find and replace. It’s start all over from scratch for each revision from the art director. A. whole. new. painting. Literally back to the drawing board.

Yes, Joy, but an illustrator does not work on 10 books before being paid for only one of them. An illustrator is chosen for their reputation to create what no one else will imagine from the words, their wondrous emotion charged art with consistent characters and to deliver on time. In the same way that they’ve studied, practiced, honed skills and got known, an author has also studied with expensive courses, talks, workshops, mentorships and reading over a period of years in ‘apprenticeship’. It’s far harder to have a picture book traditionally published than an adult novel. Months and months if not years are spent on new versions, writing query letters and submitting to agents or publishers, and a fortune spent on going conferences (eg SCBWI – the international Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where manuscripts can be discussed with Top 5 editors and other industry professionals, and further expertise developed. A high proportion of texts never make the grade and are forever ‘unpaid’ – hence equal payment. I have had one picture book traditionally published, but more than a dozen are still to find a home. One that has recently been taken to acquisition twice but receiving a ‘No’ from just one person in each team, was started in 2002 …and I’m sure an editor will require even more changes if it’s ever accepted. Forever onward …and love your art.

You make some very valid points, Peter. I’m also an author who plans to indie publish my books for the very reasons you mention. I am currently working on a series of YA novels as well as picture books and the journals that are published and more to come. The training, conferences etc do apply to artists just as much as to writers. You can’t get your foot in the door of a publisher without the right contacts and the competition is fierce for both.

But it’s that thing where traditional publishers sign the author on, then two years of edits and preparation and then if the book doesn’t meet sales expectations within the first three months of publication it’s pulled from the shelves. That’s what makes me an indie author. Not to mention the additional two years most publishers hold a book before they release rights. I’m sixty-five. Add five years to my yet unfinished books and you can see why I’m going this route.

Plus my first journal out is successful enough to know this was the best choice for me.

I would encourage you to at least test the waters by indie publishing at least one of your ms. The experience will help you gain an appreciation for the publishing experience, and if your book does well may help you prove a track record of sales to get you in the door with traditional publication. I do understand their are several good reasons for traditional publication. Especially if you want to get into libraries and schools.

Thanks, Joy. I have several niche projects that I will self-publish, but I know I will never be able to afford months of work by a top-quality imaginative illustrator for most of my picture books.

Yes indeed. As a designer I’m disappointed to see such low value being placed on cover design. And that’s the key concept in my mind – value. If an author truly values their work and the time and effort they have put into it why would they see to devalue it by going cheap on editing and design. Everybody has financial limitations that they need to deal with but focussing entirely on price always seems to be very short-sighted to me. Seeking out experienced professionals to edit and design your book is an investment and not a cost. But sadly we live in an age where everything can be done on the cheap and buyers simply can’t see how those poor results affect their success. Thankfully though there are some authors that “get it”.

I’ve made a lot of comments, but I have a general comment to add. It seems to me that this is all just another version of the “gatekeeper game”. This is the same BS indies have dealt with from day one with regards to legitimacy and stigma and what have you. At first it was “No real author would self-publish” (to try to funnel us all through the gatekeepers and control us and our art) NOW that that hasn’t worked, the new game is: “Oh but it’s SO expensive to be an indie.” (trying to artificially set up barriers.)

This is reinforced by quoting insane prices for editing, marketing, and cover art, things the smart indies can see through and simply ignore and do their own thing in order to produce a quality book and a decent profit. But just like “no REAL author self publishes” stopped a few people, this sort of price inflation nonsense will stop some as well.

If you make it seem like anybody who goes indie is going to have to spend over $5,000 to get their book out there (and obviously if you’re allotting $2,500 for the editing alone, $5k is probably “frugal”), then it scares people off. They doubt themselves and think they aren’t good enough and can never be good enough. And they can’t afford all that money so they should just sit back and let their dream die. Meanwhile there are readers out there who would have loved that book if you’d just had the courage to publish it with whatever skills and resources you had available.

Indies, don’t listen to this crap. You do things your own way. Experiment. Figure out what works. Do things on a shoestring if you have to. Trade services with others if you have to. Do what you have to, to bring your art into the world, and don’t listen to all this other crazy crap. Because at the end of the day readers decide, not someone who has overvalued their own services in the indie marketplace.

Editors who think they should be paid $2,500. If that’s your rate, that’s your right. But you would be better served trying to work with larger publishers than indies. And stop complaining that indies work differently and aren’t seeking what you are offering.

Whether you are an opera singer, builder, cook, author… people make a judgement of your skills dependent on their perception of the final product. Some people are more qualified to judge than others. You can fool some people …but each trade has its experts. I prefer my books (my business cards) gain acclaim from experts as well as most readers – I may not succeed, but I do all that I can to create the very best book possible. Other writers are happy just to please a significant number of readers or family and friends.

This week I went to a talk by 3 Judges of a book award that attracted 600 entries. Books by famous million-selling authors were rejected for inferior editing. Some mainstream publishers cut corners and editing time as well as self-publishers. The judges believed that no author, no matter how experienced, can step back far enough from their own work to structurally and line edit it to perfection. Beta readers and readers in general provide only a perception.

If you write and market enjoyable books you will make money, possibly $100k, without a professional editor. And you will never please every expert or reader.

Authors are happy with different outcomes. Some do it for the money only. Some may pay for an ‘average’ edit and are content with the book’s reputation and sales, whatever results. Other authors pay for professional edits to ensure the work truly is the best it can be, no expense spared. They may receive lower direct income from the book itself, but gain acclaim as a writer, industry recognition and extra cash from regular speaking engagements. There are plenty of Indie published books edited by former editors from Big 5 publishers as well as by other highly trained freelance professional editors, with the resulting works enhancing the author’s reputation and possibly the sales of their next book.

It’s a free world. People will make their own editing choice depending on what outcome provides inner satisfaction.

