How Much Money Do You Make Self Publishing On Amazon? (My Actual Numbers!)
Writing a book has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I know I’ve impacted people and set them on a better path financially and that’s all I wanted. One question that always seems to come up is how much do you make self-publishing on Amazon?
This question is a lot more complicated than just giving all future authors a blanket amount they’ll make but what is the average you can make self-publishing on Amazon?
Most authors won’t make more than $500 a month with the top 1% clearing over $1,000 a month. This is for a couple of reasons. The first being that there are over 2,000,000 books that are published on Amazon. Combine that with poor marketing efforts before you publish and you have yourself a recipe for low book sales.
Self-publishing is a lot more complicated than it sounds and you CAN make some great money from it. I will warn you though, if you are doing it just for the money then you may want to rethink your strategy. Later on in this article, I’m going to tell you EXACTLY how much I’ve made since publishing my book.
After you’re done reading this article, if you want more information about self-publishing on Amazon then I would highly suggest reading my article: 7 Things You Need To Do Before You Self Publish On Amazon.
My Self Publishing Experience
Before we get into the numbers, I need to give you some back story to help you understand how my numbers got to where they are. Everyone’s story is going to be different and we all are going to try many different things but yet end up in a similar situation (more on that later).
When I first started writing Young, Dumb, and NOT Broke?! I had no idea I was actually writing a book. In fact, what I thought I was doing at the time was simply making a bunch of blog posts that could eventually go on a website down the road.
That was almost two years ago and boy how time really does fly. Anyway, when I first started writing it was essentially just a huge, chaotic, brain dump of all this information I had involving personal finance. If you feel like you have a ton of knowledge on a certain topic, seriously anything, then I would highly suggest you do this. Putting everything down into words makes you feel a couple of different ways.
First off, it’s kind of nice to know that you understand a topic quite well. It’s sort of a pat on the back. Secondly, it makes you realize how much more there is to actually learn. The process of learning is never complete.
Writing A Book
After spending a couple of weeks putting all of this information down on paper, I decided it was time to compile it. Luckily for me, I had a roommate at the time that had already self-published a couple of Ebooks on Amazon.
I used to have a real weakness in wanting to do everything by myself. It worked somewhat but the results would always fall short of what I wanted. Finding someone that has lived it and can help guide you is key. Chances are you are doing the research right now since you stumbled across my article.
Long story short, after about two months of work the book was done. I had hired a freelancer off of Fiver that made me a great cover and had other people help with the editing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my own way of trying to help other young adults.
Finally, I published it on Amazon and have been making buckets of money since right? Well, not quite.
How Much Does Amazon Pay When You Self-Publish?
The last thing I want to get into before I tell you my actual income from self-publishing is how Amazon structures your payments when you publish. If you are planning on becoming an author, then it is important you understand how much you are going to make. Especially if this needs to be a key source of income.
Let’s get one thing straight, Amazon is one of the most valuable companies in the world. This fact alone should give you a clue as to how much you can expect from royalty payments.
To make this simple to understand, let’s break it down into two groups. The first being eBooks that are published on Kindle. The second being print books (Yes, you can get a physical copy of YD&NB).
This was one of the main reasons I did this whole thing in the first place. Amazon allows your book to be made to order. Instead of me buying 500 copies and hoping they all sell, they do all the work. Not having to carry inventory takes away almost all stress and allows you to work on improving the product.
eBooks have been all the rage the last 5+ years and for good reason. Being able to access any book in the world from your phone, tablet, or computer and not having to carry an actual book just makes life easier.
Amazon knows this and that’s why they have made it incredibly easy for authors to publish eBooks in a matter of minutes. Seriously, if you have everything typed out in Microsoft Word or a Google Doc then you can upload it, spend a little time choosing some layout options and you’re done.
When it comes to pricing, Amazon gives you a couple different options for how you get paid.
There are three royalty rates and those are 35%, 50%, and 70%. It would seem obvious that you would always choose the 70% option but it’s not that simple (of course it isn’t).
David Wogahn does a great job breaking everything down in simple terms through this chart.
While I wish I qualified for the 50% or 70% rate, I don’t because my book is a public domain book. That means that the information in my book isn’t my intellectual property and is owned by the public. Because of this, I enjoy my 35% royalty.
Don’t let the lower rate discourage you though. If you can sell an eBook for $15 and move 50 a month, you’ll have a stream of passive income of $260. That’s something to celebrate.
Personally, I need a printed book. I enjoy folding back the pages and highlighting things that I find important. Some of you may be able to relate while others think I’m crazy. Either way, having your book printed is an option Amazon offers but it’ll cost you.
Here is the formula straight from Amazon’s help page:
(60% Royalty Rate x List Price) – Printing Costs = Royalty
This formula is pretty easy to understand with there only being one variable piece; the printing costs.
