This is the big question for a lot of aspiring authors out there. After all that time, effort, and hours typing your manuscript… Is self publishing actually worth it? Can you really make money self publishing books? And if so, what do self publishing profits look like?
Can you make money self publishing books?
It’s impossible to predict how each book is going to fare, but the short answer to this question is: yes. You absolutely can make money self publishing books. In fact, a lot of professional authors actually started off self publishing their work!
What is the investment?
Self publishing a book is a low risk investment because there’s usually very little upfront costs. In fact, if you choose to self publish an eBook on something like Amazon (and do everything yourself) you can actually publish your book for free.
That means that really your only investment is your time. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of free time, or who takes time away from earning a high wage in order to write, then the time cost is a bit more valuable. But, if you have some free time or a passion for writing, you probably won’t feel like it’s a lot of extra work.
How much money do you make from self published eBook sales?
If you sell your eBook yourself, on your own website, then you’ll retain 100% of the profits. There are plenty of downsides to this though, like having to flip the bill upfront for a website or online store, and not being part of a big database like Amazon Kindle.
If you go with an online publisher then they’ll take a commission. It varies from place to place, but Amazon charges between 30% and 65% commission (leaving you with 70% or 35% of the profits), plus some extra delivery charges. Most people will fall into that 70% range, though.
That means that an eBook priced $5.99 will earn you $4.19 for every copy sold. Depending on your desired income, 500 to 1000 sales a month could replace a job for most people at this price point.
Stay away from print books at first
If you’re looking to write books for a profit it’s probably better to avoid print books for now. The one exception being places that print on demand without a set up fee, since it won’t add to your costs.
Print books sell for more, but also have high upfront costs. If you don’t sell the copies you ordered you’ll be stuck with a loss rather than profits.
An exception to this, though, is if you’re publishing something local. In that case your best sales will probably come from partnering with local businesses and bookstores!
Does everyone make money selling self published books?
Unfortunately not. Plenty of self published authors actually make no money at all. There isn’t a lot of data out there on the profits from self published books, but numbers range from 20% up to 50% of self published authors reporting zero profits.
While their profits might not be zero, there are also many self published authors who make profits in the hundreds per year. While that doesn’t seem like much, it can also mean a pretty decent passive side income.
Sometimes profits take time
Just because you don’t sell thousands of copies in your first month doesn’t mean your book won’t eventually have strong sales numbers. It might be sad to say, but many famous authors (including H.P. Lovecraft) didn’t become famous until after they died. Hopefully it won’t take that long, though!
Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the best example of something starting off slowly only to explode. Originally starting off as steamy Twilight fan fiction, E L James readapted her story as a self published book that went on to sell 60 million copies worldwide. The sales came almost entirely from word of mouth.
The more you publish the more you can make
Some people work tirelessly to research, write, and publish one amazing book. That’s great, but if your goal is to make money self publishing books that might not be your best approach. The more books that you have available for people to buy, the more potential there is for profits.
That means turning your cookbook into a series or planning for sequels to your fiction novel. Just make sure you’re still creating high quality books, though!
The price point of your book is going to have a direct effect on your profits. On Amazon, for example, selling an eBook for 99 cents puts you into the lower commission tier. That means you’ll make just under 35 cents for each sale. You’d have to sell over 2800 copies just to earn a thousand dollars! Then again, most people are willing to spend a dollar.
Value is also important. If your book is reputable and you’re well known in your field, you could easily charge more and likely get that. For unknown authors or shorter novels, though, it’s better to stick to the 2.99 to 5.99 range when it comes to eBooks.
Questions to ask before self publishing for a profit:
- Do I already have a following that will buy my book?
- Will writing this book cost me much in terms of time or money?
- Is writing something I enjoy doing?
- What is my audience? Will people be interested in this topic or story?
- Am I willing to promote my book and work for sales?
- What happens if it doesn’t sell? What do I lose?
- Can I wait to earn a profit?
- Are there any other benefits to publishing this book? Does it make me seem more reputable or elevate other business opportunities?
There’s hope if you want to make money self publishing books
A self published author on Amazon named Mark Dawson apparently makes over $450,000 per year with his books. Then there’s romance author Bella Andre who also got her start self publishing, and is now a New York Times bestselling author.
Self publishing is definitely not a get rich quick scheme for most people. But, you can make money self publishing books. If you have the time, it’s a perfect opportunity to earn extra money from home or as a side business.