I’m a seven-figure author, and I self-edit. Why? Because my readers LOVE my work exactly as it is to the point that they re-read my books multiple times. They also comment on how clean and professional my books are , and how well-edited and typo-free. I can’t take credit for the last bit, as my book goes through 7-10 betas (fans who do it for free) who catch typos before publication, but the editing is all me. I painstakingly craft every sentence, every scene, and every paragraph, and I re-read the book dozens of times, perfecting the flow until I love every single word. For me to then hand it to some random editor to remake in his/her own style doesn’t make any sense.

Having said that, I have edited books for a writing partner, and I know heavy line/content edits are hard, time-consuming work that deserves to be rewarded appropriately. You just can’t claim that every professional author needs those heavy edits, because many of us don’t. My betas each find a typo or two per book, for maybe 7-10 total that I miss when I edit myself. So how much should each typo cost me?

Interesting about the use of author assistants. I wonder if anyone has seen a directory or list of author assistants. I don’t know an author who uses one that could give me an recommendation. Researching them on the internet is so time consuming. Thanks!

Very informative, thanks for posting. I agree that accountants also work when they’re uninspired. I am an accountant and was inspired to write the book Love Ledgers: Confessions of a Plain Jane Accountant.

I have a newspaper background and a journalism degree. So does my husband, who is my editor. Luckily, he doesn’t charge me anything. Editing can have several different meanings. If a book is really flawed, i.e. it has basic structural and grammatical problems, editing could be expensive. But for someone who produces a good story and good, clean copy, it shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars. If I were looking for an editor, I’d try to find a retired newspaper editor or English professor.

Very informative and quite humorous at times. Evidently many of the editors and authors did not feel the need to, “proofread,” their posts!

The article implies that people are ‘100kers’ because they spend more money on services, but they could just as easily be spending more money on services because they have higher budgets. The article assumes some kind of cause and effect, and that’s not necessarily the case.

Maybe they sell more because people like what they write.

Good article, thanks.

One thing stuck, though. $250-$500 for editing sounds extremely low. I never got an editing estimate for anywhere close to that. It sounds more like proofreading costs to me. Unless the 100Ker’s write extremely short books. Still, I question that price range for professional editing. And if they are out there, I want to know their names and how I can reach them. 😉

Good data. Thanks, again. Annie

I’m amazed and appalled at how many people shrug off the idea of new authors shelling out $2,500 for editing. I understand that it’s extremely important, but most regular people don’t HAVE $2,500 dollars. That’s two months’ income for me, and I live paycheck to paycheck. My tax return MIGHT pay for half that, and that’s not claiming allowances.

Money’s not going to deter me from putting out my best work. Now, proofread myself, hand it off to a few capable friends, THEN shell out $500 for a cheaper edit? That I can do. You play with the hand you’re dealt, and there ain’t no $2,500 ace in mine.

First I’d like to say that the reading was quite informative but overall mostly review. However for myself I’m in the far turn of about to publish my first actual book. I too work 2 jobs, am a sinle dad, and full time writer and that’s including virtually No sleep to make it all happen as I often realistically have to say to people; “I don’t even have time for time”,.. If that makes any sense at all to anyone reading this. I have almost little money to do this in it’s entirety and have been pretty much putti g myself through the crash course equivalent to learning as I go. Honestly I don’t have time for at all to perhaps short of a biblical miracle to ever see the end result of this journey after the book is released much less the journey itself there directly after. That said… I cannot elaborate on that to anyone! Sorry..😥 My book will have no characters to go on to other books or series of or volumes to be as movie sequels either. It’s over 20 years in the making as a Anthology of poetry & in short also the process at which my entire life’s view and coming full circle in soul & mind as to my life and why that caused me to follow through with it at all. All proceeds will benefit my only daughter and I can only pray that anyone in the slightest can take even the smallest pieces of my story to their own lives for the better as I’ve lived much more than my age in years..Trust you Me.

This was a helpful article for someone writing their first book. Thank you.

Hi, I guess I would be considered an EA? I have a book written along with enough content for a second. I have several titles and outlines of works to be finished once I complete the first two. I’ve had a blog for close to 10 years that’s been enjoyed by people in several different (14, I think) countries and all across the U.S.

I have many many, positive and encouraging responses and requests for my book, once it is complete. I’m also followed by numerous other writers of like passion, however, due to a lack of nerves and time, I have been dragging my feet on getting it edited for publication.

With that said, this article gives some much needed insight as to what to expect in that process.

“Authors are, on the whole, an honest group”. Lol, by definition Authors are a bunch of liers. They lie for a living. I speak as a 100K Author myself, (only on launch day as a pro rata rate.)

Wow, this is such a great article. It wasn’t all hype and fluff without any real information that us little guys can use. Very encouraging too. My first goal is to get to 10k in a year, lol, but it’s nice to feel like the bigger ones are actually obtainable, rather than get the usual, “don’t even dream big…just write because you love it.” — thanks for the inspiration!

I’m a fiction book editor, and what the other editors in this comment section have written is correct. Professional editing, by a qualified content editor, costs way more than your survey indicates. Copy editing is less expensive, but that comes after the content issues have been resolved. So many novels by aspiring authors have flaws from the story-level perspective — issues way deeper than grammar and punctuation. For tips on the most common fiction writing errors and how to solve them, authors might like to visit the 70-plus “how to” articles on my website. But those don’t take the place of having a qualified content editor (developmental editor) critique your novel before you send it out into the world. Why? Because authors have blind spots to the flaws in their own material. Once they’re shown the mistakes they are making, the blind spots are gone, and they’re on their way.

I just published my first novel, so I appreciate the lively debate and multiple perspectives.

For my novel, I hired my friend, a former paralegal, as a beta reader ($30/hr) and asked her to review the novel twice. I probably spent $600 or so. Even a) having a Bachelor’s in English and b) having worked as a copywriter and editor professionally myself, I knew it was important to have a second set of eyes on the document.

I plan to work with a professional editor for content/copy editing before I republish the novel later this year. That said, I’m aiming for 1-3 longer books per year… not 6-12.

