How Much Do Authors Make? Plus How To Increase Earnings

Updated April 14, 2023

A person sitting at a table types on a laptop with a smartphone to the left of the laptop.

While becoming an author can be creatively fulfilling and provide you with schedule flexibility, it can also allow you to earn a lucrative salary. Factors such as publishing method, royalty percentages and public recognition may affect your earning potential. Learning more about these factors can help determine whether this career is right for you and optimize your salary.

In this article, we explain how much authors make, discuss the factors that influence your salary and provide other information about this career.

What is an author?

An author is the creator of a written piece of content such as a book, article or essay. Authors often specialize in specific genres such as poetry, fiction or nonfiction and may limit their creative works to the genre in which they specialize. A writer becomes an author when they publish their written work. Depending on the content an author creates and the publishing methods they use, their duties might include:

  • Creating elements of a story such as setting, character, plot, tone and dialogue

  • Brainstorming ideas for stories

  • Outlining stories or collections to organize writing

  • Reading, editing and reviewing other written work

  • Researching to ensure that their content is factual and relevant

  • Drafting and revising their work

  • Pitching ideas to publishers

Related: How To Become an Author in 5 Steps (Plus Tips For Success)

How much do authors make?

The average salary for authors is $43,603 per year. Part of an author's salary includes advances, which are payments they receive early in the publishing process. Advances help authors attain income before the book is available for purchase. Typically, publishing companies subtract advance payments from royalties. For example, if a publishing author earns a $10,000 advance, they may pay a small percentage of their royalties back to the publisher until they pay back the $10,000 advance.

Another part of an author's salary is royalties, which publishers pay to writers in exchange for the rights to publish a book. Publishing companies calculate this number based on the number of sales a particular book garners. Note that royalty percentages can also vary based on format. For example, because the cost to produce physical books is often higher than other formats, an author might earn a higher percentage in royalties on e-book sales. Authors who self-publish are also more likely to earn higher royalties.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How Much Do Novelists Earn?

What factors affect an author's salary?

Here are some factors that can affect how much you earn as an author:

  • Publishing method: If you decide to self-publish your writing, you might receive higher royalties or more money for each book you sell. In some cases, working with a large publisher may be more profitable as you make less in royalties but might sell more books.

  • Genre: Some genres, such as murder mysteries or romance novels, sell more than others. The type of genre in which you choose to specialize and evolving trends may affect your earnings.

  • Cover and paper: Large, hardcover books often sell at higher prices but are more expensive to print. Smaller paperbacks, such as poetry collections, might be cheaper to buy but are also often cheaper to print.

  • Volume of work: Publishing multiple books often allows you to earn higher royalties than solely publishing a singular piece of written work.

  • Number of books sold: The more books you sell, the more you may earn in royalties. Authors can increase book sales by improving marketing strategies and building their brands.

  • Audience size: After publishing your first book and gaining an audience, loyal readers might be more likely to purchase future books you publish.

  • Consistency: New authors who publish frequently might increase their salaries, as they provide more materials for audiences to consume.

  • Printing costs: By partnering with affordable printers and distributors, you can minimize costs and increase profits.

Related: 10 Tips for Starting an Author Career (Plus Salary Info)

How do you earn more money as an author?

Here are a few ways in which you can increase your earnings as an author:

  • Write more. You can optimize your salary by publishing as many books as possible. Try to prioritize quality by researching your audience and writing about what you know.

  • Publish in different formats. Readers may have different preferences for consuming their content. Consider publishing print books, e-books and audio versions of your work.

  • Network. Networking with people in the publishing industry and other authors can help you discover new audiences for your book and learn techniques that have worked for others. Consider participating in readings and other events that can help you showcase your writing.

  • Consider related careers. Careers in teaching, copywriting or editing can increase your exposure and credibility and allow you to supplement your income if you're not yet a full-time author.

  • Gain a social media following. If an author has a large following on social media, they can likely encourage more people to buy their book or promote it on different platforms.

  • Improve marketing strategies. Marketing strategies involve targeting the right audiences, creating enticing book covers and partnering with popular bookstores.

Related: How To Get a Publisher for a Book in 5 Steps

Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing

Considering that self-publishing and traditional publishing can result in different salaries, here are the key differences between these two methods that authors use:

  • Marketing: Self-publishing requires authors to create their own marketing content, such as advertisements, social media pages and events. Many traditional publishers have marketing departments or specialists who can create these promotional materials for authors.

  • Distribution: You often distribute your books if you decide to self-publish, meaning you pay for storage and distribution as a self-published author. Traditional publishers often distribute orders for their authors and have designated systems in place for doing so.

  • Reach: Traditional publishers typically have other authors and networks with which you can connect. Self-publishing may be more appropriate for you if you already have a loyal audience or large social media following.

  • Timeline: Depending on the company's size, a traditional publisher often schedules its published works a year or more in advance. Self-publishing can help quicken the publishing process and allow your book to reach the market earlier than it would otherwise.

Related: Become a Published Writer: 5 Steps and Tips for Success

Essential author skills

Besides exceptional writing and reading skills, certain skills can help an author write and publish their work more effectively. Here are some skills you might consider developing before pursuing a career as an author:


Creativity is the ability to develop and produce unique ideas. Authors, especially those who pursue fiction writing, develop their own plots, settings and characters, which requires creativity. Even authors who specialize in nonfiction rely on creativity to deliver information in an accessible, engaging format.

Related: Creativity Skills: Definition, Tips and Examples

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts and create new opinions or observations based on that analysis. Authors often use critical thinking to develop realistic plots and characters. They might also use this skill to determine whether to pursue the self-publishing or traditional route. Additionally, authors decide how to order content and what they might add or remove during the outlining and editing process.

Related: 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)

Time management

Having time management skills entails adhering to deadlines. Especially with large publishing companies, authors draft and submit content regularly. For example, authors may submit a chapter or two each month for an entire year to ensure that their publisher can edit, typeset and print their book on schedule. Self-publishers also use time management skills to meet their goals and collaborate with printers and distributors.

Related: 9 Key Time Management Skills and How To Improve Them


Organization helps authors maintain neat workspaces, desktops and physical and digital filing systems. Authors often work with large numbers of documents and other files, so organizational skills ensure they have more time to write, edit and revise rather than search for documents or other materials. File organization also helps authors easily access each version of their text, which they can use for reference throughout the writing and editing process.

Related: Organizational Skills: 10 Types and How To Improve Them


Determination is the ability to persevere toward a goal. If an author decides to self-publish their work, they often dedicate their time to promoting, marketing and reading to garner an audience. Similarly, searching for a publisher often requires patience and determination to find the optimal one for you.


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