Self-Publishing Royalties vs. Traditional Author Royalties

27 Jun

Wondering how much you can make as a published author?

Let’s take a look:

Traditional Publishing

If you manage to get signed with a publishing house, you’ll typically be given an advance on your royalties between $1,000 and $10,000. If you sell a lot of books – enough to earn more than your initial advance – you’ll then get royalty checks, usually every six months.

Royalties are typically 10%-15%. They start at the lowest threshold and then increase after you’ve sold a certain number of copies (say 250,000). Here’s an example:

You get a book agreement. The publisher gives you an advance of $5,000 on your royalties. That means you won’t see another dime until your book has earned those $5,000 in royalties for you. Afterwards, you’ll get 10% per sale, so if your book retails for $18, you’ll earn $1.80 per sale. The publishing house keeps track and issues you a check every six months for any royalties they owe you.


Okay, in self-publishing, you have to submit a ready-for-print PDF file both for the interior and the cover. All upfront expense is yours, although you can usually control that quite well.

When someone orders your book from an online store like, you’ll have to pay an upfront fixed fee to have the seller print that book for you, plus you give the seller a commission – usually 20% – 40% – for getting you the business.

Typical printing costs for a self-published book will vary based on your page count and book size. For a 250-page book, expect to pay around the $5 mark.

So what does the author get? The simplistic equation is: Your Book’s Sale Price – Printing Cost – Seller Commision = Your Royalty. So for example, let’s say your book retails for $18 (same as above):

$18 sale price – $5 printing cost – $5.40 (30% seller commission) = $7.60 or 42% per sale

As you can see, you have the potential to earn WAY more as a self-published author than going through a traditional publishing house. (It’s a small wonder publishing houses turn up their noses at self-publishers!)

Learn more about self-publishing by contacting us.


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