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How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?

novel writer pay

How much do authors make per book? As with everything else in publishing, the answer is: It depends. A lot of readers have the idea that every author is wealthy, but that is far from the truth. Yes, Stephen King probably has more money than he’ll ever need, but he is an outlier. The majority of authors don’t even make a living wage with their books.

In 2018, the Authors Guild partnered with 14 other writers organizations as well as some publishing platforms to conduct a survey of 5,067 professional writers in the United States. The median 2017 income of participating authors was $6,080 with just $3,100 of that being from book income alone (as opposed to speaking fees, teaching, book reviewing, and other supplemental activities). The median income of people who described themselves as full-time authors was just $20,300 when including all book-related activities.

How do authors get paid?

Before we get into the numbers, I want to explain how author payment works in the traditional publishing industry, since I’ve seen a lot of confusion about it. Typically, when an author signs a publishing contract, they or their agent negotiate an advance against royalties. When a press release or article states that a book “has sold for” so many dollars, this amount is the advance and not a flat purchase price. An advance is often paid in three installments: when the contract is signed, when the manuscript is accepted by the publisher, and when the book is published. Some publishers may break down these payments even more.

Once the book is published, authors make a percentage of sales (more on this later) for each book sold, which are their “royalties.” However, since they have received an advance against royalties, they are essentially earning money they have already been paid. They don’t get paid again until their royalties have surpassed their advance amount, which can take any amount of time from before the book is even published until…well, never. Once a book has made the author the amount of royalties they were advanced, they begin to earn additional royalties; this is often called “earning out.” If the book never makes the advance back, the author does not have to pay the overage back to the publisher, except in circumstances where they have violated/terminated the contract.

This is a general description of the process and there are any amount of variances. For example, some authors will receive no advance and many authors who write for established intellectual properties will receive a flat amount instead of royalties. All of this to say that some traditional authors will never receive more than that initial advance payment, while some authors may continue earning money on books until they die. And some authors lose money if they spend more on promotion, marketing, and expenses than they end up making.

woman holding book on bookshelves

How much do authors make per book?

A traditionally published author makes 5–20% royalties on print books, usually 25% on ebooks (though can be less), and 10–25% on audiobooks. Amazon pays self-published authors 70% on ebooks priced 2.99 to 9.99, 35% on ebooks priced outside of that, 60% less printing costs on paperbacks sold on their platform, and 40% less printing costs sold via expanded distribution.

In traditional publishing, the publisher manages the process and pays for all costs associated with producing and distributing the book as well as a widely varied amount of marketing, while a self-published author is responsible for that process and those costs.

When I teach classes and am asked how much do authors make, people tend to be deeply unsatisfied with my “it depends” answer. There is no way to predict how much a book will make, but I spoke with 15 authors of all stripes to demonstrate the variety of options. I spoke with self-published authors and traditionally published authors who have made less than they spent on expenses, authors of both paths who easily make a living off their writing, and everyone in between.

While there are many author earning surveys done by a variety of organizations, they are self-reported and only reach the sphere of influence of the organization. Much like with this article, mega bestsellers -— think Stephen King or James Patterson — don’t participate in those surveys. I would also like to caution against reading any kind of “data” on author earnings from websites that are also trying to sell you author services. I ran across many of these in my research and the numbers they present are incredibly skewed and intentionally misleading.

Two of the highest-earning authors I spoke to were both romance authors, but with very different stories. Hazel* publishes adult romance with a big five publisher and has two books out so far. Her first deal was for two books with a $50,000 total advance. Her first book was a Book of the Month Club selection and has earned an additional $42,000 in royalties so far. She sold another two books for a $70,000 advance and was able to quit her day job with the assistance of her husband’s income. She’s spent about $11,000 over the past two years promoting the first two books, including travel from 2019. “I would say that my writing income doesn’t quite replace what I made working full-time, but it’s enough that we’re able to make it work,” with her husband’s job providing health insurance for both of them.

Ari* is a self-published romance author with 50+ books who makes a high six figures each year. She spends up to $8,000 per book on editing, covers, and promo excluding travel. “It took a year of writing for me to make sure I made 3x my former job’s salary for me to feel comfortable writing full time. My spouse did not have a stable income as he was in graduate school and we went without medical insurance for a year since I was paying high costs even with my employer. It was a scary time when we decided to make this choice, but it was the best choice for us at the time.”

Sue London is a self-published author of historical romance, including the Haberdashers Series , with six novels and 16 novellas published since 2013. She’s made anywhere from $8,000 to $68,000 a year, depending on her output. She spends $500 to $4,000 per year on promo, not including covers. “There was a moment in 2015 when I thought maybe I could do it full time, but my husband had to leave work on disability and now I’m the primary breadwinner. My day job is our primary income (about $150k) so to consider retiring to full-time writing would have to increase sales enough to cover both my income and the relevant benefits.”

Romance is the largest segment of the consumer book market and also the market most welcoming of ebooks, so there are a lot of self-published (and hybrid) authors making a living there. There are also, of course, plenty of authors making just a couple hundred per book. Sherie* has published six books with digital publishers and self-published two. She didn’t receive an advance for any of the books and has earned a total of $750 on all of her books. She has won RWA chapter awards and spent more than $5,000 going to book signings and conferences and self-publishing her books. In 2019, she made about $500 for teaching workshops and doing presentations, but that work has decreased during the pandemic.

Saadia Faruqi, author of A Thousand Questions , has published 20 books including children’s fiction, adult fiction, and nonfiction. She’s received “very low royalties” for her adult work, but her children’s books have done better. With 16 books in her Yasmin series, she earns about $35,000–45,000 per year, despite small ($2,000–5,000) advances. She also makes about $15,000 a year from school speaking engagements. In 2020, she published a middle grade novel with a $60,000 advance, which has not earned out yet. She’s able to make a living with her book income, but only recently, after working a part-time job and her husband being the major breadwinner for their family. “With the switch to full-time writing, I’m able to write more books in the year. I attribute my high income to the rate of writing, which allows me to sell several books a year in a variety of age categories.”

open book on brown wooden table

Quinn* is a middle grade author with a Big 5 publisher who signed a two-book deal for $150,000 and sold a third book for $65,000 before the second book was released. She says she hasn’t spent very much on promotion and quit her part-time job a couple of months before the book came out, but mainly due to childcare costs. “My husband does make enough income that we could get by even if I didn’t make money, which has taken some of the pressure off as well.”

