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What Are the Average Royalties for a Book in 2024: Current Rates Explained

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What Are the Average Royalties for a Book in 2024: Current Rates Explained
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The average royalties for a book have changed significantly over the past decade as the industry continues to phase out the traditional publishing model. These traditional publishing houses used to get away with taking as much as 90% of author royalties for themselves until the little guys finally stood up and said enough is enough. Now, you can take home up to 70% in royalties as a self-publisher while retaining 100% of the rights to your work (as it should be). 

The trade-off is the additional responsibilities that fall on your shoulders—marketing, formatting, and cover design, to name a few—which are traditionally taken care of by a publishing house. But here’s a secret: These things aren’t nearly as hard as they want you to think they are. 

See the royalty checks for yourself. Drop by our free webinar to access the blueprint that has already generated millions of dollars in collective royalties for a group of thousands of self-publishers across the globe. 

Book Royalty Basics 

Book royalties represent your take-home portion from each sale of your book. Depending on the publishing route you choose, you’ll earn a smaller or bigger percentage of the pie and get paid either monthly or on another formally agreed-upon pay schedule. 

Determining Factors

Several factors determine your royalty rates, like the publishing format of your book (e.g., hardcover, paperback, eBook), the retail price, your contract with the publisher (if you choose to go with a traditional house), and the distribution channels used. 

For example, a traditional publisher might offer you a royalty rate typically under 10% for a printed book, while self-publishing platforms such as Amazon KDP could offer up to 70% for eBooks priced in a specific range. The negotiation process and terms outlined in your publishing contract will ultimately shape your royalty rate and overall profit.

Pro Tip: If you ditch the traditional path, negotiation isn’t something you’ll have to worry about. You can list your books anywhere you choose and take them down at any point, no questions asked. 

Royalty Structures in Publishing

We’ve already alluded to the difference in freedom between the two major publishing paths, but let’s dive into the numbers. 

Traditional vs Self-Publishing

Traditional Publishing: When you secure a deal with a traditional publisher, your royalties are a percentage of the book's sales, often ranging from 7.5% to 15% for print books. Your publishing contract should clearly outline details such as the royalty rate, schedule, and calculation method.

  • Print book royalties can be on the retail price or the net price after discounts.
  • eBook royalties tend to be higher, sometimes reaching 25%.

Self-Publishing: If you choose to self-publish, platforms like Amazon KDP offer up to 70% royalties on eBooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Below or above this price range, the rate can drop to 35%, which is still significantly higher than the traditional model. You're also granted greater autonomy in pricing and can change it whenever you want. 

Advances and Payment Schedules

Advances: In traditional publishing, you may receive an advance against royalties. This is an upfront payment to be earned back through book sales before you start receiving royalty payments. Advances can range widely depending on your marketability and the publisher's size.

Payment Schedules: Royalties are typically paid semi-annually or quarterly through traditional publishers or monthly as an indie author or publisher. If you don’t like waiting around for your money (we don’t blame you), the choice is pretty clear. 

Calculating Royalties

Calculating Amazon KDP royalties is pretty straightforward: 

You’ll need to choose your royalty rate, set your list price, and subtract Amazon's fees to find your earnings per book. 

Skip the mental math! Use our free KDP Royalty Calculator to instantly calculate how much Amazon will owe you per book sale in each book format! 

Distribution Channels and Retailers

Book retailers and distribution channels dictate visibility, accessibility, and profitability. 

Here’s an overview: 

Major Online Marketplaces

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing remains a behemoth in the realm of online book sales (see how much of the book market KDP is expected to control by 2025). Through your KDP portal, you can list your book in several formats across several different book markets to reach the most number of potential readers. 

Apple Books, Google Play Books, and Kobo are also pretty popular, though their reach definitely isn’t as wide as Amazon’s. Read more about where to self-publish this year here!

The biggest thing to look for is print-on-demand services, so you don’t have to keep track of all the inventory, shipping, and returns yourself. 

Cost Considerations for Authors and Publishers

Whether you go the traditional or self-publishing route, there will be some costs along the way. But with the latter, you get to make those decisions for yourself every step of the way. 

Production and Printing Costs

Printing cost is one of the most immediate expenses in the book production process. Depending on your choices, like the type of paper, print quality, and binding options, these costs can vary significantly. However, print-on-demand services have changed the landscape by allowing you to print books as needed rather than in bulk, potentially reducing upfront costs.

  • Paper Type: Affects the tactile feel and durability of the book.
  • Binding Type: Choices like paperback or hardcover impact costs.
  • Page Length: Things like spacing and images can significantly increase your page count. 
  • Print Volume: Bulk printing can reduce individual unit costs but requires a higher initial investment, which most traditional publishers require in their contracts. 

When you publish through Amazon, you choose your paper type and book format, and they handle all the rest. They will NEVER make you pre-pay to print out 1,000 books or anything ridiculous like that. 

