How Much Do Authors Make on Amazon Really? Unveiling the Truth Behind Earnings

Here's how much authors are cashing in on Amazon royalty checks.

How Much Do Authors Make on Amazon Really? Unveiling the Truth Behind Earnings
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Amazon is THE place to self-publish a book these days because it's easy to navigate, free to use, and actually PAYS authors and publishers well. How well? Well, there's no cap whatsoever on how much you can earn in royalties, so the sky is really the limit.

Some authors and publishers make a few hundred dollars every month, while others can easily make six figures. Yep, you read that right. In a single month! We'll introduce you to some of them later on in this blog post!

Pssssst...See why teachers, retirees, and college students are all turning to self-published books to make truly passive income online. It's all laid out in our totally free webinar!

How the Amazon Publishing Model Works

Amazon thought of everything when they designed the KDP self-publishing platform. You can publish books, market them, and check on your sales analytics, all from the same portal.

Here's how it all works:

Types of Publishing Options on Amazon

  • Kindle Direct Publishing: This is the main platform that houses everything and lets you sell multiple books in different formats, like a physical book (paperback, hardcover) or digital book (audiobook, eBook).
  • KDP Select: An exclusive program that makes your eBook available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and eligible for additional promotional opportunities.
  • Amazon Publishing: Amazon's full-service publishing arm that operates like a traditional publisher.
  • Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX): A platform that provides you with the option to publish audiobooks on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes or connect with professional narrators.

Overview of Amazon's Royalty Structure

Amazon's royalty structure varies based on the publishing option you choose and other factors like your book's pricing, distribution channels, and the geographic location of the sales:

KDP Royalties:


  • 70% Royalty Option

Paperbacks: A fixed royalty rate based on your book's list price minus printing costs.

KDP Select: Offers the same royalty rates as KDP but includes additional earnings from the KDP Select Global Fund, calculated based on pages read. This amount varies from month to month.

ACX Royalties:

  • Exclusive Distribution: Earn up to 40% royalties.
  • Non-Exclusive Distribution: Earn a lower royalty rate if your audiobook is distributed outside of Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Can Authors Become Financially Successful Solely Through Amazon Self-Publishing?

Yes, some authors definitely achieve financial success solely through Amazon self-publishing. This typically requires a combination of professional writing, high-quality content, comprehensive marketing, and a deep understanding of Amazon's algorithms and reader preferences.

But there are some caveats...

Factors Influencing Author Earnings and Publisher Earnings on Amazon

Publishing incomes can vary across Amazon just based on the types of books you publish and where you publish them. Publishers and authors who stick to Amazon and fail to take advantage of other self-publishing platforms or aggregators, for example, might not reach the same number of potential readers.

Here are some other factors that can affect how much money you make:

  1. Book Pricing: Pricing your book is a little more complicated than just making it as expensive as possible to get more royalties. The pros use dynamic pricing and change the list price based on different factors like the season, whether it's a new release and the competition.
  2. Royalties: Depending on the chosen distribution and publishing platform (KDP or Expanded Distribution), your royalties per book sold will vary.
  3. Book Format: eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks have different costs and royalties.
  4. Sales Volume: Your earnings and best-seller ranking are directly affected by the number of books sold (or the number of pages read if you're enrolled in KDP Select).
  5. Marketing and Advertising: Amazon advertising can land your book a VIP position on the first page results when someone goes to type in what they're looking for in the Amazon search bar, which can give your sales a nice boost.
  6. Genre Popularity: Some genres have larger audiences, which may result in higher sales. This is why so many publishing experts talk about niches. The thing is, you can also go too far down the niche rabbit hole to the point that a book won't have a big enough audience to actually sell enough copies month to month to keep your publishing business afloat.

Indie Authors vs. Indie Publishers

Publishers typically make even MORE than authors on Amazon KDP...but what's the difference?

Aren't they the same thing? Not quite.

An author is solely responsible for the writing. The thing is, they don't even have to do the writing themselves. Over half the books on the non-fiction bestseller list were more than likely written by a ghostwriter. At the end of the day, you don't have to do any of the publishing or marketing to be considered an author. You just need to have your name on a book cover. So, where does a publisher fit in?

Becoming a publisher means reframing the act of publishing as building a business where the end goal is always to make your readers as happy as possible. This requires hours of thorough customer research to really understand where your readers are at and what they need. From there, publishers can outsource 99% of the writing, editing, and even formatting work. How they differ from authors is that publishers are responsible for performing quality checks every step of the way, and whether the end product does right by your readers will be up to you.

Pro Tip: This is why we say ANYONE in the world can become a publisher. Yes, even those who "aren't good with tech" and those who "aren't good at writing." As long as you can master the art of delegation or research, you can make it on this path! But it still takes work.

Do Self-Published Authors Make Good Money? Average Earnings for Amazon Authors and Publishers

It might sound like a silly distinction, but the numbers speak for themselves. The average earnings for Amazon authors and publishers are different!

  • Indie Authors: On average, self-published authors really don't earn all that much. Most new authors earn less than $500 per year, while experienced authors with multiple titles and strong marketing strategies can earn over $10,000 annually. The lower end is pretty common for authors who see their writing as a hobby rather than a business. There is NOTHING WRONG with this, by the way. It's just not the most lucrative way to use Amazon's platform.
  • Publishers: The self-publishing market is booming and is only expected to get even bigger over the next decade. There are self-publishers that make six figures in one single month from one single book, but of course, that's not the average, either. But you don't need to make six figures in a month to still make a significant income that can totally change your life. Ask yourself what you'd do with an extra $1k per month. What about $3k? $10k?