Maxym M. Martineau’s Kingdom of Exiles was originally sold as adult fantasy in a three-book deal for $9,000 but the publisher did a special young adult release and it did better in that market, so the rest of the series was published as YA. The book has been featured in Entertainment Weekly , New York Times , and earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly . She has earned an additional $5,000 in royalties and has sold three more books for $10,500 as well as a German edition of the first two books for €9,000. She has spent about $2,000 of her own money promoting the book but also has had significant publisher support.

Also in YA, we have Cory*, a YA author published with a mid-sized press. Their 2015 urban fantasy received a $500 advance and has earned $700 in additional royalties while their 2016 F/F romance received no advance but has earned over $7,000 in royalties, with about $500 spent in promotion on each book. They also make about $5,000 each year in other author-related income that they aggressively pursue.

Taylor* has four small-press novels — which garnered no advance, but bring in about $30 per month in royalties total — and three mid-sized press novels, each with a $2500 advance. The first of the latter has earned and made about $300 additional in royalties. Taylor also said about half of their publishing income comes from appearances, which is in line with the data from the 2018 Authors Guild survey.

Jessie* is a YA author with a big five publisher and ten books under their belt, including some intellectual property work. Their first deal was for $7,500 with a small press but the buzz was impressive so the week after release, they sold two more books for six figures. They have been nominated for several major awards, included on impressive lists, and have hit the bestseller lists for their IP projects, which pay less per book but see a higher volume of sales.

Jamie Krakover is a self-published author of the YA sci-fi book Tracker220 . She has made $200 on the book since its October release but has spent $1,800 to promote it. Some of those ads and opportunities haven’t yet had a chance to make an impact on sales, but she’s optimistic. “Indie authors typically have to build a pretty decent sized backlog before they can make enough to sustain,” she told me.

Bharat Krishnan, author of Privilege , is also a self-published author of seven books who said he’s made “several thousand” and “might crack five figures in the next year.” He said he’s spent “a couple thousand” and has a day job to support him, but his writing has helped him taken a few international trips.

Jon Chaisson is a self-published author of five SFF books, starting in 2015. He says his income is “almost nil at this point, but I think I’ve maybe earned a few hundred dollars over the course of the last five years” but “if I remain in the public eye and constant in my output, then I’ll eventually find my fanbase and will have a back catalogue to back it all up.”

Popular science-fiction author Jim C. Hines has been publishing his income reports every year since 2007. He’s never hit a bestseller list, but his last five books have been lead titles for his publisher. He made $31,411 in 2020, including $13.5k from a Kickstarter. In 2016, he also published a survey of almost 400 authors’ income , which resulted in an average of $114,124, but a median of $17,000, meaning a handful of high-earning outliers were bringing that average up.

Alex* is another popular science-fiction author with a large publisher. His first book deal was for two books for $15,000. The first book has earned over $40,000 in additional royalties and the second book has earned $20,000 more. He signed a second two-book deal for $30,000. He’s spent about $500 in ads and about $5,000 traveling to promote his book but admits “almost all of that is for my own entertainment rather than expecting anything to come out of it. I like meeting and hanging out with other authors, so I do it.” He is retired with a pension and healthcare taken care of, but he made about $60,000 in 2020 and expects to hit six figures in 2021.

Speaking of six figures, I suggest any authors looking to make a living self-publishing books check out the Six Figure Authors podcast, as the three authors there share a lot of detail about how they manage their successful writing careers.

The second-largest fiction market, after romance, is mystery/thriller. Riley* is a bestselling mystery author with a large publisher. Their first deal was for two books for $25,000 total, but the books went on to win major awards and sell a quarter-million copies. They haven’t spent much money promoting their books, but “spent a ton of time writing articles and pitching pieces to promote the books.” They currently make about $150,000 per year. “Right now I’m the main financial support for my family, although we get our health insurance through my husband, which is huge.”

Nick* has seen the difference genre makes. He published a short literary story collection with a small press in 2013 and a horror novel with a large independent press. The first earned him a $1,000 advance and no royalties, while the second earned him a $35,000 advance plus $4,000 for foreign rights. He has a job as a university professor to pay the bills, but it also affords him the opportunity to read or speak at other universities that pay him $500–1,000 per appearance. In 2020, he was awarded a large prize of $25,000 and has won other prizes with smaller awards of around $1,000.

Most of the authors I spoke to who are able to write full time would not have been able to do it without the financial support of their spouses or family members. Though I didn’t ask about health insurance, many of them mentioned their spouse-provided or state-provided (for those not in the U.S.) health insurance plans as a major factor. If they have to pay for their health insurance, many authors would have to make not just their regular salary to be able to go full-time, but 1.2 to 1.5 times their regular salary at a minimum. Considering how much they make per book, and the fact that most authors need a year or more to write and sell a book, that’s not feasible for many of them.

Not to mention the work doesn’t end once the book is written. Maxym added, “One of the things that’s hard to quantify from a monetary perspective is the amount of time and emotional labor that goes into networking and finding ways to connect with people who do have a platform to elevate your work…There’s no dollar amount attached to that, but the hours spent doing that work do have value, and when opportunities don’t pan out, it’s a punch to the gut.” She added that if you have other jobs or responsibilities, it’s very difficult to find that time.

So how much money does an author make? It still depends. We often hear about big splashy seven-figure deals, but those are definitely outliers in the industry. For the majority of authors, the true answer to that question is “not enough,” which goes to show writing the books you love is often a labor of love for the authors themselves.