Your printing costs are going to vary for each book, for obvious reasons. The number of pages, colors on the cover, what type of paper, and the physical size all affect this number. On Amazon’s website, they use an example of a 300-page book costing just over $4 to print.
Since this article is all about transparency here is the breakdown for my book.
As you can see I make $2.04 per book sold. This isn’t exactly stuffing my pockets but I’m perfectly okay with that. What I would like to point out is my printing costs are relatively low at only $2.15.
The reason for this is because my book is just under 100 pages. It was important to me to keep the book short and sweet, and that conveniently also lowered my costs.
How Much Have I Made?
Let’s get into the whole reason you’ve clicked on this article. I’ve told you my story, what it was like writing a book, and even my exact margin per book. Enough with all that boring stuff though, it’s time to get into why you all clicked on this article.
When people bring up the topic of how much I’ve made from YD&NB, I always play it off. I avoid it and if they keep pushing I’ll ask how much they think. These guesses have been anywhere from $50 to $5,000 (I wish).
What I’ve never done is tell anyone. Seriously, I’ve never actually shown a soul. To be honest I have nothing to hide and if someone actually wanted to know for the right reason, I would tell them.
The key there is ‘the right reason’. Most people just want to be in someone else’s business and not actually explore the opportunity for themselves. Since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume you are exploring the idea of self-publishing on Amazon. Which you should! For that reason, I’ll be 100% transparent, so here are my numbers.
To start off this section, I want to just add in a quick image of a graph of my sales. This graph is basically going to give you all the information you could want but keep reading as I’ll explain some things I could have done better to improve sales.
If you don’t have a calculator handy then let me just add up all the months for you. Since I published my book I’ve made $527.60. To some, you may think that is fairly good but I’m willing to bet the majority are thinking “THAT’S IT??”.
That is it and if you take into account my expenses of getting a cover designed, the book edited, and most importantly my time then I come out with a negative balance. In fact, if we assume that I spent an average of eight hours a week for two months working on this project at a labor rate of $15 then I spent over $900 on labor alone.
The bottom line is I lost money and I’m damn proud of it. This isn’t a statement that I usually make but seriously, I learned more than I could have ever expected.
If anything, I do have a nice stream of passive income coming in each month right around $10. 🙂
How I Could Have Improved My Sales
If I could go back and change anything, it would have been to get feedback earlier in the process. Remember when I said that I had a weakness of trying to do things 100% alone? Well, this is one of those examples. I didn’t know how to market a book and I didn’t find anyone that knew how. I was straight up winging it.
Besides that I didn’t really push the book like I could have and honestly, I didn’t want to. The main reason that the royalties I made fluctuated was that I dropped the price of my book, not actually because I was selling fewer books.
When I first listed YD&NB on Amazon it was $14.99. This is what I thought was a fair price and I still think that today. Since then, I have dropped it down to $11.99, $9.99 and now $6.99.
Why so low?
My intentions for the book were never to make me rich. Instead, I just wanted to help people out and clear up issues that many overcomplicate. At the price of $6.99, I think the book is something that anyone with an internet connection can afford and get more than their money’s worth out of.
Should I have built an email list? Probably
Would it have led to more sales? Absolutely
But you live and you learn and I’ll do it better the next time.
What Should Your Expectations Be?
The safest way to go into anything is with zero expectations. That sounds harsh at first but if you think about it, the only place to go is up and up is always good. This is exactly what I did when I published YD&NB.
Let’s be realistic with ourselves here. If you want to make millions from a book and be on a list like the New York Times Bestsellers, then you won’t be self-publishing on Amazon. That is a whole different world involving pitching to publishers who have buckets of marketing dollars and people who specialize in each part. Book tours, interviews, and a huge launch will make that happen, not a Facebook post to people you went to high school with.
I knew this so I told very few people and when I did share my plan, some laughed at the idea. But I still did it. If you read the article that I linked in the beginning, then you’ll know what you can do to negate some of the roadblocks I had. Even if I would have done all of these perfectly I still think that going into it thinking not a single person will buy my book is the way to go.
Why? That’s easy. Every time I get a notification someone purchased my book, I smile. It feels good to see someone going out of their way to trust me and my knowledge on a specific subject. If you self-publish on Amazon and take this same mental approach you can feel the same way.
The Bottom Line
After reading this, some of you may be shocked. You may be thinking why would anyone waste their time writing a book when it’s only going to lose money. Here’s the reality, writing a book and self-publishing pays for itself 10x by the things that you learn.
If you’re doing this 100% alone, you are going to need to learn how to self motivate. You are going to have days where you don’t want to work on the project. You will get stuck. This is where I think people will really get their return on investment. Learning how to push through and figuring out things through search engines like Google or YouTube is an important part of the process. Slowly you’ll gain confidence and put out a great product.
Unfortunately, this isn’t as flashy as cash but to me, it’s far more valuable. If you have ever thought of even trying to self publish a book on Amazon, no matter the category, you should do it. It’s a great experience that I would not trade for anything.
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