Pro Tip: The exception to this rule, of course, is any well-established author or celebrity author. 99% of these people use ghostwriters, but they make a ton of book sales and royalties with every new project because they already have well-established brands.

Maximizing Profits as an Amazon Author or Publisher

There aren't a whole lot of shortcuts you can take as a self-published author or publisher to rig the algorithm in your favor. This is a good thing! As poorly written books flood the market, your quality work will stand out more and more.

Still, there are some ways to get more readers, even if you're new to the self-published book game:

Strategic Pricing

We dive more into pricing strategies in our other blog posts, but here's a high-level look:

  • Launch Pricing: Initially, setting your book’s price lower or even offering free books can draw in readers and encourage early reviews.
  • Adjusting Post-Launch: Once your book establishes a reader base, you can bump your price back up to maximize your royalties.
  • Utilizing Discounting Periods: You can also take advantage of other book promos or try running a discounted price in the future, especially as you start publishing books in multiple formats.

Marketing Tools

The great thing about KDP is that advertising and marketing tools are already built into the platform. They WANT you to make more book sales because that translates to more Amazon sales. These are the tools you should have in your marketing arsenal to make more money:

  • Amazon Marketing Services (AMS): For targeted pay-per-click advertisements.
  • Social Media Campaigns: Facebook ads, especially those targeting lookalike audiences, can also extend your reach to more markets outside of the US.
  • Promotional Platforms: Platforms like Goodreads can offer additional promotional opportunities.

Pro Tip: Playing around with Facebook ads and other promotional tools usually comes down the line as you're trying to scale your publishing business into the 6-figure per month range we mentioned earlier, so it's definitely not required if you're just getting started out.

Earning Reviews

Book reviews largely make or break a book launch. 50-100+ good reviews tell people that their time, money, and energy will be worth your content. A handful of bad reviews, on the other hand, tell potential readers that if your book was a sushi restaurant, they might get food poisoning and should probably steer clear...

So, how do you get more reviews? You've got some options:

  • Engage Book Bloggers: Send ARCs to book bloggers or excited readers within your genre.
  • Foster an Engaged Reader Community: Create spaces for your readers to gather, discuss, and leave reviews of your work. Some of our students have built giant Facebook communities for this exact purpose.
  • ASK: We saved the easiest review method for last. You can put a page in your book that encourages someone to leave a review if the reader loves your work. This doesn't cost anything extra, so there's literally no reason not to at least try.

Case Studies of Successful Amazon Authors and Self-Publishers

Meet Jamie!

After the pandemic thwarted his small business dreams, Jamie was in a pinch. The bills were stacking up, and he wasn't sure how he was going to pay them off every month. It wasn't long until he made over $6k in royalties!

Meet Dennis!

If you struggle with perfectionism, self-doubt, and a fear of success, this award-winning publishing coach talks about having realistic expectations for yourself and how to start small:

Meet Lesley!

As a mom, full-time nurse, and personal trainer, Lesley knew what it was like to be spread thin between a dozen different competing responsibilities. Trying to fit in self-publishing felt impossible at the beginning, and she almost gave up. But after some sleepless nights and sheer determination, the work started paying off, and thousands in her bank account felt pretty good.

Meet Marco!

Wanna know how a 30-year-old is able to make over $35k per month? Marco opens up about all the failures that led him to this point: 

The Future of Amazon Publishing

KDP changed the game for self-publishing by making royalty payments way more accessible and also setting a higher rate than most other platforms. All authors and publishers also retain the rights to their work and can revoke their work from the platform anytime they want, which is pretty much unheard of when it comes to the traditional publishing model.

Here are some ways Kindle books are expected to change the future of publishing, too:

Emerging Trends in Digital Publishing

  • Personalized Content: Readers increasingly expect content tailored to their preferences, and Amazon's algorithms may advance to deliver even more personalized reading suggestions.
  • Interactive Books: Enhanced eBooks with interactive elements, such as embedded audio or video, are becoming more prevalent, which could lead to new revenue streams for authors and publishers on Amazon.
  • Audiobook Growth: The audiobook sector is STILL rapidly expanding. Authors and publishers who integrate audiobooks into their Amazon offerings may see increased engagement and income.
  • Subscription Models: Amazon's Kindle Unlimited is a pioneer in eBook subscription services. This model is likely to persist, encouraging a steady income for authors and publishers from a pool of subscribers.

Predictions for Publisher and Author Earnings Growth

  • Market Expansion: Despite already being a publishing GIANT, Amazon’s international market is expected to grow, potentially leading to higher earnings for publishers selling their books in different countries.
  • Independent Publishing: Thanks to Amazon's sales tools, there's really no need for the traditional publishing model anymore. Self-publishing gives you complete power over your own income and opportunity.
  • Marketing Tools: Amazon will keep updating its suite of marketing tools, helping publishers promote their work more effectively. When you win, THEY win, too!
  • Pricing Strategies: Amazon might eventually use AI to aid with dynamic pricing and help publishers maximize profits by finding the optimal price points for their books.

Add Self-Publisher and Early Retiree to Your Resume This Year

Do you really want to sit through another meeting for a job that gives you the "Sunday Scaries" right on cue every week? Do you really want to leave your retirement up to chance or miss out on your kids' biggest milestones because you're busy? Self-publishing takes care of all that and more. It's one of the top side hustles for retirees for a reason.

How does this sound?

  • More money for your family
  • More freedom to pick and choose your schedule every single day
  • More fulfillment round-the-clock
  • Less stress and headaches
  • Less time spent on things that don't matter
  • Less worrying about your financial future

How many books will you publish this year? It only takes one to make life-changing income.

Stop by our webinar to access the foolproof blueprint to making money online! 

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