Many thanks to the authors who shared their information with me. Money in this industry is a touchy subject, so I appreciate your frankness. Authors who are named agreed to being named and those who requested anonymity have had their names randomly changed, which is denoted with a * symbol.

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novel writer pay

    Occupational Outlook Handbook

Writers and Authors

What They Do

Work environment, how to become one, job outlook, state & area data, similar occupations.

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What Writers and Authors Do

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media.

Writers and authors may work anywhere they have access to a computer. Many writers and authors are self-employed.

How to Become a Writer or Author

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a full-time position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $69,510 in May 2021.

Employment of writers and authors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 15,200 openings for writers and authors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for writers and authors.

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of writers and authors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about writers and authors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Writers and Authors Do About this section

Writers and authors

Writers and authors develop content for various types of media, including advertisements; blogs; books; magazines; and movie, play, and television scripts.

Writers and authors typically do the following:

Writers must establish their credibility with editors  and readers through clean prose, strong research, and the use of sources and citations. Writers and authors select the material they want to use and then convey the information to readers. With help from editors, they may revise or rewrite sections, searching for the clearest language and phrasing.

Some writers and authors are self-employed or freelancers. They sell their written content to book and magazine publishers; news organizations; advertising agencies; and movie, theater, and television producers. They may be hired to complete specific short-term or recurring assignments, such as writing a newspaper column, contributing to a series of articles in a magazine, or producing an organization’s newsletter.

A number of writers produce material that is published only online, such as for digital news organizations or blogs.

The following are examples of types of writers and authors:

Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately describe important life events.

Bloggers write posts to a Web log (blog) that may pertain to any topic or a specific field, such as fashion, news, or sports.

Content writers write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a given field.

Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce written content, such as an advertising slogan.

Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.

Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They come up with a concept, write lines for actors to say, produce stage direction for actors to follow, and suggest ideas for theatrical set design.

Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters, and dialogue, or adapt a book into a movie or television script.

Speechwriters compose orations for business leaders, politicians, and others who must speak in front of an audience. Because speeches are often delivered live, speechwriters must think about audience reaction and rhetorical effect.

Work Environment About this section

writers and authors image

Writers and authors held about 142,800 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of writers and authors were as follows:

Writers and authors may work anywhere they have access to a computer.

Jobs are somewhat concentrated in major media and entertainment markets—California, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC—but improved communications and Internet capabilities allow writers and authors to work from almost anywhere. Some writers and authors prefer to work and travel to meet with publishers and clients and to do research or conduct interviews in person.

Work Schedules

Some writers and authors work part time. Most keep regular office hours, either to stay in contact with sources and editors or to set up a writing routine, but many set their own hours. Others may need to work evenings and weekends to produce something acceptable for an editor or client. Self-employed or freelance writers and authors may face the pressures of juggling multiple projects or continually looking for new work.

How to Become a Writer or Author About this section

writers and authors image

A college degree in English, communications, or journalism is generally required for a salaried position as a writer or author. Experience gained through internships or any writing that improves skill, such as blogging, is beneficial.

Writers and authors typically need a bachelor's degree in English or a related field, such as communications or journalism.

Other Work Experience

Writers and authors can get job experience by working for high school and college newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, advertising and publishing companies, or nonprofit organizations. College theater programs offer playwrights an opportunity to have their work performed. Many magazines and newspapers also have internships for students. Interns may write stories, conduct research and interviews, and gain related experience.

Employers may prefer candidates who are able to create a visual story using tables, charts, infographics, and maps. Knowledge of computer software and editing tools that combine text with graphics, audio, video, and animation may be helpful.

In addition, anyone with Internet access can start a blog and gain writing experience. Some of this writing may lead to paid assignments regardless of education. Writers or authors can come from different backgrounds and experiences.

Writers and authors typically gain writing experience through on-the-job training. They may practice and work with more experienced writers and editors  before their writing is ready for publication.

Writers may need formal training or experience related to a particular topic that they want to write about.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some associations offer certifications for writers and authors. Certification can show competence and professionalism, making candidates more attractive to employers. For example, the American Grant Writers’ Association  (AGWA) offers the Certified Grant Writer® credential.

Certification may increase opportunities for advancement.


Writers and authors can get a start by putting their name on their work when writing for small businesses, local newspapers, advertising agencies, and nonprofit organizations. However, opportunities for advancement within these organizations may be limited.

Writers and authors may advance their careers by building a reputation, taking on complex writing assignments, and getting published in prestigious markets and publications. Having published work that has been well received and consistently meeting deadlines are important for advancement.

Many editors begin work as writers. Those who are particularly skilled at identifying stories, correcting writing style, and interacting with writers may be interested in editing jobs.

Important Qualities

Adaptability. Writers and authors need to be able to adapt to updates in software platforms and programs, including various content management systems (CMS).

Creativity. Writers and authors must be able to develop interesting plots, characters, or ideas for new stories.

Critical-thinking skills. Writers and authors must be adept at understanding new concepts that they convey through writing.

Determination. Writers and authors must have drive and persevere to meet deadlines.

Persuasion. Writers, especially those in advertising, must be able to convince others to feel a certain way about a good or service.

Social perceptiveness. Writers and authors must understand how readers react to ideas to connect with their audience.

Writing skills. Writers and authors must be able to write clearly and effectively to convey feeling and emotion and to communicate with readers.

Pay About this section

Median annual wages, May 2021

Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics

The median annual wage for writers and authors was $69,510 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $133,580.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for writers and authors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Job Outlook About this section

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

As traditional print publications lose ground to other media forms, writers and authors are shifting their focus to online media, which should result in some employment growth for these workers.

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational employment and wage statistics (oews).

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at . Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.


CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of writers and authors.

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about writers and authors, visit

American Grant Writers’ Association, Inc.

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Association of Writers & Writing Programs

National Association of Science Writers

Society of Professional Journalists

Writers Guild of America East

Poets, Lyricists and Creative Writers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook , Writers and Authors, at (visited March 03, 2023 ).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Employment Change, projected 2021-31

Growth rate (projected).