Delivery Costs and Taxes

When your book is sold, delivery costs and taxes such as VAT (Value-Added Tax) or GST (Goods and Services Tax) can affect your earnings. Delivery charges will vary based on weight and distance, while VAT/GST depends on the country’s tax regulations and could change the retail price of your book.

  • VAT/GST: Calculated as a percentage of the retail price.
  • Delivery Charges: Consider the weight of your book and distribution range.

Marketing Expenses

Book marketing gets more eyeballs on your book (and hopefully more sales). Depending on the complexity of your marketing strategy, you’ll be responsible for the following costs: 

  • Advertising: Can range from free social media promotion to paid advertising.
  • Book Reviews and Endorsements: While many reviewers offer their services for free, some established review sites or influencers may charge a fee for expedited reviews or featured coverage.

Comparative Analysis of Royalties by Book Formats

Here’s the lowdown on the different book formats and their royalties: 

Hardcover vs. Paperback vs. eBook

Hardcover editions typically come with higher retail prices and, therefore, potentially higher royalty earnings per unit. Paperback books offer a middle ground with lower production costs and a wide consumer market. eBooks, on the other hand, often boast the highest royalty rates. However, the lower price point of eBooks means that your total royalty per unit sold might be less compared to hardcovers.

  • Hardcover: Highest list price, smaller market 
  • Paperback: Medium list price, medium market
  • eBook: Lowest list price, widest market

Pro Tip: If you choose not to publish in all three formats, you are actively leaving money on the table.

Special Editions, Box Sets, and Bundles

Bundles can be a great way to share your knowledge with readers at a discount while increasing your take-home royalties by encouraging them to buy all your books together at once. It’s a win-win!

  • Special Editions: Premium price, niche market
  • Box Sets: Bundled books, potential for higher earnings

Pro Tip: Do NOT try to sell multiple versions of essentially the same bundle. This is confusing for the readers and also goes against Amazon’s policy! 

How Much Do Self-Publishers Really Earn? Real-World Royalty Examples

We’d like to introduce you to three AIA students who started out where you might be right now. These students all struggled with motivation, fear, and time management before deciding to give the publishing thing a try. And none of them have looked back since. 

This Father of 3 Just Wanted to Provide for His Kids 

Meet Fred, a New Jersey dad who joined the AIA community back in 2021. In little to no time at all, Fred went from having zero books published to making nearly $9k in a single month. And the best part? His books started bringing him thousands of dollars in virtually passive income—even when he wasn’t working on his publishing business at all. 

This Amazon Ads Expert Made Over $500k From Self-Publishing

We’re not going to lie; Bryan’s story definitely isn’t the norm. But it DOES show you that it’s possible to make multiple six figures from self-publishing alone. Anyone who tells you otherwise is A) lying and B) a negative influence. 

Listen to Bryan as he drops some of his best knowledge bombs from his self-publishing journey: 

She Was Scared But She Did It Anyway

When was the last time you accidentally made thousands of dollars? 

That sums up Carli’s experience with self-publishing as a total beginner. Was she scared to take the leap? Yep. Did she do it anyway? Double yep. All the best things in life are on the opposite side of that tiny fear. And most of the time, it’s not really fear at all—it’s excitement! 

The Future of Book Royalties and Self-Publishing 

Amazon and self-publishing aren’t going away anytime soon, but here are some trends we’re noticing: 

Predicting Changes and Trends

We expect traditional publishing to be nearly fully phased out soon, and it’s for the best. There’s no reason you should need someone else’s permission to share content with an audience that could change their life (and yours)! 

How Technology Is Shaping the Industry 

Some people are wary of AI in the publishing world these days, and we get it. We’ve never been proponents of using 100% AI-generated content because it just doesn’t produce the best reading experience (at least not yet, anyway). But just like social media and the internet, AI is here to stay. There’s no going back. The ones who learn how to use it are going to be lightyears ahead of the ones who want nothing to do with it quicker than they may realize. 

Here are some ways you can use newer technologies: 

  • Come up with book niche and sub-niche ideas 
  • Create book titles or rework book titles you came up with 
  • Create a list of keywords to use in your book description and ads 
  • Conduct customer research and learn about your ideal readers’ pain points 
  • Create chapter outlines 
  • Speed up the publishing process (which used to take decades) 
  • Free up your time to work on the higher-level parts of your publishing business
  • And so much more! 

We can’t repeat this enough: If you do right by your reader, the royalties will come. The reader experience matters the most.

Self-Publishing Might Not Be the Easiest Thing You’ve Ever Done

Coming up with a profitable idea and polishing a manuscript takes work, sure. There might even be some frustrating nights at your computer trying to figure out how to get the formatting just right. But do you know what’s even harder? 

  • Working 9-5 at a job you hate that barely pays the bills 
  • Being one family or medical emergency away from bankruptcy 
  • Having to turn down family vacations and friends’ weddings because you don’t have the capacity to take any days off 
  • Always wondering “what if” 

Take one step towards your new future. Swing by our no-cost webinar to see how we’ve helped thousands of total beginners get started with self-publishing and get the exact framework they all used to start bringing in true passive income.

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