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

Projected growth rate.

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

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How Much Do Authors Make? The Truth About Money in Publishing

How much can authors expect to earn from their books? A first-time author with a traditional publishing deal might expect an advance of $1,000-$10,000 and 5-18% royalties once they “earn out” their advance. Self-published authors do not receive advances, but their royalties can reach up to 70% for ebook editions.

If this sounds like cryptic mumbo-jumbo to you right now, that’s okay. In this post, we’ll break down money matters in publishing and help you understand how much authors make from publishing a book. For those already in the know, here are some up-to-date facts and figures:

Bar chart showing 70%, 37ish%, and 25% ebook royalty rates for self publishing, small press publishing, and traditional publishing respectively.

*Self-publishing figures based on Amazon KDP royalties .

As you can already tell, an author’s income will depend on many factors (most of which are out of an author’s control). So, let’s look closely at the world of advances, royalties, and additional income streams. 

OGMoqpEJZoA Video Thumb

Advances in traditional book deals

In traditional publishing, authors receive an advance on royalties based on how well the publisher thinks the book will sell. The advance is estimated on other factors too, such as the publisher’s size, and the author’s popularity and track record. 

There are also outliers, of course, household-name authors who nab hundreds of thousands in advances. To name a few:

These authors are the exception, not the rule. They all published books with lower advances (or in Roupenian’s case, got a viral story in the New Yorker ) before ascending to the six-figure mark. The lesson here is that you need to be at the top of your writing game before you can get there financially — and traditional publishing still requires a great deal of luck. If you're publishing traditionally, a reputable literary agent to help you negotiate the best possible deal. In that case, you can check out our directory of literary agents to find relevant candidates. 

The scales aren't always balanced

Moreover, one can’t ignore the racial disparities in trad pub payments exposed by 2020’s #PublishingPaidMe campaign , in which BIPOC authors reported much lower advances than white authors. To give a particularly egregious example, N.K. Jemisin — one of the most prominent sci-fi/fantasy authors working today, boasting four Hugo Awards and a MacArthur Genius Grant — received just $25,000 for each book in her Broken Earth trilogy. And this was after she’d published multiple successful series in the same genre!

#PublishingPaidMe was followed by an informal Twitter questionnaire, responses to which are available in this public spreadsheet , where you can get a sense of what advances are given to which genres, and how they might have been affected by biases.

If your book sells enough to repay the publisher of the advance they gave you, you’ll then earn royalties on the rest of the copies sold.  

Author royalties on sales

There is a staggering difference in the royalties earned by a traditionally published author and a self-published one. The former doesn’t have to take a financial risk to pay for book marketing, printing, and distribution, but agrees to receive lower royalties. In contrast, a self-published author takes ownership of the publishing process but also keeps most of the profit on each sale.

How much do authors make per book?

novel writer pay

On the other hand, if you were to sell the same amount of copies independently, with 50% and 70% royalties for the two different formats, you’d make $51,600 一 five times as much.

This significant income difference means that, outliers aside, many more self-published authors make a living than traditionally published authors, with self-publishing royalty earnings outpacing trad pub’s advance plus subsequent royalties. This was proven by several years of Author Earnings reports — most notably, one study that divided authors into groups earning more than $10k, $25k, $50k, and $100k. The study found that the number of indie authors earning 5-6 figures/year from book sales was much higher than the number of Big 5 authors earning the same.

Curious about the success an indie author can achieve? Check out this list of 8 self-publishing success stories every author should know.

Though the raw data is no longer accessible to the general public, the Author Earnings methodology was extremely thorough and more reliable than any self-selecting author surveys. Their reports analyzed the sales data of up to a million published titles, extracted directly from Amazon’s website. With that in mind, the major findings were as follows:

A bar graph of authors earnings

A bar graph of authors earning more than $50k

In short, indie authors tend to make more than traditionally published authors, especially if they’ve recently debuted. This is partly because indie authors often work harder for digital exposure (extra helpful for those with extensive backlists!), but mostly because they receive much higher royalties than their traditionally published counterparts.

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Additional income streams for writers

In addition to book sales, there are several ways for writers to supplement their income. 

Suppose your work gains enough traction to transcend the book format. In that case, you may receive royalties from subsidiary rights for screen adaptations (what people call having your work “optioned” by a company like Netflix), or merchandise, which can range from branded objects like mugs or posters to clothing or special editions of your books. 

TV Series poster of Twilight, The Witcher, The Wheel of Time, and Bridgertone

Many authors also choose to offer freelance services like professional editing and ghostwriting in order to grow their income. If that’s something you’re experienced enough to consider, Reedsy’s marketplace could help you find fellow authors in need of your help.

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For more tips on how to pay the bills as an author, check out our 8 tips for making money by writing books . 

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How Much Does An Author Make Per Book? Learn Here

Have you wondered, “how much does an author make per book?” Success as an author is sometimes depicted as a paradise island where the author can lounge on a remote island while collecting royalties from their best-selling books. The truth, of course, is very different.

Do you want to write a book but are unsure if it’s worth your time and effort? Have you ever wondered how authors can support themselves? How much money does an author get for each book?

If you’re curious about the earning potential of traditionally published authors and self published authors, such as how much a first-time author or an eBook author makes, then keep reading because we have some answers.

This post will dive deep into how much an author makes each book and different ways to make money with books. You can explore his other works here.

Table of Contents

How Do Authors Get Paid?  

how much does an author make per book

When an author accepts a publishing contract, they or their agency negotiates an upfront payment in exchange for royalties that will be paid.

Press releases or mentions could say a book “has been sold for” a certain amount of money. This amount is referred to as the advance, not a fixed final price.

The publisher accepts the manuscript when the contract is signed. And then, the book is published, and the author receives an advance payment. Depending on the publication, the fee may be broken down even more.

Authors get paid a percentage of each book sold, known as “royalties.” These royalties go to the author once the work has been published.

Due to the advance against royalties, they essentially earn money already paid. They don’t get paid again until their revenues exceed their advance.

Once a book has reached the number of royalties the author promised, it can start earning royalties again. This process is known as “earning out.” Unless the publisher has broken or terminated the contract, the author need not return the overage if the book never repays the advance.

Some authors may receive no advance, while others will receive a flat sum instead of royalties for their work on established intellectual properties.

Some traditional authors will never see a penny more than the advance they received.

And others may make money off their books until the day they die. Some authors lose money because of the time and money put into advertising, marketing, and other costs.

How To Write A Book: An Ultimate Guide For Newbies

How Much Do Authors Make Per Book?

On print books, a conventionally published author receives 5–20% royalties, 25% on ebooks, and 10–25% on audiobooks. However, these rates are subject to change after the global pandemic.

Amazon pays self-published writers 70% on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, 35% on ebooks priced outside of that range, 60% less printing expenses on paperbacks sold on their platform, and 40% less printing costs on paperbacks sold through wider distribution.

Authors who choose to self-publish on amazon or elsewhere are responsible for all the costs associated with producing and distributing the book and a wide range of marketing. In contrast, traditional publishers oversee and pay for the entire process.

Factors that Can Affect an Author’s Earnings

While estimating the prospective earnings can be challenging, various elements can determine how much an author earns:

The content and genre of the book you write will undoubtedly influence its earning potential. For example, you may write the most detailed and beautifully written book on forensic accounting, but will there be a niche audience for that subject? 

Depending on current trends, the theme and style of your book may affect its earnings. This can be true with nonfiction works if, for example, there is a surge in public interest in a specific activity, sport, or political person. Young adult fantasy novels, children’s books , and historical fiction, for example, can all become very popular at different times like romance authors.

Editing Costs

Any great author, new or old, understands that mistakes are bound to happen. The second set of eyes is always helpful for spotting inconsistencies and minor errors. Also, authors should expect to pay anywhere from a few thousand to thousands of dollars for editing services.

Some authors are prolific, churning out many books each year. The more books you sell , the more money you’ll make in total royalties.

You can count on recurring clients if you publish a series.

Marketing is a critical component of financial success. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating the best book on the hottest topic if no one knows it exists. You can always look at complex niches and see examples from Scanteam , who can also guide you into marketing a successful book.

Selling books takes a lot of time, especially for self-published authors, who must handle their marketing.

The higher the quality of the writing, the more likely it is to be successful. The answer to how much an author makes the per book highly depends on practical aspects of the book’s construction.

Is it going to be a hardback or a soft cover ? Is it better to have a large coffee-table book or a slim volume? Or is it in color or just black and white? The more money you spend on the book’s design, the less money you’ll make from each book’s sales.

The basic conclusion is that it depends on how much an author earns per book. As an author, all the following factors will affect your earnings potential.

Traditionally Published Authors

The publisher pays an advance fee to traditionally published authors before the book is published. An advance forecast of how well the book will sell in the first 6 to 12 months after its release.

A hefty advance fee also signals that the publisher would sell the book aggressively to repay their investment.

Publishers typically pay a $5,000 to $10,000 advance to good first-time authors. This means they would need to sell around 1,000 copies of a book that costs $20 per copy to break even after printing and distribution costs.

Following that, the author will receive royalties, typically about 10%. The percentage could climb to 15% with the number of copies sold.

However, books written by well-known authors or public figures, such as politicians, frequently command greater advances. This is because an audience is already interested in the book, allowing publishers to be more confident that the book will sell many copies.

For example, in 2014, Simon & Schuster reportedly paid Hillary Clinton a $14 million advance for her book Hard Choices. The book recounted her time as Secretary of State, including the overthrow and killing of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

Self-Published Authors

author earnings

Unlike self-published authors, traditionally published authors do not have to worry about the time and money it takes to develop a marketing strategy for their work. However, self-published authors benefit from higher royalties, if not complete recognition.

Self-published authors who have invested in editing and cover design but lack a traditional publisher cannot charge as much as a published author.

Self-published authors can charge anywhere from $5 to $20 for their book instead of the $10 to $30 that traditionally published counterparts charge.

A self-published author’s sales will also be much lower than their peer’s, especially if they are just getting started in the traditional publishing business.

They lack a name and a publisher that can get their book into bookshops and libraries worldwide. In addition, they lack the resources to promote their book effectively.

This is why most self-published novels sell just 100 print copies throughout their lifespan. Ebooks, on the other hand, can bring in more sales.

Publishing With Hybrid Publishers

But what if you don’t want to go the traditional route but don’t have the time to self-publish a book? This is where hybrid book publishers, such as Leaders Press, come in.

Hybrid book publishers take many of the best aspects of traditional publishing and offer you a “done for you” self publishing service.

Writing a book is a big task.  Authors are often very busy and keep tight schedules. So, writing can seem like a great idea today, but it’s something that’ll get done tomorrow.

If this sounds like you, the hybrid publishing model might make better sense as you’ll get most of the benefits of traditional publishing while still retaining control over your work.

Furthermore, the hybrid publisher can assist with ghostwriting , editing, and marketing. The main benefit of this is that by the time your book launches, it already has an audience.

How Much Do Authors Make a Year?

It is possible for authors to earn a full-time living writing if they have many published works, are adept at marketing those works, and have a devoted following.

The number of books sold, the royalty rate, and the cost of book printing are just a few of the many variables that determine how much an author earns in a year.

We all hope to be like Stephen King or John Grisham and make as much money as they do.

Earnings will vary depending on the method you use to publish. The following example compares the average salary of a traditionally published author to self-published author:

Traditional Earnings

Self-Published Earnings

At the same sales volume, the differential between traditionally published and self-published writers is more than $13,000, as the above example shows.

Because of wildly successful authors like J.K. Rowling, many believe professionally published authors make more money than self-published authors. This isn’t always the case. An author’s annual salary is determined by a variety of factors, including:

Our real-world example shows self-published authors have an advantage over traditionally published authors regarding the averages.

There is a significant price disparity between officially published authors and those who self-publish. The latter earns several dollars per book, and the former earn as little as a single dollar.

How Self-Published Authors Profit from Their Online Book Sales

how much does an author make each book

The internet has affected many industries and businesses, including the traditional publishing industry. Authors can now publish their work without going via traditional publishers thanks to the World Wide Web’s level playing field.

Although several other options exist, Amazon self publishing has become popular for authors who want to sell their work online and generate money.

Authors do not need to worry about reaching their intended audience because the platform is the world’s largest online bookstore.

How Much Do Self Published Authors Make?

As a self-published author, you can set your rates for your books on Amazon because you own the copyrights. Ultimately, Amazon pays 70% of the net profit in royalties. To put it another way, for every book the self-published author sells on the site, they keep 70% of the sale price, and Amazon gets the rest.

Something to keep in mind when self publishing books on Amazon are that authors don’t need to write long volumes.

You can begin by writing less time-consuming, labor-intensive, shorter books that concentrate on a single topic and charge a lower price for the books you write.

According to Google, books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 make the highest revenue per book sold. 

Aim to publish two books on Amazon at the very least to increase your chances of success. It’s a simple math equation: The more books you publish, the more money you’ll make from marketing. This is because it is much easier to generate repeat business from an existing customer than to find a new one.

Many self-published authors, including those with many books and a large following, only make $1,000 per year during their beginning phase.

For example, a mystery novelist who self-publishes on Amazon will not earn millions of dollars despite being one of the best-selling self-published authors in the world. But, if you persevere, you can make money from self publishing. 

How to Boost Your Author Income

If you want to make a living as a writer, you can do a few things to boost your earning potential. You have complete control throughout your writing career if you are a self-published author. Take a look at these ideas to boost your profits:

Commit to the Decision to Become an Author

You have to work, whether you’re in the mood or not, just like any other job. Committing is one of the best pieces of advice we can give you. If you’re only sort of interested in writing or only work on it when the mood strikes, you can’t expect to make a full-time living from it.

What exactly does it mean to “commit to being an author”?

Write Every Day and Publish Frequently

The goal is to find your writing motivation and make writing a way of life. Instead of devoting an entire month to it, start with writing 1000 words a day. Then, devote your entire life to developing daily writing habits. Indeed, you must make writing a habit, a part of your life, and a job if you want to make money as an author. So, to constantly continue working on a storyline, we propose developing writing habits you can stick to.

Write and Publish a Book Series

Writing and releasing a book series is a quick way to “make it” as an author, especially if you publish a series of books. You make more cash when you write and publish a series because a single buyer is more likely to purchase many volumes.

Series build a loyal following, keeping you “employed” as a full-time author. If your first self published book is good, they’ll buy the second, then the third, and so on.

That means that a single person can earn you more cash.

Not only may readers buy more books, but if a customer buys all of your books in a series, they’re more likely to give reviews and buy other books you’ve written that aren’t in the same series.

Make an Email List

It’s critical to have a single means to communicate with those who have said “yes!” to receive information from you. It is similar to having a mailing list.

Because you own your list, we always advise authors to develop an email list. You do not own your followers on social media networks; the traditional publishing company does.

So, if something happened to a social network and you lost all your followers, you’d have no way of connecting with them.

Email lists are also a terrific way to find beta readers , launch team members, and get people enthusiastic about your book when it comes out.

Write to Market

Did you know that traditional publishing industry houses have staff members that come up with book titles that are “trending” or popular in the market? Then they hire writers to bring those ideas to life.

They do this to take advantage of the current literary “hotness” and make as much money as possible.

As a self-published author, you have the option to do this yourself with a write to market. If you enjoy writing, generate narrative ideas rapidly, write well, and publish quickly, becoming a published author is a viable (and wise) professional option through a write to market.

Self-published authors can write to market by looking at the categories they enjoy writing in and seeing what kinds of stories perform well.

If you want to increase your income potential as a writer, there is no room for fake modesty. Learn how to host book signings, guest appearances on podcasts and radio shows, live social media feeds, and innovative advertising to promote your books.

author making money

Increase Sales with Your Self-Published Book’s Content

Savvy authors look for ways to supplement their income beyond book sales. The main reason is that a book’s sales capacity is restricted. The transaction is complete when a book sells.

If you sell items based on the book’s content, you have an almost limitless amount of methods to make funds.

What are some examples of ways to make money from your book’s content?

All of these things are done by several well-known authors. Take Dave Ramsey, for example.

He generated many money sources from his first book, The Total Money Makeover. Podcasts, live events, workshops, and online courses are all examples.

With a net worth of $200 million, it’s clear that he’s done a fantastic job promoting his books.

He earns most of his money from his content, though, rather than from book sales.

His online classes and advertising revenue from his radio show and podcasts provide him with a steady income.

Make a Video Trailer

A book is nothing more than a mental projection of a movie. Make a brief video trailer to spark people’s interest in your book. 

Do a Virtual Book Tour

A virtual book tour is a great way to promote your book. You want to be wherever people have a good time and talk about your book. Create a list of podcasts, tweet chats, and Facebook live sessions, and send copies of your book to book reviewers and book review sites like Goodreads.

The average duration of this virtual tour should be 4-6 weeks.

Create a Website

For less than $100, you can create a decent book or author website. Invest in sound design, a good book image, and professional head pictures.

Create a set of downloadable materials and tools for your audience, Like a table of contents or a chapter or two to read for free. Your audience, fans, and future readers will appreciate it if you create a place for them to interact with your content.

These are just a few examples of how authors can earn more money with less effort and understand how to utilize their content. You don’t have to sit around and wait for your book to make money if you’re an author.

You can make money by repurposing the material of your book. Your imagination and time are the only constraints.

To be financially self-sufficient as an author, you need to have many published works, be adept at marketing them and have a large and dedicated fanbase. So, if you’ve always wanted to earn a salary by writing books, know that you can do so. We hope the above guide on how much authors make each book has helped you understand how the industry works.

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